Saturday, November 08, 2014

The Sunday Blues: When the day of rest is a day of stress


QMFM radio DJ Ray Grover says he still has residual Sunday blues from working morning radio shows for 13 years. Richard Lam/PNG

What was once often identified as a day of rest is now a day of stress for many people.

Whether you call it the Sunday blues or Sunday sadness, the last day of the weekend leaves many people feeling down in the dumps or even full of dread.

It’s not a medical or psychiatric condition — the Sunday blues hasn’t been quantified in Canada. But a study out of England by the mental health organization Mind found that almost 30 per cent of people had feelings of apprehension and dread the evening before returning to work and or school.

Experts say there are several factors behind the Sunday blues, which usually hit during late afternoon to early evening: the sense of disappointment that the good times of the weekend are almost over; feelings of loss of freedom; a dislike for the job or studies that lie ahead; feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming week’s responsibilities; and the change in sleep-wake cycles.

“A feeling of being down, sluggish, lethargic coincides with the work week for most people,” said Dr. Joti Samra, a Vancouver psychologist.

“For me, Sunday nights have long been a time of anxiety and panic, even the blues,” says QMFM radio host and voice-over artist Ray Grover. “For me, most of it comes from a period of 13 years doing radio morning shows. After a weekend of lax bedtimes, suddenly the panic of the alarm going off the next morning at 4 a.m. creeps in.

“My radio work hasn’t involved a regular morning show now for seven years, but the panic still lives inside of me on Sunday nights. ‘Am I prepared? Will I wake up? What am I going to talk about?’ It doesn’t help that I have always been the person who does not like going to bed at night and trying to sleep.”

The way we work these days is also a contributing factor to late-weekend anxiety, says Samra.

“People are working a lot longer hours than they used to,” said Samra, an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Simon Fraser University. “You look at households, both adults work full time. There is greater financial stress in our current day and age, and for that reason a lot of people feel they are kind of stuck in a position that they are dissatisfied with and Sunday is marking the eve before they have to be back in that work environment.”

For many people, the weekend itself has taken on a work-like vibe, with long lists of errands and chores instead of meetings and deadlines.

“It feels like Sunday is more a work day than the traditional relaxed day everyone thinks it is,” said Annita McPhee, formerly the leader of the Tahltan Nation and now a self-employed adviser to First Nations.

“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh I gotta do this and gotta do that,’ then I just feel tired,” said McPhee. “Even other people I talk to, they say Sunday is their organizing day.”

Since the Sunday blues can spill over and cause Monday malaise, Samra suggests bonding briefly with co-workers as a way to decrease the dread.

“There is something to be said for a little venting, you know, the water-cooler chat,” said Samra. “Actually, there is a therapeutic component to that, to be able to vent a little bit. It’s helpful because it helps us to connect to other people and we realize we are not alone.”

But Samra warns against becoming — or spending too much time with — the constant complainer.

“We know if you are excessively venting about the same thing and taking no action, that is actually counter productive and counter therapeutic,” said Samra.

If you are one of those constant complainers, it’s time to make a big change, say experts.

And by change they mean really shake up your work reality.

For chalk artist Martin Hayes, the switch to self-employment made his Sunday blues go away.

“Eventually I took a risk and went solo with my work. It seemed like overnight that the hatred toward Mondays disappeared and the Sunday blues faded away,” said Hayes, who lives in Richmond and worked for sign companies before going out on his own.

“As I got busier and busier with my work, Sundays became a night where I really enjoyed going into my studio to be creative and prepare or complete work for Monday.”

At the end of the day — or should we say the end of the weekend — banishing the Sunday blues and reclaiming the day is doable. And the best way to manage it is to take care of your health, eat right, maintain regular sleep patterns and cut yourself some slack.


Why do you have the blues?

Look at the big picture. Are you doing what you want with your life?

Maybe your malaise is a sign that you should take a look at your professional and personal goals. Make time to devise a plan to make some changes.

Look for patterns

Are your Sunday blues a regular occurrence? If so, look for patterns.

What are you dreading? What are you doing when the Sunday blues hit? Does this happen every Sunday? Once you identify the triggers, you can work toward changes.

Organize your work area before you leave on Friday

A clean workspace will help you picture a fresh start when you think about Monday morning.

Don’t sleep in

You may think sleeping in is just what the weekend ordered but the fact is you’ll throw off your circadian rhythm, likely leading to a bit of insomnia come Sunday night, which will then lead to a crummy Monday morning.

Start a fun Sunday-night tradition

Saying goodbye to the weekend can be a downer. Instead of moping in the afternoon and evening, get moving and make a date with friends or family members to do something fun. Start a tradition that you look forward to and that makes you happy.

Turn off technology

You don’t need to check your work emails again, do you? Backing away from emails, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram might just give you a feeling of escape. Besides, do you really need to know that Sam from accounting biked 50 kilometres and that Janet in HR had the best dim sum ever?

Do something else with your time. Go outside, for example.

Try to make one weekend day errand free

If it is at all possible, get your errands, phone calls, emails, texts and chores done in one weekend day, leaving the other day free to relax and enjoy yourself. This will be easier to do if you add an errand a day on to your weekdays.

Take care of yourself

Exercise, eat well and avoid turning to alcohol or drugs. Feeling bad physically will make you feel even worse emotionally.

Talk to a mental health professional

If you just can’t seem to shake the blues, then it’s time to reach out to a professional.

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