The Attack of the Monday Blues

Do you dread the start of your workweek?

Work-related anxieties can sap your energy, deny you sleep, and cause a host of related psychological disorders, say local mental-health practitioners.

Dan Hiestand
   Sunday night.
   Imagery and emotion created by these two simple words can resonate with people in many different ways.
   For some, it simply means the second half of the traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend, a National Football League game, a stroll through the park, or perhaps a gathering at church.
   For others, the term is anything but benign, and can inspire anxiety about a variety of things — often centered on the coming workweek.
   “If you look for those terms, either ‘Sunday night depression’ or ‘Sunday night anxiety’ in either psychological or medical literature, you’re going to come up with absolutely nothing,” said licensed psychologist Chris Rhoads. “Does that mean it exists or it doesn’t exist? That’s another question … Do people experience it? Absolutely.”
   The day before heading back to work can be tough — whatever day of the week it may be. However, overcoming this feeling may not be as difficult as you might think.

Popcorn and pie
   Brandy Bailey, manager at Renaissance Celebration in Fairhaven, said working while raising a family used to be tough for her — especially when her three children were growing up.
   At that time, Bailey was a graphic designer, and her kids were her life. Sundays meant church in the morning and Disney movies at night.
   “The kids and I all tried to do our little escape thing,” Bailey said. “Sunday was popcorn night and Disney night, and we tried not to think about the next day.”
   Sunday afternoons, Bailey and her children would prepare for the coming school and work days — even laying out their clothes for the following day.
   “Sunday afternoon, we got everything ready to go so we could relax and enjoy being together,” she said.
   This routine — of having “popcorn, pie and Disney” — helped them enjoy Sundays, instead of dreading Mondays, she said.
   “I wanted the connectedness with my children,” she said. “And I really didn’t want to think about the office dynamic.”
   While she said she didn’t “hate” her job, she did say it wasn’t always her favorite place to be — especially when compared to being with her children. Her office at the time was small and cramped, and included clashing personalities.
   “The truth was (my previous job) stretched me, but it was good for me,” she said. “(However), at the time I didn’t like it.”
   While Bailey’s reasons for being bummed were mostly family related, the connection between experiencing anxiety or depression and one’s level of job satisfaction is a real one, Rhoads said.
   Rhoads cited a study done by The Conference Board, a nonprofit business organization that creates and disseminates knowledge about management and the marketplace. The study, released last year, reported that half of all Americans today say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 1995 — regardless of income level or age.
   A survey done a few months earlier by the same organization revealed that 40 percent of workers feel disconnected from their employers, two out of every three workers do not identify with or feel motivated to drive their employer’s business goals and objectives and 25 percent of employees are just “showing up to collect a paycheck.”
   These kinds of statistics can make for unhappy employees, Rhoads said — and may indicate that something like Sunday night depression or anxiety could become all the more prevalent, he said.
   “Anybody who is not excited about what they’re doing or even enjoys what they’re doing for work would be susceptible to something like this,” Rhoads said.

School night blues
   Of course, not everyone has a problem with Sunday nights, or back-to-work-blues. But for those who do, Rhoads said the feeling is not a good one.
   “There is a feeling of being taken out of the moment,” Rhoads said. “People who are having their Sundays and Saturdays — or whatever days they don’t work — interrupted by worry or anxiousness and nervousness, or fantasies about work … with that comes some of the classic anxiety and depression symptoms.”
   He equated it to the feeling people often have as young students, when Sunday the “school night” would mean homework and getting to bed early after a two-day break.
   “What is hardest for people about (experiencing work-related anxiety or depression) is that not only has work taken up 40-60 hours of their week, now it’s taking the weekends, too, because they find themselves thinking about it and worrying about it,” said Rhoads. “For some people, it’s not Sunday-night depression, it’s like Sunday-morning depression, because they start thinking about it that early. Or they start thinking about it as soon as they leave work (on Friday).”
   Symptoms are wide-ranging and may not equate to a clinical diagnosis of depression or anxiety, he said. Tightness of the stomach, nervousness and heart palpitations may spell aggravation, but not a diagnosable problem, he said.
   “Are they the same (symptoms people experience with) anxiety? Not necessarily,” Rhoads said. “Are they similar and do they share some of the same kind of flavor? They seem to.”
   However, more severe symptoms may pose bigger threats if left unchecked, he said.
   “Anxiety and depression and other psychological problems usually cross the thresholds of being a diagnosable problem or something that needs attention when they disrupt your functioning in some way,” Rhoads said. “If you’re noting changes in your appetite and sleep — if you’re staying awake because you’re worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow or dreading going to work and you’re losing sleep over that. If it’s impairing relationships with others — if you find yourself being really frustrated and irritable and quick to anger and it impairs a relationship with a partner or spouse, those might be red flags.”
   Elevated blood pressure and hypertension can occur with more severe symptoms, he said.
   “The people that I’ve known that have had this kind of Sunday night depression or anxiety about work, when they think about the things that they’re anxious about, they get more anxious,” Rhoads said. “One of the treatments is to break up that thought process and have people think about more positive things. Substitute positive thoughts for negative thoughts … (Try to) think about the things that you enjoy about work, even if it’s something as small as, ‘I like the commute.’”
   Rhoads said he has experienced work-related anxiety in the past.
   “I think everybody goes through phases where you’ve had a job that you dreaded going to,” he said. “However, I’ve had plenty of experiences where I’ve absolutely looked forward to going to work.”
   In the end, work-related anxiety and depression issues often come down to setting priorities, he said.
   “The thing for me was really evaluating what my priorities are for a job, and the cost and the benefits of a job,” he said. “Yeah, the pay may be great, it may have prestige, but is it worth what I have to give up for it?”



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