July 12, 2018

How to make the most of your weekend

While "TGIF" might have been coined in the 1970s, the sentiment has probably been around for much longer. The flurry of the work week comes to a close and it’s time to relax and recharge. But often, Monday arrives and rather than refreshed, we still feel exhausted – and not necessarily because of some wild weekend plans.

While staying in and catching up on full seasons of television shows in a single sitting might be appealing, UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain says it’s not as refreshing as we might think.

“Once in a while getting lost in a good book or catching up on favorite shows is fine,” she said. “But it won’t actually revitalize us in the end. Psychologists have found that too much rest is not actually as beneficial as we would like to think.”

Instead, Mirgain adds, it’s about using the time intentionally to refuel. And when we do, we’ll be more creative and quite possibly even happier during the work week. She offers three ways to use the weekend so we can refill our tanks and have reserves at the ready:

Do something new

Want to learn how to make a quilt or do woodworking? Love baking?

“Use the weekend to find – and practice – a hobby that captures your attention,” said Mirgain. “When we engage in a challenging hobby, we can forget about work and the demands in our daily lives as we focus on the present moment.”

She adds that hobbies become ways we can practice talents or abilities we may not use in our work life, such as playing an instrument or even speaking another language. And whatever it is we decide to do, it’s important to be intentional about it – and be careful not to fall into turning the time into work.

“You may think you can take time for work – like answering emails – but in reality, you’ll feel more refreshed if you maintain boundaries around your time,” she said.

Although, she acknowledges there are times or even certain jobs where stepping away entirely is not possible. In that case, she recommends limiting the time as much as possible and ending it with something fun or rewarding.

Seeking out new experiences can also be a great way to spend the weekend. Visiting a museum, seeing a performance, trying a new class or taking a day trip can also be beneficial and help the weekend feel a little bit longer.

Don’t become a weekend warrior

Leaving errands and housework – or even exercise – to the weekend can lead to feeling like there’s not time for anything else. That’s why it’s better to spread tasks out during the week.

“Running errands on a lunch hour, exercising after work or cleaning one room each day can help free up time during the weekend,” Mirgain said. But she adds that it’s important to set a time limit on the tasks to make sure they don’t become overwhelming. “Get the more important ‘to-dos’ done during the week if possible, so there’s not so much pressure on the weekends."

One thing that’s also important to do throughout the week? Sleep.

“It can be tempting to think we can make up for a lack of sleep by sleeping in on the weekends, but it doesn’t quite work that way,” said Mirgain. And it’s important to remember that sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s critical to our health. "Lack of sleep affects our brain function in many different ways, from leading us to overeat to our long-term cognitive health."

A typical person needs between six to eight hours a night, and while it can be tempting to think we function just fine on less – research shows that we’re also not good judges of how much sleep our bodies actually need.

Prevent the Sunday night blues

Another strategy to help feel prepared for the week ahead is to take some time during the weekend to plan. Knowing what activities and appointments are on the calendar, as well as mapping out to-dos like errands, can help things flow a little more smoothly. And, she adds, don’t forget self-care.

“Think about your personal goals, whether that’s exercise or maintaining a healthy diet, or even cultivating relationships - it can be helpful to prepare for the week,” she said. To help, she recommends thinking about questions like:

  • Can you exercise at the time you want to? If not, when else could you fit it in?

  • Do you have the groceries you need for meals and snacks?

  • Can you prepare meals in advance so you don’t have to eat out?

  • Is there a day during the week when you can plan lunch with a friend or loved one?

  • What can you do this week that you’ll find rewarding or exciting?

Mirgain also suggests making time on Sundays for something fun before the busy week starts all over again – time with the family, visiting with a friend, taking the dog to a dog park. Whatever it is, enjoying life outside of work can help leave everyone feeling a little more rested for the busy days ahead.