Sunday Blues or Something Else? Where Down Ends and Depression Begins

Person at home looking pensive and a bit sad while sitting on sofaSunday afternoon winds down and you find yourself feeling a little bummed. You may procrastinate your chores. You may not want to bother cooking a nice meal or make the effort to get together with family or friends. Maybe you just feel a little tired or unmotivated and you start thinking about the long week ahead. You focus on responsibilities, difficult tasks, early mornings, or other frustrations you anticipate and a gloomy feeling creeps up. You’re dreading that pesky alarm reminding you of the long hours ahead.

It’s natural to feel a little low when the fun fizzles and your weekend or vacation comes to an end, but could your experience be something more? Could it be depression?

The term “depressed” is often tossed around casually in conversation, but according to the most widely used tool for identifying mental health conditions, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), specific criteria must be met for a clinical diagnosis of major depression. While depression is common among Americans, it’s also typical to experience highs and lows—fleeting moments of positive, negative, and neutral emotions without having a diagnosable mood condition. If your mood declines for only a brief while and is directly related to something pleasant coming to an end, and it generally shifts back, you may simply be struggling with the transition from some fun time off to getting back into work mode.

If most of your mood seems to relate to not looking forward to an unpleasant routine like early rising, dealing with a commute, stress, or workplace challenges, then it may be a clue to changes you might want to consider in your life. Perhaps you’re feeling burnt out, have job-specific concerns, feel overextended, or have trouble with work-life balance. If so, consider looking more closely at the source of your feelings. Could you use more support at home or at work, more time to spend on hobbies, with friends or family, or on your own? Do you need to make a bigger change in your life that could affect your well-being, such as a relationship, living conditions, or occupation?

If changes in one or more of these areas could improve your situation, start there and explore possible adjustments that might help. One way you could do this is to log your feelings for a week, noting any emotions that come up; what happened just before, prompting them to surface; how long they last; and if anything helped them to dissipate.

If you think your blues may be something more, or if you find it difficult to function in your day-to-day life (like going to school or work, maintaining responsibilities, or dealing with problems at home or in relationships), it may be a good idea to seek professional help.

Additionally, try incorporating some reflective thought or mindful practice as your weekend comes to an end. If you get stuck on negative thoughts or feelings about the tasks you’re dreading in the next few days, redirect your thoughts to the present moment rather than anticipating the discomfort you expect to feel in the future. Consider moving your inner dialogue to something like this: I am able to get up early, deal with ______ (my commute, coworkers, day-to-day stress, etc.), and roll with whatever comes my way in that moment because I can handle it. Consider relying on your ability to resolve a problem in the moment, in the event something actually goes wrong, or rely on your ability to sit with the discomfort of a pesky task when it occurs, knowing it won’t last forever. See if you can then direct your focus more toward being present in the activities you originally planned to enjoy, especially if it is still the weekend. You can continue to take care of yourself and your relationships even if there are only a few hours of free time remaining. Take advantage of that time and do what you want with it, whatever feels good to you. You can both unwind and feel disappointed that the time you reserved for fun activities is coming to an end.

If you think your blues may be something more, or if you find it difficult to function in your day-to-day life (like going to school or work, maintaining responsibilities, or dealing with problems at home or in relationships), it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Depression, anxiety, and other mood conditions are complicated and can come in many forms. According to the DSM-5, if you’ve had a down, low, or irritable mood lasting all day for at least a two-week period, it may be more than just the blues. If you’ve experienced a recent loss or have lost pleasure in activities you typically enjoy; have sleep, concentration, or appetite changes; feel hopeless or excessive guilt; or have had thoughts of suicide, a mental health professional can help.

Let friends and family know you’re going through a difficult time and could use some support. Someone you care about may have a good recommendation to a therapist they trust, or you can search your insurance network, ask your primary care physician, or consider other resources in your community. Finding a good therapist can take a little time, but when you succeed, it can be life-changing.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sarah Farris, LCPC, Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Adam

    October 2nd, 2017 at 2:00 PM

    I just moved all the way across the country form all of my family back home and my friends. I have a great job in a part of the country I have always wanted to move to so on the surface it looks like everything should be great but I am miserable. I am thinking about how long it will take me to save up enough money to go back home and visit and it looks like it will not be in time for the holidays this year. I like where I am and what I am doing but I also feel pretty homesick and I am hoping that this will pass quickly because I don’t want it to keep me form enjoying this new life, the one I had always dreamed of, but here I am and I can’t get all that happy about it.

  • Sarah

    October 5th, 2017 at 8:02 AM

    Thank you, Adam for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time adjusting to your new residence. I too hope the transition period shifts quickly for you and if not, that you can make whatever changes that feel best for you and your situation.

  • Scarlet

    October 4th, 2017 at 10:37 AM

    Much of this is going to be about knowing yourself, paying attention to cues that tell you that this is maybe something a little more serious.

  • Sarah

    October 5th, 2017 at 8:03 AM

    Exactly, Scarlet! You are your own expert in your life.

  • Iliana

    October 5th, 2017 at 2:40 PM

    One thing that I would like to stress though is that if you see something with a friend that concerns you about how they are acting, then don’t be scared to say something to him or her. It might feel like you are intruding in on them, but who cares? This could be the one thing that they have been waiting for, for a friend to step up and notice that there is something wrong and who can help get them focused on getting some help for themselves. It can be daunting to step in like that, I understand, but I would much rather be wrong than to look back in hindsight after something terrible happens to know that I was right and that I said and did nothing.

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