Sunday Night Blues: Coping with Teacher Anxiety as the New Week Begins

Between the joy and relaxation of the weekend, and the crushing anxiety of a new work week, lies Sunday night. No matter how fulfilled one feels with their work, or how much they “love their job,” nearly everyone feels that tinge of tension and apprehension as 8:00 pm rolls around and you begin thinking about Monday morning. It makes for really bad sleeping as the mind begins to toss around the scenarios, experiencing the stress of the unknown, and realizing the entire week is ahead of you. You’re leaving something pleasant, something you mostly had control over: the weekend.
I recognize that this is pretty universal to every form of work, and teachers are no more or less susceptible to hating Sunday nights. But let’s talk from the teacher’s perspective. Mondays are not our own, they belong to our students, and we have to be ready for them. Unless you bribed the scheduler in July to get that first period free, most of us start the work week on the run. What we know very well – and the thing that non-teachers can never really grasp – is that teachers are “on” almost constantly. We are performers, actors, putting ourselves out there, exposing ourselves to the audience and critics every day. And when we don’t feel up to it, too bad! The show must go on! It can be exhausting. So when those Sunday evenings come upon us quickly, we know we have to be prepared for the curtain rise early the next morning.
Sunday Night Blues are a common affliction in my household. I teach high school, my wife teaches elementary special education, and my daughter and son are in public high school. So I’m reminded every week that teachers are not the only ones to experience these lows, students do too. Consequently our coping mechanisms often involve the entire family. I admit to no expertise on stress relief except clipping a lot of coupons for Advil. But below are some strategies my family has worked out to help us ease into our Mondays.
Keep Sundays Free. I know, I know. I’ve been to grad school. It’s where, besides a little bit of history, I learned the art of doing everything tomorrow. However, I had a colleague who religiously refused to work on Sundays. Of course, we all hated him because he seemed to consistently pull it off. But he made a commitment to it. That might mean some Saturday work time or a late night or two during the week, but Sundays was his time to rejuvenate, and he kept to it.
Sunday Night Special. Develop a ritual for Sunday night that really makes it a special day of the week. My family will often make it a home-movie night (or part of a movie if we can’t squeeze a whole one in). When weather’s nicer it’s ice cream or a walk in the neighborhood. It might mean leaving the books or the grading for a while, but it’s an important time when we can take a deep breath, pat each other on the back, and exchange encouragement.
Have something to look forward to. This is definitely a good tool to use with kids who get down before the school week. Plan something special for a night during the week or the weekend. We often try to plan something for Friday, so Thursday night becomes “Happy Friday Eve.” These look to events make the work-week feel shorter and provides just a bit of motivation when the week starts.
Sunday Night Blues are a common affliction for teachers AND students Click To Tweet
Read. Preferably not a book about teaching. When I’m anxious I think of a story I heard about Winston Churchill during World War II. Every night when the Germans were bombing London, Churchill would get out one of his favorite books and read. It kept him calm, focused and was a type of defiance that the Germans wouldn’t prevent him from enjoying one of his favorite activities. Besides, as we know, reading is one of the most productive things we can do for our minds and souls. So it is always comes guilt-free.
Look-to events makes the work-week feel shorter and provides just a bit of motivation Click To Tweet
Nature. My family and I are lucky to live in Northeast Ohio, which has one of the most amazing Metro Park systems in the country (believe it or not). Nature is a natural rejuvenator, and family walks are healthy and mind-clearing. No better way to put things in perspective.
Remind yourself that what you do is awesome. I’m a quote junky and there are a ton about teachers. I’ll share one from one of my students’ favorite people, Malala Yousafzai:  “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” I will proudly say we do one of the most important jobs in the world. It is daunting, but also exhilarating. It helps to deal with those Monday mornings when you know what you do will impact the future.
I’d love to hear others’ ideas. Maybe we can help each other get through Sunday night.

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