Sunday Night-itis — AKA Job Stress


I started researching workplace stress more feverishly and with fewer records of sources than usual for me, as the patient was — and still is — me.

I have practiced in every setting I can imagine a psychiatrist being in — public and private, government (from federal to county) solo and institutional, whatever.

But now I have more physical and emotional fatigue.  More struggle getting my work done in the timely manner I expect from myself.  More need for (albeit, sounder) sleep.  And more “Sunday Night-it is” — for who has not complained about job stress?

After four 10-hour days at work, I actually feel it takes pretty much all of my three day weekend to bounce back from the stressors of the week before diving into things again on Monday morning.

There are a lot of articles about this, and a lot of self-tests.  There are a lot of great floating platitudes and a fair amount of wild inferences.

As for first-hand inferences, I get those from my patients.  I cannot think now of a single patient of mine who actually has a job and has NOT complained about job stress.

Sometimes I have to bite my lip to keep me from speaking, especially in this time dominated by 15 minute medication management sessions.  This makes me seem to be ‘cold’ and ‘distant’ because I have to bite my lip to keep from answering them back, “Do you think I don’t have any??”  (Or worse, “What do you think I am, chopped liver?  I work, too.”)

I am, admittedly, only human.

Maybe psychiatrists have to act distant to keep any control they have.

I knew something was wrong when I plowed through lists of the most stressful occupations and saw many different kinds of medical professions listed — mostly what I would have viewed as “technicians.”  But the profession of “doctor” was not listed anywhere.

“Control” seems often to be hypothesized as the antidote for stress.  Somebody thinks I got control?

“Lack of control” is supposed to be why every imaginable medical technician (nurse, X-ray tech, orderly — I could go on forever) shows up somewhere on a list of “most stressful professions.”

I don’t pick my patients.  I certainly have not picked my coworkers for most of my career, except for maybe a few key people (who usually seem to quit or retire when I get there, anyway.)  And I certainly have no control over picking my clinical administrators and insurance billing personnel.

Still, I have no intention of denying that control may be a factor.  I mean, I decide what medications to describe and how often I see folks, even if I don’t get to pick who my patients are (or in my current situation, I can’t control my own schedule).

Doing the same thing repetitively, like working on an assembly line, has a stress all its own.

I remember an alleged acute decompensation by a patient I saw some years ago who worked on the assembly line for a major automotive manufacturer.  They had suddenly changed his task from screwing four bolts on a metal what-sis to screwing three bolts on a metal what-sis.  I would have guessed such change would be relieving, as it sounded like less work, but he had insomnia and anxiety attacks — not to mention a seriously concerned wife.

Other generalizations as to what might help include “physical activity,” a healthy recommendation for our nation of “couch potatoes” to be sure.

I doubt the solution for Americans to be at-work-exercise-classes, as it might be for Japanese workers and employers.  I mean, here comes the control issue all over again.

For me, it is my ballet class.  It is hard to keep a smile off my face when I am dancing.  It just plain feels good.

My feet are a bit weak from neuropathy (I walk with a cane, still) but I am getting good enough my dance teacher has invited me to perform.

There go all my old jokes about being the world’s worst ballet dancer.

Actually, they pretty much went out the window when my dance teacher asked me to join a ballet class for adult women and somebody actually complained to her that I looked like someone who had studied ballet before.

Me, I am a pretty long way from the (admittedly substantially) overweight girl who danced the role of the turkey in the Thanksgiving pageant in prep school.

More recent research seems to zero in on the importance of the individual personality in the evolution of work stress and the adaptation to same.

Me, I have enough control, enough clout, they are going to get me an assistant.

I can only get less stressed.

Then, there is the question of Sunday night-itis.  Oh, you know what I mean.  Being sad on Sunday nights because you have felt normal, maybe even human, for the whole weekend, and just realized the stressful cycle will start again on Monday morning.

No scholarly research but a recent article I read addresses Sunday night blues clearly.

That article reminds me of the quote from Hamlet, by the great bard of Avon”

“… for there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so”

Daydreaming, whether or not you know you are doing it, makes things better or worse.

Spending too much time Sunday thinking about how rotten things are going to be on Monday is probably not a good idea.

A simpler and more practical one is to break up your work week with pleasant bits of recreation and not leave it all for the weekend.

Stranger than fiction, but there is proof workplace stress is a cross-cultural workplace problem.  This author from the Hindu business Journal cites a well known American Pharmacologist, Dr. Ronald Pies, who first cited the need for relax times during the week.

So go for it.!


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