Singing the blues on Sunday night: It's a chorus

January 16, 2000|By SUSAN REIMER

IT IS SUNDAY, and in a matter of hours, the sun will set on your weekend and on your mood.

Forty-eight hours of inconsequential busyness -- errands, exercising, kid sports, socializing -- are slipping away with each tick-tick-tick of the "60 Minutes" clock.

Sunday evening comes, and you shift into a frantic rush to tie up the weekend's loose ends -- the laundry, the groceries, the paperwork, the homework.

There is no place for parties, movies or dinner out on Sunday night, not when you have to gear up for the week ahead. Shave your legs, clean out your briefcase, pack your lunch, pack your backpack.

So you put yourself to bed early, hoping to simultaneously quiet the anxiety and charge the batteries. But instead, you wrestle with the covers in sleepless dread of the start of the week.

Face it. You have the Sunday-night blues.

For two days, you have put aside the demands of work or school. But by Sunday night, your obliviousness gives way to sadness, loneliness, anxiousness. You looked forward to this weekend, it's over and the next one seems far away.

"When people come to the end of a weekend, they look back over it and think, `Gee, it's over. I had lots of expectations, and they didn't get done. Now it is back to business,' " says Dr. William Sedlacek, assistant director of the Counseling Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"The problem isn't with Sundays. The problem is with us," he says. "Change the work week to Tuesday through Saturday and you have the same thing" on Mondays.

You might expect that the Sunday blues took root during our school years. That as adults, we are still brooding about the fact that our parents wouldn't let us stay up late on Sunday nights. Maybe. But there are other theories.

One theory is that we over-busy people are lost on a do-nothing day like Sunday, that we overbook Saturday and leave nothing for Sunday but the morning paper, and the pace of the week stalls.

Another is that Sunday is associated with family, and we far-flung adults miss our roots.

But the most common reason for the Sunday blues might be that we hate our jobs, and we know that Monday will renew our misery or give us another opportunity to fail.

Whatever the cause, there is no escaping Monday morning. The only answer is to find a way to get through Sunday night.

And there are some sensible suggestions from professionals:

Avoid a Sunday nap. You will sleep better Sunday night.

Don't let Sunday be a void. Make sure you plan something for that day, and mix it up: routine chores, socializing and a little time alone.

And Sedlacek offers a practical solution to disappointment we feel every Sunday night: Make a list.

"We set ourselves up with these expectations that the weekend was going to get us rested and recreated, and we are disappointed when it doesn't," he says. "It isn't the weekend's fault. It is us."

Instead of wrestling with this vague disappointment that we didn't get anything done, he says, we should divide our expectations into three groups: things that, if I get them done, will make me feel that I had a great weekend; things that would be nice to do; and things that I may never get to.

"That way, if you get into the second list, you will feel great. And if you never make it to the third list, at least you will feel like you have some control."

"Take action. Plan something. Do it. When Monday comes, you won't feel like you've lost another opportunity."

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