How to beat the Sunday blues
I used to have a colleague. He had been in the job for thirty years.
For thirty years his kids called him the BBC - the Big Black Cloud.
Because on Sunday afternoons that was literally what happened. This big black cloud would come over him. And not only over him, but over his family as well. He would literally DREAD going back to work on Monday. He would start fretting about it on Sunday afternoon, get in a mood and effectively spoil Sunday afternoons. Thirty years!
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't mind Mondays. I never did. Not even when I was working in an office environment. Mondays were always full of energy, getting loads of stuff done, working through my to-do list at record speed.
It was Tuesdays I had trouble with. Because after the heady rush and energy of the Monday on Tuesday it would come thundering down on me. That it was still the same s**t. The same people making my life a misery. The same projects not moving forward. The same decisions not being made. And - most importantly - the same person (me) not doing what I wanted to do. And still with four long - very long - days ahead of me that week.
I was fairly unique in this - if my little impromptu survey amongst my colleagues was anything to go by.
What I wasn't unique in was the Sunday blues.
The Sunday scaries. Sunday Depression. Or, as my colleague called it, the Big Black Cloud.
It would usually start after lunch on Sundays. Determined NOT to look ahead to Monday, I would - of course - start to look ahead to Monday.
What I had to do. Who I was going to need to help me. What meetings I was meant to attend. How I was going to deal with this person, or that. What unexpected s**t was going to be thrown at me. How I seriously no longer wanted to do what I was doing. But didn't know what the hell I was going to do about that.
Until I realised the impact that the Sunday Blues were having. Not just on me, but on the people around me.
Incidentally, on a completely different note, is it just me, or are you sometimes amazed on the level of impact you can have on the people around you? Even if you are - in your own mind - keeping yourself to yourself?
Going off on a tangent for a bit - when I first started driving I used to talk like this 'and then this road would come up to me'. As if I wasn't driving the car all by myself. Denying that these things were happening BECAUSE of me - instead describing these events as if they were happening OUTSIDE of me (don't worry, I DO know that roads do not actually come to meet me).
In other words, you have a responsibility, not just to yourself, but to the people around you as well. You are not a victim. You have choices.
And THAT's what got me with the story by my ex-colleague. His children called him the Big Black Cloud. He CHOSE to stay for 30 years. And by doing so inflicted 30 years of pain on his family. Every. Single. Sunday.
How common is the Sunday Blues?
So, before we do anything else, I just want to say this. If you feel like this, you are not alone. A LinkedIn survey in 2018 identified that 80 percent of people were subject to the Sunday Blues. Eighty percent!
Of course this was well before the pandemic, well before everyone started working from home (I'm currently running my own mini-poll on LinkedIn to have an 'after-pandemic' view of this - watch this space!).
What does Sunday Blues look like?
I probably don't have to tell you. But if you're dreading your working week you may well experience the following:
Feeling depressed - a 'big black cloud'
Physical problems - a knot in your stomach, a headache
What causes the Sunday Blues
My colleague hated his job. But he didn't. Not really. Because when I had a conversation with him it became clearer that it wasn't everything that he hated. In fact, if you break it down, the fact that you're dreading Monday mornings can be made up of a multitude of things:
Your work - Let's start with the obvious. You might really not like the work you're doing. You thought you were going to do one thing, which turned out completely different from what you expected it to be. You feel like a square peg in a round hole. The role doesn't give you what you need. You're not challenged enough, it's not creative enough, it's too repetitive, too routine, or not routine enough.
The company you work for - It looked great on paper, but when you started work you realised soon after that this company was not for you. Or, you thought you were able to make real career progression in your company, only to find yourself stuck and it's eating you up.
Your environment - If the last 18 months has taught us anything it is that we can't separate our work 'selves' from our - well - own 'selves'. You don't just have a work to-do list, you've got responsibilities at home as well. And it's getting on top of you. You can't juggle all of it and it feels as if it's all resting on your shoulders.
The people you work with - There's always one. That colleague, that awkward person you've got to work with. You've tried everything. It's just not working. And you can't for the life of you find ways of dealing with it. It's causing you upset.
Your boss - Do you think that you must be the only person whose boss is not the supportive, always-have-your-back person? Think again. Bad bosses are a key source of stress. Bosses who have never had the training to at least KNOW what good leadership or management looks like. Bosses who only think about furthering their agenda. Bosses with a lack of emotional intelligence. Bosses straight from the land of the dinosaurs. The thought of having to return to work and deal with him or her could really impact you.
Your workload - Sometimes there is just too much to do. Whilst you've been able to deliberately step away from it on Saturday, on Sunday it may all come crashing back to you. The things you've got to do. The quite frankly ENORMOUS to do list you know is waiting for you.
What to do?
You know what? When I was researching information for this blog I came across lots of articles about this. And all but one recommended a myriad of ways in which to meditate.
It got me a bit irritated.
Because if you could shut off your thoughts, wouldn't you already have done that? Isn't the whole point that you can't shut off your thoughts. The whole idea of going to sit on your yoga mat and deliberately trying to let these thoughts (you know, about your spiteful colleague, your ignorant boss, your massive to do list) drift away through meditation has never really worked for me. I would get up with exactly the same knot in my stomach that 20 minutes previously I was determined to get rid of.
So, here's my two pennies worth when it comes to dealing with the Sunday Blues:
1. Get organised
It's very tempting. On Friday afternoon, you're so happy that it's the weekend that you can't wait to finish your last task and try to forget all about work.
What is the result? That during the weekend random tasks start popping up in your head. 'Oh, let's not forget to do this. ring him, email so-and-so.' And it starts singing around in your head.
No, why not, instead, before you close your laptop for the weekend, look to the week ahead. At the meetings you've got planned, the preparations you've got to make, the things you want to accomplish, and draft up your to do list accordingly? If you dedicate time to do this before the weekend it's easier to shut down before the weekend.
2. State your intent
You know what? When I spoke to my colleague I felt very sad for him. And for his family. The fact that this black cloud was hanging over him all Sunday. Impacting him and his surroundings.
If you know that you've got such an impact on the people around you it becomes all the more important to be intentional about your weekend. How do you want to be? What atmosphere do you want to create? What activities can you undertake to ensure you create that atmosphere?
3. Look after yourself
Not everyone is in the position that they can just quit their job. Which means that you need to have the resilience to be able to deal with whatever your job throws at you. Even if you know you're not going to stay for much longer.
In that situation looking after yourself becomes even more important. Going to bed at a reasonable time, getting a good night's sleep, doing something to pamper yourself (have a nice bath, a face mask, a massage), getting regular exercise, meeting up with friends. Anything that energises you, takes your attention away from the week ahead and refuels you, so that are able to bring resilience into your workplace.
4. Do something fun and creative
Julia Cameron says it in her book The Artist's Way (one of the Six books that shaped my life). For you to be creative at work you need to refuel regularly and do something creative and fun. See beautiful things. Create something just for the fun of it.
Go to a gallery. Look at beautiful flowers in your garden or the park. Do something with your hands. Painting. Drawing. Doodling. Play music. Sing. Dance. Do a puzzle. Write.
Do it together. Or on your own.
But do something that fills your heart with joy. Just because you can. Because you should. You really should.
5. Understand your Sunday Blues
Your Sunday Blues are not just some great big funk about the working week. Not everything is doom and gloom. An a***ole boss? You and your colleagues probably have a common problem! Work not exactly right for you right now? You can start thinking about what you'd like to do next, and in the meantime learn as much as you can in the organisation you're in. Workload too much? Ah, but so is it for your colleagues, and you have a great team you're doing all this work with.
Understanding what is causing your Sunday Blues is really important. Because not everything is doom and gloom. There are certain parts that are causing you the headaches. And understanding what those parts are is the first part in taking steps to deal with the problem, right where you are.
6. Take responsibility
Remember my little story about the roads creeping up on me when I was a new driver? Yeah, it was never like that of course. Roads didn't creep up on me, I was the actor here. The person making things happen.
And so are you! You are not a victim of circumstances. You have choices. Choices to make the situation better, right where you are. Or choices to leave if the work is really not what you want.
But choices none the less. When I was in coaching school someone translated 'responsibility' into 'the ability to respond'. Which is exactly what it is. You find yourself in a situation that's not to your liking? You have the ability to come up with a response. And make it happen.
There you have it! Ways to beat the Sunday Blues. I wonder what you'll choose to do next!
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful career transitions into work they love! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.