If television is an issue for you, then most likely it’s an after-dark issue. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading my blog, you’re not reclining in a chaise lounge at noon with a martini glass and Jerry Springer on the tube. If you are, then you might be more comfortable at this website.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? You’re fine all day. You’re productive. You’re functional. Then the sun goes down, and that slightest bit of panicky feeling takes over and it’s oh-so easy get lost for three hours in front of the television.
Sunset Anxiety Sydrome
I call this uneasiness “Sunset Anxiety Syndrome.” It tends to strike pretty hard this time of year, just after the time change, and just after the leaves have made their final leap. Most people work until 6pm, and by the time they get home, they have time for dinner and little else. It’s dark out. Gone are the days of a quick walk with your llama after dinner. (After my dog trashed my car last week, I’m now looking into llamas.) The mantra in your head is, “Where did the day go?” You might want to relax, or even have fun, but what do you do when the whole world is dark and cold? And besides, TV is just so easy! (…and Friends is on! And it’s the one where Rachel makes the English Trifle with meat and peas!)
Even though I’m self-employed, and I’ve spent lots of my nights gearing up to step onto a stage after the sun goes down, I totally understand this pattern. Anyone who has ever had a day job knows this pattern all too well. Even if you’re retired, you can fall into it. I don’t have any psychological terms for it, but I see people get panicky at night. I think it’s connected with our other addiction: the addiction to busy-ness. You can’t stop your mind from telling you there’s more to do (there’s always more to do!), and so the only answer is to watch TV.
My husband and I got rid of our cable TV three years ago. We still watch DVD’s – and occasionally we can get a little out of control with West Wing. But life is so much happier without cable TV and that damn remote control. (Of course, I know people love their TiVo, and who’d rip my hair out if I suggested that they part with any of it.)
But if you think that it might be time to let your TV know you want to start seeing other people, then here are my ideas for how to break up with your TV:
1 – Acknowledge the Sunset Anxiety feeling.
This sounds easy. But it might not be.
I experienced a situation this weekend where I had to face an old pattern in myself. I knew it was inside of me screaming to be heard. I knew I needed to just sit down, even for five minutes, and just feel it and acknowledge it. But there I was. Out on the deck – get this – scrubbing the deck umbrella. When I finally called myself on this issue and made myself get quiet and just notice the feeling, I was able to get to a place of peace inside, so that I could continue my day without doing things just to distract myself.
You don’t have to make a big fuss out of it. Just acknowledge and notice if that slight bit of panic is there. And have some compassion for it. You’re not alone.
2 – Do a transition meditation
This is a mini meditation. Nothing huge. Right when you get home, or just after the sun goes down, or before you fix dinner. Just sit quietly and shift into the next phase of the day. Allow whatever drama happened at work to stay back to work. Be still and quiet just for five minutes.
3 – Segment Intending
I love this idea. It’s from Esther and Jerry Hicks’s book Ask and It Is Given. When you “segment intend,” you intend something for the next segment in your day. In essence, you’re saying, “This is what I want for this next time period. I want it, and I expect it.” For instance, prior to opening your Quick Books at your office, you take a moment to intend that the process is easy and effortless and that you know that you always have more than enough money. You intend that everything balances perfectly and that you are able to stay present throughout this work.
So, before you begin your evening, make an intention for this next segment of your day. “I intend to have a relaxing evening allowing myself to really taste my food and listen to this book on tape.” (or whatever) Setting that intent – even if something different occurs – is a powerful start to any activity.
4 – Make a list
Make a list of alternate activities you could do during this time. If you typically end up with two hours left in your evening after dinner, make a list of some two-hour activities that would be relaxing. (You can make this list during that two hours!)
Here are a few ideas that might jump-start your list:
Put photos into photo albums.
Make birthday cards for your nieces so that you have them done in advance.
Sit quietly doing nothing.
Take a bath with candles.
Listen (actively listen – not background listen) to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony.
Write a letter.
Write a few postcards.
Download all of Christine Kane’s tunes so I can listen to them all the time!
Take a yoga class that starts at 6pm.
Go out to a poetry reading.
Meet a friend at a coffee shop and talking for an hour over tea. (My friend Beth and I do this occasionally. It’s much more fun than “doing lunch.” We’re more relaxed and open.)
Play your guitar.
Read aloud to your partner.
Listen to an audiobook.
Get a llama.
5 – Create ritual
Several years ago, I was trying to quit eating sugar after dinner. (Getting rid of TV sent me straight to the chocolate chip cookie habit.) My acupuncturist told me, “It’s all about ritual. Just create a new ritual.” She suggested that I cut an apple into slices and sprinkle cinnamon on them. She also recommended Good Earth Tea. It took some time, but this ritual worked. I don’t do the apples anymore, (or the cookies!) but Good Earth Tea is a staple for me, especially in the winter.
What small ritual could you add to your evening to bring in some kind of value or authenticity? Can you light a candle, or read an excerpt from an inspiring text, or a Rumi poem? Again, this can be something small. Eventually you might find that it centers you, and adds some meaning to your evening.
6 – Start small
If breaking up with your TV is a big issue for you, then start small. Maybe just go for Trial Break-Up Tuesdays! (Branding always works, you know!) Every Tuesday night, try something different. When you get a little more comfortable with it, then expand to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Keep adding days as you get better at it.
7 – Make a fast clean break
Get rid of your TV altogether. Call the cable company. Turn it off. Have a party with friends to celebrate. Go all out. Live big. Make it like a wedding. Commit to it.
8 – Get held accountable. Find a buddy.
This blog was inspired by a friend of mine who asked for advice about this exact issue. After I gave her my thoughts and ideas, she asked if I’d add her to my prayer list on this issue. And I told her I’d partner with her, like a coach, and we could hold each other accountable. (She’s starting with one night a week.) I told her that after she decides what night she’s going to do, I’ll call her the next morning to ask how it went and what she did. This may sound a little scary, but it’s the model that makes coaching so successful. First off, you’re not alone. Support is so nice in these little areas of our lives that we think we should be better at by now. Second off, you really will stick to your intent if someone is there to encourage you and check on you.
Let me know how it goes!
P.S. I’m kidding about the llamas.
P.P.S. My dog is the best dog in the world! (Besides yours, that is…)