We love to hate our alarms.

There you are — peacefully lounging in a meadow, surrounded by friendly grizzly bears munching on grass. And then, just as Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett finish a rendition of “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”...BAM! A Soviet-era nuclear submarine surfaces in the middle of the meadow, uprooting trees and sounding an ear-splitting alarm to signal missile launch! The grizzly bears are agitated, Buffett fades into the pastoral scenery, and…you’re in your bed. It was just a dream, so rudely interrupted by the alarm clock. A grimace comes to your face as you remember: grizzly bears aren’t friendly, Jimmy Buffett lives in Margaritaville, and you have to go to class.

Nothing cracks the whip of productivity quite like an obnoxious alarm, and we can’t stand a taskmaster, right? Who wouldn’t complain? Who wouldn’t yearn for the weekend ahead, when peaceful dreams could pass into a peaceful waking day? No alarms, no timelines, and no work to be done — ah, yes — we can’t wait for some good, deep rest!

Okay, ready to do away with the rose-colored glasses? Allow me!

Parrot heads

While we may struggle against the yoke of alarm-filled workweeks, we crumble in the silence of time off. Alarms, repulsive as they may be, preach purpose in their jarring tones. An early morning wake-up means we’re needed — we’re too important to be sleeping in, after all! And whether it be for class, cross-fit, or career, alarms keep boredom at bay, introspection at arm’s length. When the alarms cease to ring, when all doing is done…well, it’s enough to make a workaholic shudder.

So, imagine the desolation of a day with no alarms, no timelines, and no work to be done. Just you and your thoughts. You know, the big ones. “Am I happy with my job?” “What am I doing here?” Oh, what fun! Are you wriggling in your chair yet? Are you ready to relax?

Welcome to Sunday.

If your Sundays are super-charged with existential crises, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by job site Monster found that “up to 76% of Americans self-reported having ‘really bad’ Sunday night anxiety.” This staggering revelation reflects an epidemic of what author and psychologist Viktor Frankl first dubbed ‘Sunday Neurosis’:

Sunday neurosis, that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest.

Ooof. Not great news for the 76 percent. Toss in a searing hangover, and you’ve got a pop-culture phenomenon: the Sunday Scaries.

Like the creature from the Black Lagoon, the Sunday Scaries crawl out from the murky waters of existentialism, ready to haunt your remaining leisure time with anxiety and self-doubt. You can almost hear the old-school narration: “You won’t want to be there when the Brunch Punch runs dry!”

So much for a day of rest. Why has our rest gotten so exhausting, and what are we to do about it? More time off just means more neurosis, and any less — a recipe for career burnout. It seems we’ve arrived at an impasse.

But restfulness is not a function of time spent away from work. Rather, restfulness necessitates the meaningful application of leisure time. For wisdom on doing so, let’s turn to my favorite 4th-century bishop from the Hippo Regius region, St. Augustine:

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

A simple tag-line, but great news for our time off. The deepest rest is not found on an expensive vacation nor a health-kick cleanse. No, it’s free and it’s found in the Lord, the Giver of rest. “In [His] presence there is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11).

Now that’s what I call a Sunday!

Time to take a Sabbath out of Jimmy Buffett’s book:

What you’ll need:

  • (1) cup of salvation
  • (1) tall pour of the living water
  • juice from 1 whole fruit of the Spirit
  • salt of the earth for rim (optional)

Directions:

  • Enjoy! It’s five o’clock somewhere.