Illustration: Ashley Siebels
We all know the feeling: after an active weekend, Sunday night rolls around and suddenly you feel a bit deflated, blah, mopey, anxious about everything you have to do in the week ahead.
That’s the Sunday night blues coming down, reminding you of all the adulting you have to do Monday through Friday. The impact can range from minor disappointment or debilitating enough to affect a person’s health.
But know this: these sad trombone feelings are very common and there are ways alleviate some of the impact.
Dr. Bruce Levin, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Philadelphia, said feeling let down after a fun weekend shouldn’t be a surprise.
“Some of it is very understandable in the sense that on the weekends we have greater autonomy, greater freedom, and we’re generally less structured in our time. Come Sunday night and facing the week, I think that generally there’s some sense of loss and impingement on that kind of flexibility. So I think it makes sense that there’s some degree of sadness,” Levin said.
Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, principal of Invantage Advising, a consulting firm specializing in the psychology of business, and a past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association, concurred.
“It’s a human experience that’s very common. It’s certainly normal, but its cause may be very individualized. The thing about psychoanalysis, we look at the individual person. Each individual has their own pathway,” she said.
1.Write down the root causes to get them out in the open
If you feel trapped in a Muddy Waters song come Sunday night, Gourguechon and Levin say take some time to reflect why you have these feelings.
“As a psychologist and psychoanalyst, if someone I was treating was having trouble with this, I’d want to know what’s behind it, what’s driving the anxiety, what’s driving the sadness that may make it difficult for this person to get over the humps so to speak,” Levin said.
Gourguechon said there could be a variety of possibilities that are all individually based and not necessarily related to work – social anxiety, trouble with transitions in general, a parent’s anxiety of having to be away from small children. That’s why self-reflection is a good starting point.
“Not everyone is going to be able to identify it. But if they stop and take some time to think about it they may come up with more specific answers,” she said.
2. Think back on your formative experiences
And the issues could lurk deeper in your personal history.
“Let’s say your parents were divorced and you spent the weekend with your dad,” she said. “(After Sunday night) you wouldn’t see him for a week. We may think it is about work, but you may have a Sunday thing, and they’re painful or the transition is painful. Is there something about Sundays in your childhood, or the transition to school. Did you have trouble making the transition from home to school?”
3. Find ways to use your anxiety for good
If the Sunday night blues are work-related, Levin said it’s not uncommon that people have conflicts surrounding competition and ambition. It’s why adulting is hard. Levin said in this case, try to put the conflicts in perspective, and that a little bit of anxiety can be healthy if channeled properly.
“Anxiety can be a great motivator. It can help people organize themselves and prepare in various ways without it being over burdening or overwhelming,” he said.
4. Reframe to keep the proper perspective
Bruce Cameron, a licensed professional counselor and executive coach in Dallas, agreed with Levin that if Sunday night anxiety is caused from concerns about work, make sure you’re not making problems bigger than what they are.
“Make sure you are not catastrophizing. Reach out to a friend or trusted colleague to discuss what is on your mind,” he said, and sometimes it helps to think about some positive office relationships.
5. If you get the Sunday-night blues every week, examine if your life is working
When are the Sunday night blues a sign that maybe it’s time for a new job or that they might be covering something deeper? Cameron said look for physical clues.
“You purposely sleep in. You have somatic complaints, e.g. stomach issues Sunday night and Monday morning. You feel symptoms of anxiety and panic,” he said.
That’s when self-reflection becomes important, Levin and Gourguechon said.
All three experts say try to head off any Sunday blues as a chance to plan out the week both personally and professionally. Gourguechon said Sunday night is a transition from the weekend to the work week, and treating it as such can help make it easier to attack Monday. That means making time to allow the transition to occur.
“Don’t catapult from an incredibly busy weekend and get home at 11 o’clock at night on a Sunday and get up at 7. Give yourself time late afternoon to refocus the weekend. Take care of business around the house so that you’re not leaving chaos behind you,” she said.
Depending on your personality, taking a peek at work email for a few minutes on Sunday afternoon may help. But the experts advise caution when doing this.
“Does (checking email) make you more calm or more anxious,” Gourguechon said. “Is it compulsive – you can’t get off the screen, or is there a purpose to it? You know if you’re a person who needs to know what the fireballs are going to be and whether you’ll be better if prepared. Ask yourself, what’s the outcome? What’s the cost/benefit ratio of doing it? There’s going to be a little cost at least, so make sure you know there’s a benefit for you.”
Sunday nights are a good time to wind down and ease the transition, so try to do something relaxing, whether it’s meditation for those who practice, reading a book or listening to music. There’s a reason why Sunday night TV is so good, Levin and Gourguechon said.
“HBO has some really good shows on Sunday night and it does give you something to look forward to,” Levin said.