Sunday, December 11, 2016

Beating the Sunday Night Blues: My Prescription

Confession time. 

I’ve hated Sunday nights since I was a five-year-old kid.

Somewhere between about 5 O’clock on Sunday and Monday morning, I got this feeling of pending doom. Always have. My “fake sick” game has been strong since the first grade. I had the cough down and everything. 

And that feeling followed me into my adulthood. As many bartenders around Chicago can attest, I’ve spent many a day in the bar on a Sunday. I would do anything to ward off that feeling. That nagging, lingering sense that life was speeding up again. That strategy doesn’t work anymore, as I need to pay attention to people and can’t do that with a hangover. And really I’m not sure it ever worked. It’s at best a distraction and at worst a bad crutch. 

I’ve spoken to a LOT of people about the Sunday night blues, and know I’m not alone. In a 2013 poll from the career site, 81 percent of respondents said they get Sunday-night blues—and 59 percent said they experience them “really bad.

So what are the Sunday night blues anyway? Where do they come from? 

I guess the obvious place to start would be the idea that we as kids have school the next day. Kids live for the weekends, and the idea of classes and homework on Monday is a real drag. As a Catholic kid, I also had church on Sundays, which was yet another activity I didn’t enjoy. I was a squirmy kid to begin with, and that was the longest hour of my life. And God forbid you got one of the old priests. You could be there all day talking about Barabbas and Ezekiel…

Then we get older and have to go to work. It all starts up again on Mondays and we start feeling the old dread. Back to the grind. 

I suffered from this condition for a couple of decades or so. I was one of those who fit into the “really bad" category, and it really was a situational kind of depression. It was a strange mix of boredom, anxiety, and restlessness. 

Finally, I decided that I was sick of feeling like that and decided to do something about it. When I felt like doing nothing, I scheduled something I really liked to do, like watching a new movie or going to a great new restaurant. I made a special playlist with all of my favorite songs that I would play on Sunday nights. I’d hire a cleaner to come in on Saturday so I was living in a place that was clean and comfortable.

And this worked just fine. The idea was being more generous with yourself even when you’re not feeling your best. Good advice for anyone really. It’s not what happens to us as much as how we respond to what happens to us. Having a plan for Sunday nights helped with this a lot.  

But lately that hasn’t been enough, so I decided to try something else. I thought back to my early days as a fidgety kid in that church and did some thinking. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves singing abut Eagle’s wings and shaking hands and saying “peace be with you,” and I felt like I was missing something.

So all these years later I’ve found my own kind of church again. Being out in nature. Finding someplace beautiful and enjoying solitude. Clearing my mind and taking a little stock as to where I am and where I’m going.

And the craziest thing has happened. Not only do I not dread Sunday nights anymore, but I actually look forward to them. In my job I talk to people all day every day. They need my full attention and I need to listen to people’s stories very carefully. Taking some time to myself while looking at that big blue ocean reminds me that I’m part of something a little bigger. That there is some good in the world. Some beauty.

All of us need to unplug and recharge the batteries once in a while.