Sunday 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.
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