Punching Monday in the face. (Why your pastor might be depressed today.)

Mondays are the worst, right? They just punch you in the face.

Unless you punch Monday in the face first.

(Not advocating violence per se, except that winning your heart decisively — and winning their hearts — is the key to finding joy, even on a Monday.)

Fight the good fight Winning the battle on Monday starts with surveying the land: What. Just. Happened. (?)

As a preaching pastor, I can wake up with a “case of the Mondays.” You ever feel that way? Lethargic, not wanting to move. Tough to get motivated. In a malaise, mentally and emotionally. 1

This experience is not confined to pastors, and it’s not just a spiritual thing. Rather, the root of this Monday feeling comes from what Archibald Hart calls “Post-adrenaline depression.” He describes it this way:

“…what I was experiencing was a profound shutdown of my adrenal system, following a period of high stress or demand. It was as if my adrenal system were saying, ‘That’s enough abuse for now; let’s give it a break,’ and shut down so that I had no choice in the matter.”

While this might seem like a mini-crisis, this slow-down provides a helpful clue to something we all need: active rest. Have you noticed that when you lay in bed all day you  feel achy later, while going for a brief walk actually energizes your body? Your body needs rest, but active rest is better.

The impetus (and partial title) for this post came from Mike Leake, who points out:

“This really isn’t unique to pastors. Even if you aren’t a pastor I’m guessing that you have had times of a great spiritual high, only to find yourself the next day feeling like a total schmuck.”

I’d say if you’re never honest about when you feel like a “schmuck,” then you have other problems.

Yet we need not be surprised or sidelined about needing to work at a slower pace in our jobs. While we seem to naturally swerve between over-confidence and despair, let us find a new rhythm to combat the inevitable fatigue and mental battles.

ChooseThat’s why I’ve made early Monday the time for the longest run of the week (slow and steady). It’s a time to decompress from Sunday’s sermon and refocus on the good work ahead. As a past-oriented thinker, I have to go through this discipline. It’s also an optimal time to just “be.” The rest of Monday will be filled with lots to DO.

I’m a husband and father, neighbor and friend, and a pastor too. I work with my mind and heart much more than my (soft) hands. While my hands aren’t calloused from a long week of labor, the mind and emotions are often depleted. That’s why I follow some self-imposed boundaries (e.g., delayed response to early morning text messages, limiting calls and texts after the kids are in bed; plus evening “screen-time” is infrequent). During the day, I’m “all in.” Even on Mondays, an off-day but not a day-off. Low-key and slow is the key. A digital to-do list pops up, filled with nearly identical tasks every Monday. Some of them can be pushed off to another day. Taking each one head-on, I plow through tasks requiring my presence while taxing little energy. One task is to write. Just write. Nothing that has to be be published or with a deadline. (It took four consecutive musing Mondays to write this post.)

There are a million little battles to finding the balance between when to go hard and when to take it easy. 2 Untypical for a pastor, I like to take Wednesdays off instead of Mondays for this simple reason: I’d rather not give my family my worst day of the week. Instead it’s (usually) all day Wednesday and most of Saturday off. Wednesday gets to be filled with a list of chores, while Saturday is more relational. By that night I’m all excited to dive back into the text and check back in with any new missed communication. (It took lots of trial-and-error to arrive at this pattern.)

After a good Sunday filled with worship, serving, and relationships, the wind-down for the week ahead begins. This allows me to beat Monday to the punch.

When are you prone to get down? What do you do about it? I’m convinced that the Enemy of our souls seeks those times of weakness to capitalize on discouraging us. That’s when our bodies cave to temptation, turning to even “healthy” coping mechanisms instead of finding rest in God our Father. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s finish where it matters most, identity:

“I need the gospel to penetrate my own soul on Monday mornings. Though its true of every day of the week, on Mondays I really need to be a disciple more than a pastor.” 3

Your pastor gets down, emotionally and physically, for the same reason you do: we’re human. Our limitations are clearly seen when exhausted, and physical exhaustion is not the only way to be depleted.

As I “cooperate” with this slower pace, I find a new rhythm, a better pace. Note: I’m not talking about lying in bed all day or totally setting aside the day’s duties. Today I woke up extra early and invested time reading, praying and writing (finishing these words), and then went out for a long run. (I rarely feel like running on a Monday, but it’s on the to-do list too.) The adjustment is a change of pace, while staying active is key. Movement, even slow motion, is good for the mind, for the body, for the soul.

Monday wants to defeat you. Go punch this good day in the face. I’m fighting alongside you.

Psalm 90:14

  1. Surprise: not all pastors preach regularly, and so until the last three years hit me I didn’t realize the weight of the day after Sunday. Until this new season with Renew Church I was just as much a pastor/shepherd, but I did not preach regularly so this is all new-ish to me.
  2. In recent weeks I traded in my regularly-scheduled day off for a couple meetings with pastors in our city to decide what we’re all about and a workshop to become a better preacher. Ironically, though unsurprisingly, I was depleted after each of these.
  3. Mike Leake, Why Your Pastor Might Be Depressed Today,” via For the Church