Sunday night blues

Thoughts of the coming workweek can cause anxiety, dread, sleeplessness and more as Monday approaches

September 21, 2005|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,Sun reporter

When Sunday night creeps in, Paul Zanger starts to get antsy, realizing that for the next five days, there will be no sleeping in and no kids playing in the yard until dark.

He wants the floors vacuumed, the trash out, the beds made. He wants the kids helping with chores, and the house ready for the coming workweek.

"It's something that just comes on," Zanger said. "It happens around the dinner hour, and whether that dinner hour is 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock, that's when it happens. ... I just get irritated."

It's the classic case of the Sunday night blues, a phenomenon where thoughts of the coming work week can cause anxiety, dread, sleepless nights and a host of other symptoms. Sometimes, experts say, it happens to workers who are unhappy in their jobs. At other times it can be the sign of an overwhelmed employee, faced with a workplace climate of increasing pressure and limited resources. The blues also can be associated with childhood memories of the weekend being over and the school week beginning, experts said.

Zanger, for instance, is happy with his job selling copiers, printers and other office technology for The Phillips Group in Hunt Valley. Sure, there are bad days, like when sales are low and the end of the month is nearing. But he likes his work and his boss.

What Zanger doesn't like is waking up at 5 a.m. to beat the morning traffic on his commute from Pennsylvania. And shifting from his weekend practices of relaxing and watching NASCAR to working from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. During the week, he often grabs a quick dinner and rushes off to coach Little League.

"I think it's just the change of the routine from the weekend to the week," said Zanger, who said he has had Sunday night blues since he was a kid in school.

Kevin A. Siegel's blues come in the form of stage fright. Despite being a "training ace" and president of IconLogic Inc., a Riva-based training and publishing company, the classes he teaches often prompt Sunday night butterflies and a knot in his stomach.

"Every Sunday night my stress level hits the roof as I worry about the upcoming class," Siegel wrote in an e-mail. "I spend Friday nights coming down from the high of being in the classroom, Saturday forgetting what I do for a living, and Sunday worrying I'm in the class Monday. Mind you, I've taught these classes for nearly 11 years. I've got it all memorized. But I worry I'm going to forget it all Monday morning and the learners will know what a fraud and horrible instructor I really am.

"The class starts. I'm rocking. What was all the stress about?

"Then, before you know it, it's Sunday again. The blues, again."

There are ways to manage the Sunday night blues. Experts suggest making a list of things to do during the coming week or planning something to look forward to on Monday, such as lunch with a friend.

"All is not lost if you have the Sunday night blues," said Ford R. Myers, president of Career Potential, a Haverford, Pa., career consulting firm. "You can still make adjustments."

Glenda LeGendre has taught her daughter to battle the blues with a method she learned in college. Back then, as her now-husband and his roommates would be finishing dinner and starting the dishes after a busy weekend, one of the roommates would ask: "Well, what are we doing next weekend?" recalled LeGendre, who is now vice president of marketing and public relations for Villa Julie College.

Planning the next weekend got them through the evening and got rid of the blues, LeGendre said. It worked so well, she said, that it now has become a family ritual. And LeGendre predicts that her daughter, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, is using the same tactic now that she's away at college.

Another solution is to keep Monday's schedule light. As principal and chief executive of Entinex Inc., a Silver Spring technology strategy firm, Hillel Glazer avoids stacking his Monday schedules with tasks that could cause pressure on Sundays. It is a strategy he developed when he was a federal government employee with a compressed workweek and the option of taking every other Friday or Monday off. At first, he opted for Fridays.

"Sunday night, I was coming home early from places, I was not able to really enjoy my weekend to the fullest extent," Glazer recalled. He felt anxious and had trouble sleeping. "It kind of made Sunday night into any other night of the week," he said.

So Glazer switched to taking every other Monday off, and found a huge difference. Having Mondays free, he said, meant enjoying Sundays to their fullest.

Sunday night blues is a fairly common problem, said Dr. Ralph D. Raphael, a psychologist in Towson who specializes in career counseling. Workers don't often talk about it, though, because it's not debilitating.

Many people assume, Raphael said, that they are supposed to feel stressed, depressed or anxious on Sunday nights.

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