Image description: A header illustration featuring a tired-looking student, sitting on a chair next to a table with books and papers scattered across it and a crossed-off to-do list, facing the viewer next to a laptop screen reading “Submitted”.
Image description: A header illustration featuring a tired-looking student, sitting on a chair next to a table with books and papers scattered across it and a crossed-off to-do list, facing the viewer next to a laptop screen reading “Submitted”.

Illustration by Timothy Chiu

Sunday Blues — Distress or boredom, which would you pick?

Ever felt that feeling when a stressful, jam-packed week of work ends and you hype the Sunday up so much that when it comes, you’re … bored?

Apr 30, 2023

Sunday blues. You may have heard of this term used to widely describe the anxiety and hopelessness we all experience on a Sunday, knowing the impending doom that is Monday approaching us at speeds much faster than we would like — also called Sunday scares because they truly are scary.
I now propose another definition of the word — a feeling equally devastating but more tied to how Sunday, and really the entire weekend, feels like a screeching, jolting, sudden halt to our hectic schedules that we have no idea how to deal with. Suddenly we have gotten all we ever wished for — free time — and instead of feeling the joy and freedom we anticipated we would, relaxing and rejuvenating, our packed work schedules have left in us only the emotional capacity to feel… restless, listless, and purposeless.
Philosophers have termed this an existential vacuum — the void of boredom that pops up like a genie out of all our lamps when we clean them at the end of our busy weeks. Suddenly we notice all the little cracks, imperfections and dirt spots on the lamp — the lack of entertainment, the lack of hobbies, the lack of content, and the lack of meaning in our lives.
Why do we not feel it during the week? You know the answer: who has the time to feel anything between classes and meetings with professors and those with teammates and catching up with friends and keeping yourself alive by snacking or annoyingly, having to spend half an hour eating a meal and studying, preparing, working, moving forward, doing better, more, faster. We’ve all seen those memes of people scheduling emotional breakdowns between consecutive meetings, but we laugh only because we relate. I myself have seen a person or two wipe away their tears and begin clicking away on their keyboard right after, having completed their quota of allowing themselves to feel for the day.
I like to think of Sunday blues as noticing the ache in your muscles only after you finish a difficult workout, the burn in a wound when you try to clean it, or a sore throat after a concert. (Although I guess this last one makes the work week seem like a more positive experience. Hilarious.) Either way, the pattern is the same — scheduling commitment after commitment in the week, caught up in the routine that we set for ourselves, with the consequences of our decision to come to NYUAD, we wait impatiently and desperately for the reprieve of a weekend. And it isn’t until the awaited time finally arrives that we realize, there’s no method to fun. We obviously have no hobbies outside SIG involvement because free time is time wasted, no interests that we haven’t translated into internships because earning money is our sole purpose, and no friends that we don’t schedule Google Calendar meet-ups with because if they’re free to hang out with you anytime, they’re not worth it. There is no fun to be had on the weekend. All that’s left is to sit on our beds, set our bangs to throw a shadow over our heads, plug in our headphones, and blast “POV: when you’re lonely and sad” playlists.
Rest and recoup only works when you feel fulfilled with your existence, even when you are not juggling five different tasks together and making your parents proud by being a productive member of the community. And no, there’s no crash course you can take to learn to feel content with simply doing nothing and not getting bored or feeling like a burden to society with the time you’re “wasting.” Sometimes, time can just be allowed to pass, and to not feel utter despair at not having anything to pass the time with, we need to train ourselves to a level of satisfaction, of contentment that isn’t dependent on the grades we get, the accolades we receive, the CVs we top up, the awards we win, the money we make, the internships we secure, or any other form of academic or societal validation. Otherwise, when the vicious work week lets you out of its clutches for a puny little period, you realize there is no life to balance your work with, and the Sunday blues it is.
On an even bleaker note, maybe human emotions are a myth, and we really only have two states of being — stressed, overworked, on the verge of breakdown, or empty, fidgety and apathetic.
Maybe it is just as Schopenhauer said and we really are doomed to oscillate between distress and boredom for the rest of our lives.
Tiesta Dangwal is Deputy Features Editor. Email them at
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