Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Chronic Sadness of Late Sunday Afternoon

From today's NY Times article The Tension Builds (It's Almost Monday):
The feeling is familiar: you are savoring the last of a leisurely Sunday lunch or a long walk in the park when you abruptly realize that your weekend will be over in a matter of hours. In an instant, you are deep in what John Updike called the “chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon.” As you envision the to-do pile on your desk, the meetings on your calendar, and that trip to Topeka on Tuesday, your mood shifts again, your muscles tense, and your head begins to ache.

You have a case of workplace-related stress. You also have plenty of company.

Poll results released last October by the American Psychological Association found that one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress, and that the most commonly cited source of stress — mentioned by 74 percent of respondents — was work. That was up from 59 percent the previous year.

More of the article...
Like many overachievers, I lived for many years with those Sunday afternoon blues; whether it was the week of classes and problem sets or the week of meetings and presentations, Sundays always had a distinct feeling. I think that in addition to this "workplace stress," there are other factors that go into this "chronic sadness of late Sunday afternoon."

In some cases, it might be from having to end a fun weekend or experience. Maybe you had so much fun skiing or hanging out with friends that you want to savor the last few moments before thinking about the daily routine again. You could also be working on a project and it pains you to put it on the back-burner again... if only the weekend came with 3 days! In this sense, the Sunday blues come from having to cut short some enjoyment that doesn't come frequently enough.

These blues can also come from not having used your weekend time as you had hoped. Maybe you slept in really late, or didn't get to that back-burner project you've been meaning to work on. The feeling of "What did I really do with my time?" or "Why did I spend so much time doing ___?" On Sunday night, as we naturally reflect on the weekend, we have a feeling of squandered time and opportunity that puts us into a funk.

Yet another variation is the Sunday night anxiety that comes as you see the sand slipping through the hourglass in the last remaining hours. For me, it's usually around 7pm when I know I have 3 hours left and I want to make them count. Should I watch a movie, go out to eat, work on that project, or get in a few hours of work? When there's less time available, it makes it that much more valuable. Especially when you know it'll be at least 5 days before you have it again!

And of course, there IS the workplace stress of the over-full inbox, the morning meeting, the memo you have to draft, or the presentation that you'll have to cram for. The week might hold in store for you long hours or an overbooked schedules, keeping you running frantically from one activity to another. Workplace stress may also be the result of a less-than-desirable working environment, difficult colleagues, or an onerous boss. Stress can also come from feeling unfulfilled or unchallenged in your position, knowing that you could be putting your potential to better use. Maybe it's the nagging thought that there's a better match for you in terms of industry, career, or position and either not knowing how to get there or not knowing exactly what that is.

I work with clients who are facing these situations and help them reach a more fulfilling, yet less stressful, place in their careers and personal lives. If you're feeling the Sunday afternoon blues, a few weeks of coaching might be just the thing for you. Email me at and begin managing your workplace stress!

1 comment:

Rob said...

Good post. I know the feeling. It reminds me of "Time" by Pink Floyd...

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but its sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death