Curing your Sunday Night Blues
It begins, with very little warning, around 3pm on a Sunday. You know it. That funny little nagging as you toss up whether to have a siesta or go for that walk you promised yourself (and the dog). You settle on reading a book but can’t quite focus because that knot is tightening itself in your stomach.
At 6pm you feel moody. You are frustrated and anxious, suddenly eager to do everything you didn’t, but knowing it’s too late in the day. The frivolity of dinner with good company and wine is short-lived. The gloom of a weekend over and work on the horizon is almost suffocating. The Sunday Night Blues are well upon you. As if the blues are not enough, it’s in itself a little sad that you are wasting the last quarter of two little days on dread…
Why are you having Sunday Night Blues?
A. This is the easy-to-fix-if-you-want-to part
1. You procrastinated too much last week and left too many items on your new week’s to do list. You know what I am talking about. There were lots more you could have accomplished last Friday, but instead, you decided to take an extended internet holiday followed by an early exit knowing things could wait, but they can’t wait through the new week, so you are ever so slightly panicking.
2. You didn’t do that challenging thing, or have that difficult conversation you were meant to have on Friday.
3. You can’t face the same old week you have had for the last 40.
4. Actually, you love your work, you just got into the habit of Sunday Night Blues at your last role, plus it seems to be the ‘in-thing’ to moan about your job with friends, and now it’s a THING.
Part B: Maybe some big changes are needed? If none of the reasons in the above list apply, it might mean that your role/career is no longer the right one and you need to start reflecting on what might be.
How do you fix your Sunday Night Blues?
1. I have a rule (partly borrowed from Nike): If you can't delegate it, just do it. Procrastinating chews up unnecessary energy, resources and brain power. Much better to get stuff over and done with. Often the dread is far worse than the actual and you end up wondering why you had put it off for so long!
2. Try to finish the hard stuff by the end of each week, so you don’t begin a fresh week with unnecessary burden. No one likes to do the hard stuff (for example, literally no one wants to have a performance conversation with a team member) but avoidance in the short-term only creates longer-term pain so you need to suck it up, or wear the consequences of the SNB’s.
3. Add some colour into your work. What more can you bring to the table? Really think about the under-utilised skills you have and how they could be integrated into your current job e.g. you love writing and are good at it, but you generate spreadsheets from day to day; maybe you can suggest that you draft the executive summary for your manager? If it’s not feasible in your current position, talk to your manager about how else your skills could be used. Want to try something a little different in your role, but not sure you have the skills? Self-learn; read a few articles, listen to some podcasts, get to know the latest trends and research. You’ll gain new perspectives and start to approach your week with a fresh, more excited headspace.
4. Change your approach. So much in life is about framing; it’s understandable that you are dreading the budget, but you love the strategy sessions and they are both part of your week i.e. you have something to look forward to. Easier said than done? Try some simple but oh so effective cognitive behavioural therapy. Find yourself thinking unnecessarily about work on a Sunday night? As soon as you do, think about something you love to do. Anything is fine, just as long as it stops the negative thought process. This is a tricky habit to get into, but it gets easier with practice and really is so worth doing. Better yet, the same skill can be used whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with negative thoughts, or when the conversation with friends needs to move to something more positive.
As for B? It might be time to have an honest conversation with yourself. And no, not a 3am I can’t sleep stream of consciousness, or a five second pros and cons list you slap together, but an actual talk. Schedule in some time and have a meeting with yourself; maybe at a café or park, away from familiar distractions, and figure out what it is that needs to change and what you need to do.
This is a discussion that should lead exploration into yourself, one that will generate honest conversations with friends, mentors and most importantly, you. The conversation should consciously guide personal development. Think about things that remind you of the promises, passions and dedication of your 8-year-old or university self. You once got truly excited about things. Remember that? What gets you excited now?
It might be that you discover big changes aren’t as big as you first assumed; adding some volunteer work, duolingo once a day, and more cultural cooking could be enough to satisfy the underlying dissatisfaction.
Maybe it is a lot of things, big things, to change and that’s ok. At worst you will have a set of tasks to commence and at best you’ll have a fresh mindset, new goals and ambitions.
Remember, a little Sunday night melancholy is normal. It reinforces that there’s more to life than work, so understanding why we have them is simply a reminder to refocus our values and future needs. You just need to work out in which category your Sunday Night Blues belong and from there, start your changes.
Stephanie Tucceri is a Senior Research Associate at Evolve Intelligence, a leader in global talent solutions.