Overcoming the Sunday Night Blues

Have you noticed that weather predictions are more extreme than they used to be? Living outside Chicago, it is common for meteorologists to predict that just about every winter storm will be the “storm of the season” these days. Yet, many of the dire predictions turn out to be wrong. 

It seemed like things were the exact opposite when I was growing up. While there was the occasional dire prediction, most of the time meteorologists predicted only a “dusting” of snow. Yet, many of the 2-3 inch predictions turned out to be 8-12 inches of snow, with wind and dangerously low temperatures! To be fair to meteorologists, it is best for us to be prepared for the worst when it comes to the weather — it is much easier to adapt to milder conditions than it is to quickly ramp up to deal with conditions that were harsher than we anticipated. 

All of these predictions and forecasting got me thinking about a topic unrelated to the weather: my weekly schedule. I have discovered that I often do the same thing meteorologists do when I forecast the upcoming week: regardless of what the calendar says, my mind tends to prepare for a “storm.” By late Sunday afternoon, I begin to feel my heart rate quicken and tension starts building in my body. I start feeling the Sunday night blues.

It is hard to accurately describe the feeling. Is it anxiety? Nervousness? Or simply anticipation? Medically speaking, I do not know. What I do know is that I do not dread going back to work. Nor am I worried about what might or might not happen. I do, however, feel a rush of cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) and find it hard to wind down on Sunday evening. This often leads to me having difficulty getting to sleep on Sunday nights. 

Can you relate to anything I am describing above? If so, here are a few thoughts that may help you beat the Sunday night suffering. There are a few specific things that I am going to do to have better Sunday nights in 2022. 

  • First of all, like the weather, the more I allow myself to fixate on what I am feeling, the worse it tends to become. This is counterintuitive because, as humans, we tend to want to think about and then resolve problems. However, fixating on or even trying to resolve the tension I feel typically just revs up my adrenaline.

    So, the first thing I do is simply acknowledge exactly what I am feeling. I know this may sound strange, but I simply say to myself, “I feel you, adrenaline.” By accepting its presence, I leave behind denial. And by acknowledging the feeling, I can also get past any shame I feel about having the feeling. Shame is often the subtle voice in my head that says I should not get anxious about work because leaders should always have their emotions under control. THIS IS A LIE! Feeling and controlling emotions are two separate things. All humans experience emotions; acknowledging them can be the first step to gaining better control over them. Like the snow in January, emotions are simply part of the human journey. 
  • Next, I have begun using my mind as a weapon. One of the most impactful books I read in 2021 was Craig Groeschel’s Winning the War in Your Mind. In it, Craig encourages readers to write out positive declarations that retrain the brain to think differently.

    At first, this sounded crazy to me. But then I remembered something from my past that humbled me: I wrote out a positive declaration of how I wanted to play golf during my senior year of high school, and I read it before every round I played that year. I have no record of what it is on it, and I can’t remember 20+ years later, but I would pay someone a LOT of money for a copy of it since that was the best golf I ever played in my life. In fact, that season, I overcame the inevitable valleys to any golf season more productively than I had before or since. This is the power of the brain thinking positively!
  • The third thing I do when unpleasant emotions arise is practice gratitude. While gratitude is often cited as a key to perspective gathering, I have found that I usually need it the most when I least feel like practicing it. For me, this usually starts with gritted teeth. As an example, here is how I might practice gratitude when these feelings arise on a Sunday night and I cannot sleep: 

“Thank you, Lord, that I am alive to feel the adrenaline that is present. I feel other emotions as well. Thank you for life! Thank you that I have a job to go to tomorrow morning. Thank you that our business has been sustained (by You!) during this pandemic. All the meetings, tasks, and conversations ahead are good in the long term, even if they don’t feel like it today. They are good because I am alive, have work, and it is meaningful work to do. I cannot control when I go to sleep, so I will lay here be grateful regardless.”

Notice that my example of gratitude was both a positive declaration and an acknowledgment of what I was feeling. 

My hope is that by acknowledging your feelings, creating positive declarations, and practicing gratitude, you will be able to combat unpleasant emotions that come on Sunday or any other day. Some days will bring rain or snow, while others will bring the warm sun. To be someone worth following, we have to be the kind of people that accept whatever comes our way, maintaining perspective and an attitude of gratitude.