Lisa Thornton, a psychologist at the Wexner Medical Center provides tips for overcoming Sunday night anxiety. Credit: Courtesy of Eileen Scahill

Sunday night can be the most overwhelming and stressful time of the week, especially for students. 

Dr. Lisa Thornton, a psychologist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said that more people experience anxiety during the second half of a Sunday than any other time of the week.

“Anxiety is one of our essential human emotions. It is one of our five basic human emotions,” Thornton said.

However, Thornton said it can also become an obstacle to someone’s quality of life. Anxiety is characterized by apprehension and fear relating to an upcoming event or issue, and Sunday night anxiety builds as the week approaches.

Students may experience more anxiety on Sundays if they view the entirety of the week as being one large, unsolvable problem, rather than looking at it as a series of smaller, more manageable tasks, Thornton said. 

Kylie Martinez, a first-year in animal sciences, said that on Sunday nights, she feels like the weekend is far too short and the thought of going back to classes is intimidating. 

Martinez said writing down the most important tasks on a whiteboard helps her stay organized and less overwhelmed about what is to come.

Thornton said one way to lessen feelings of apprehension on Sunday nights is by solving major problems in short increments over the weekend or throughout the week. Taking the time to organize and plan out the week according to the level of importance is highly beneficial, Thornton said.

“Instead of thinking of it as a 40-hour workweek, or 120 hours if you count the night times, if you’re thinking about it as one big chunk, you should maybe prioritize your tasks,” she said.

Discussing the week with friends, family or coworkers and coming up with a plan may also help reduce the feeling that the entire week is an impossible task, Thornton said. However, when friends and family are unable to provide the support necessary for anxiety that causes significant issues in daily life, she said it may be time to seek the help of a professional who can provide the necessary tools to manage anxiety. 

“If they could do some talk therapy, some problem-solving with a therapist in order to change their thoughts and behaviors,” Thornton said.

Thornton said if someone is anxious more often than not, they may need the help of medication in addition to therapy.

Thornton said speaking with a primary care provider or other qualified professional can prove helpful for dealing with issues related to anxiety, such as trouble maintaining relationships, insomnia, excessive and upsetting worry and irritability.

“If you don’t know what to do to fix the problem, then make a commitment to yourself to find out. Ask advice from family, friends or colleagues, or seek advice from a therapist or other professional,” Thornton said in a post for the medical center.