The Seven Stages of Sunday Night


We’ve all been there before. 

As 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon rolls around, you start to get that feeling deep inside of you. It starts with shock. You look at your watch, and realize that your weekend has just a few more hours. You try to do anything you can to enjoy the last few hours, but everything you try is filled with a sense of dread and anxiety. You plant yourself in front of the television hoping to take your mind off of it. You glance at your watch again. 

6:00pm. Shock quickly turns into denial. You refuse to believe that your weekend is almost over. You think about all of the things you need to do before the morning to be ready for the week, but you momentarily put them off to extend the weekend. You call a friend to chat on the phone, but she quickly hangs up because of some lame excuse about making sure she is ready for the week. You check your watch. 

7:00pm. Anger takes hold. You are visibly upset as you take out the ironing board to prepare some clothes for the week. Or at least for Monday. You begin the bargaining stage. You decide you’ll iron just one outfit, then try to spend thirty minutes reading that book you never got to this weekend. As you sit down to read, you can’t focus. You keep looking at your watch.

7:34pm… 7:52pm… 8:09pm. Time just seems like it’s melting away at this point. You lament everything that you didn’t do this weekend, and avoid thinking back to any of the joyful moments that you did have. You wonder what you can still accomplish in the last few minutes before you try to go to sleep. Is it already…

8:15pm? You recognize the feelings of sadness and wonder how this happens to you each and every Sunday night. You wish it wasn’t this way, but you can’t really do anything about it, can you? You check your bag to make sure you have everything you need for Monday. You return that project folder back to your bag. The reason you brought it home in the first place is that you had every intention of getting to it. You know what they say about the best laid plans. 

9:00pm. You decide that you’ll shower and get to bed early so that you will at least feel refreshed in the morning. A solid eight hours will do you well. You’ve accepted it. Monday is almost here. It’s coming no matter what. You don’t really have control over it anyway.

9:45pm. You check your work email to make sure that there are no surprises come morning. It’s that one email that you shouldn’t have read that keeps your mind going as you lay in bed. You try to think alternate thoughts but the email is driving you bonkers. 

10:12pm… 10:48pm… 11:03pm… 11:57pm. You continuously glance at your phone to see what time it is. Each time, you calculate how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you just fall asleep this instant. You don’t. And you won’t. Until sometime after 2:00am. This is simply because exhaustion has taken hold.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all sat through the seven stages of Sunday Night. For many of us, it happens each week. The anxiety slowly creeps in on Sunday and crowds out every other possible feeling that we can have, especially joy. It’s hard to feel joyful, unless of course, you have Monday off. 

How can you have that Sunday joyful feeling back again (even if you are not off on Monday)? Try these strategies for making the most of Sundays again:

  • Act like a child. Do you remember what Sundays were like when you were a kid? After Sunday service, I would always race into my room to plan out the remainder of my day. I would somehow manage to cram 37 hours of play/games/projects/and plain old fooling around into those remaining 8 hours of Sunday. There wasn’t a single minute of anxiety that crept into my day. I would always skip directly to the acceptance stage as early as possible on Sunday morning, then jam pack my day with joy. Why can’t we feel this way as adults? Yes, we have a lot more to worry about as adults, but we shouldn’t let it ruin a perfectly good Sunday. The worry can wait until Monday morning!
  • Turn any other time into your Sunday. For many, it’s the logistical details and planning for the week that interrupts their Sunday. At best, it starts somewhere late in the evening. At worst, it gobbles up your entire Sunday. I always dread heading to the grocery store on Sundays. I know that if I don’t do it, we won’t have the food and supplies we need for the week. On many occasions, we have planned activities on Friday night and all day Saturday, so I have no choice but to hit the supermarket on Sunday. Of course, everyone else has the same plan. Create a different routine. Have you ever been to the grocery store on a Friday night around 9:00pm? Try it sometime. It’s glorious. You may very well be the only person there. It almost becomes, dare I say it, a joyful experience. Take all of those Sunday routines and weekly prep rituals and move them to a different time. You’ll be able to take back your Sundays again.
  • Disconnect. Tiffany Shlain founded the Webbys, an awards ceremony that honors the best of the internet each year so it’s interesting that she also helped coin the term technology shabbat in 2010 to describe a day of rest from all screens: phones, computers, tablets, and television. Observing a digital sabbath can be a great way to increase the time you spend doing something meaningful on a Sunday. Can you imagine not looking at any screen all day? You probably can’t. I have a tough time thinking about it as well. But imagine the joy of curling up and reading a good book all day, or taking a hike at a local park with your family. The possibilities are endless. 
  • Sunday Night Write (Or whatever it is that you enjoy most!) You may have guessed, but one of the activities that I enjoy the most is writing. I will often cap off my weekend by sitting in my writing space and banging away on the keyboard. Yes, I realize that this directly contradicts the previous suggestion of disconnecting, but I’m actively making a choice about how I’m using my computer and it brings me joy. Take time on Sunday to do whatever it is that you most enjoy. Maybe it’s painting. Maybe it’s listening to the latest album by one of your favorite musicians. Maybe it’s playing music yourself. Maybe, you’ll be baking a dessert for your family. Include time for the activity that brings you maximum joy and make it a part of your weekly Sunday ritual.
  • Discover something new. Building in routines will help you to better manage the seven stages, but you should also leave room for things that are new and exciting. Have you ever been rock climbing? Go down and find out what it’s all about at your local indoor rock climbing gym. Find a local museum with a cool new exhibit, and go check it out. Visit a vintage clothing store and pick up some old but new threads. Again, the possibilities are endless. Mix in something fresh and novel to bring a sense of joy and excitement to your Sunday. 
  • See Sunday for what it is. At the end of the day, Sunday is just another day, twenty-four hours long like any other day during the week. Treat it that way. Shift your mindset to recognize that each day holds an equal importance. Give Sunday its rightful due as another day to experience joy, just like Saturday, Friday, and Thursday. Monday too. Oh, and also Tuesday and Wednesday. When you distinguish each moment as a choice to do something meaningful or to fritter away the time with the insignificant, you learn to place importance on all of your time. You learn that you’ll never waste a Sunday on anxiety, worry, or stress again.




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