Once the clock gets closer to five o’clock on Friday afternoon, like most people, your mind starts anticipating the relaxing weekend ahead. However, weekends rarely go as planned, and it often seems like life is conspiring to keep us from enjoying every minute of our time off. Having “downtime” away from the obligations and stress of work is essential, to avoid burnout, replenish your energy, preserve your health, and prepare you for another work week. The following eight tips will help ensure that your two-day break is actually a “break.” Pick ones that you feel will maximize your weekend the most and put them into action, and by the time Monday rolls around, you’ll be ready for it.
Set Your Alarm
While you may be tempted to avoid clocks once you leave the office, even on weekends, the early bird gets the worm. That’s because sleeping in wastes valuable hours and throws off your entire day’s schedule. For example, if your plan is to get some errands done before enjoying a relaxing afternoon by the pool, but oversleep, you’ll miss out on valuable time in the sun.
In addition, oversleeping on the weekends can influence your sleeping pattern for the upcoming work week. It’s okay to add an hour or so, but if you usually get up at 6:00 in the morning, sleeping in until noon will wreak havoc on your sleeping habits. Instead, get up on schedule, and then take a nice, relaxing nap later if needed.
Likewise, avoid the urge to pack in as much fun time as possible by staying up late partying. Try to maintain a seven- to eight-hour sleep habit. Staying up late will make you sleep in late, creating a vicious cycle that will leave you exhausted by Monday. Too little sleep causes stress and anxiety – definitely not what you need if you are trying to relax.
Many people don’t make time during the week to exercise. While a hard workout session probably doesn’t sound relaxing, the after-effects will make you feel good, and keep you healthy. A good gym session or other activity will help clear your mind, and make you feel better about kicking back for the rest of the weekend. Whether you choose to lift weights, do yoga, hit the trail, or go bowling, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something, and you’ll be physically combating the stress caused by the work week.
Do Something Different
If you have a habit of following the same routine every weekend, consider mixing it up a little by trying a new activity. Aim for something that isn’t strenuous and won’t take all day, in order to avoid over-taxing yourself. Some interesting activities include:
- Taking a cooking class. Many local health food stores offer hands-on healthy cooking instructions on the weekends.
- Volunteering for a few hours. Whether you commit to volunteering at a local food bank, homeless shelter, or animal rescue, giving back to your community will make you feel good.
- Indulging at a day spa. If you rarely treat yourself, spend a few hours at a day spa. Get a massage and mani-pedi, and sit back, relax, and sip some champagne.
- Spending time with Fido. Take your pooch to a local dog park for some frolicking and socializing, or commit to some serious quality time by taking a drive and going for a long walk in the countryside or at the beach.
- Picking up an old habit. Did you used to enjoy reading books or doing crossword puzzles? Maybe playing the guitar or painting? Over the years, we sometimes forget about leisure activities we used to enjoy. Dust off your guitar and unpack those paintbrushes!
- Doing nothing. If you have been routinely packing your weekends with chores and activities, take one weekend a month to do nothing constructive at all. Eat a frozen dinner, pop some popcorn, and settle in for a day spent binge-watching a show you haven’t had time for.
Don’t Work, But Be a Little Productive
If you are like many dedicated employees, you often find yourself using your precious weekend to play “get-ahead” or catch-up with work – getting started on future projects or reading neglected emails. Resist that urge. Commit to logging out of work when you leave the office. Turn off your phone, if need be, and don’t check your email.
While you shouldn’t be bringing office work home, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do work around the house. Not doing your laundry, stocking the pantry or mowing the lawn may actually leave you more stressed on Monday, so pencil in a few hours over the weekend to do some basic chores. When you’ve checked off your tasks, stop working and dedicate the rest of the weekend to yourself.
Take a Hometown Daycation
Pretend you’re a tourist in your own town. Check out your city’s tourist website and make a list of interesting sites to see and events to attend. Check out antique stores, go to the museum, tour a botanical garden, or go to the theater to watch a show. Plan the day out, including trying new coffee shops and restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Get your itinerary set in advance, and stick to it.
Set Time Aside for Socializing
While you may enjoy spending your entire weekend alone, it’s good to plan time with friends and family. Socializing has a positive impact on your health and mood. Spending quality time with loved ones can leave you happier and give you a feeling of connectedness. To maintain some “me time,” plan activities that have a set duration, such as going to lunch or the movies with a friend.
Take a Tech Break, Too
While you’ve already committed to ignoring work-related calls and emails, for a truly relaxing weekend, try to cut the cord from all your electronics. Turn the TV off and pick up a book. Go to a bookstore and find an interesting magazine, catalogue for browsing, or crossword puzzles to sharpen your brain. Get outside and garden a little, or take a bike ride. Start a new craft project and avoid screens altogether. If you do decide to get online to surf the web a little, set a timer. Browsing on the internet and social platforms is a great way to lose half of your day without realizing it.
Smile on Sunday
Most people are pretty happy throughout the weekend, but, the closer Monday looms, the more we start to negatively anticipate the return to work, allowing a frown to sneak in. Typically called the “Sunday Blues,” giving in to this negative thinking can ruin your Sunday. Instead of thinking, “My weekend is almost over,” think, “I have a whole day left to enjoy!” Instead of wallowing, ensure your Sunday is filled with activities you will look forward to. By planning a relaxing Sunday that you thoroughly enjoy, you’ll be sure to go to sleep Sunday night with a smile on your face, and wake up refreshed and in a great mood at the start of your work week.