So many people feel like they just need to get through their workweek so they can finally relax and unwind on the weekend. They feel like they’re running on a treadmill they can’t escape from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday, they can finally collapse on the couch or actually have fun.
One reason we feel this way is that we don’t have clear boundaries between work and home, so the weekend is when we let ourselves be “off,” said Alicia Hodge, Psy.D, a licensed psychologist and speaker in Maryland whose work centers around assisting people to overcome anxiety, gain new perspectives, and enhance their self-care. “Unfortunately, living for the weekend puts an incredible amount of pressure on 48 hours.”
Another reason is that our work environment might be anything but enjoyable. Maybe you don’t like the work you do because you’re not being valued or supported or living out your purpose, said Holly Sawyer, PhD, a Philadelphia-based therapist specializing in helping professional women live their best lives.
When we have the mentality that we’ll live our lives on the weekends, we miss out on joy and fulfillment during the week, our needs go unmet, and we only add to our frustration.
However, there are many small ways you can feel nourished and supported throughout the week, even if your job is demanding or stressful. As Hodge said, every day is an opportunity to savor a sweet moment—you don’t need to fixate on Friday night.
Here are some suggestions to get you started.
Address any stress. The first step is to reduce or eliminate stressors at work, said Ilona Salmons, Ed.D, LMFT, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist who works with high-achieving professionals to resolve personal and occupational issues, including chronic stress and burnout. “Many of us can eliminate at least one or two things.” She suggested asking yourself: “What are the things that are causing me undue stress that have a clear and actionable solution?”
Embrace the new. “[I]ntroduce new experiences to your week,” Hodge said. And these experiences can be small, even tiny. Hodge shared these examples: Bring a new food for lunch; take a different way home and notice the new route; go outside and use your senses to savor your surroundings.
Pause to reflect. Sawyer suggested journaling in the evenings about your day. For instance, she said, you might journal about: three things that went well; three things you’re grateful for; three ways you acknowledged and cared for yourself (e.g., taking several breaks, listening to calming music while working); and three intentions for tomorrow.
“No one can predict the next day, so we can at least try to set our heart’s intention on what we would like to project in the workplace in hopes of getting the same positive energy in return.”
Transition when you get home. Include some kind of break between work and home to help you reset, Hodge said. For instance, you might practice deep breathing for five minutes, she said. You might change into comfortable clothes, perform several stretches or take a quick shower. You can do the same if you work from home (once you’ve decided you’ve completed your work day).
Practice pampering. After work, engage in simple activities that appeal to your senses. For instance, Salmons suggested giving yourself a facial or applying a face mask or scrub. Take a long bath with the works: light candles, use drops of essential oils, put on your favorite music. What feels like pampering to you? How can you include that in your week in small ways?
Have an evening routine. A routine “can keep your body in a rhythm and will give your brain cues when it is time to rest,” Hodge said. For instance, she said, your routine might look like: not checking work emails 30 minutes before bed, writing a small list of what you’re grateful for; and listening to relaxing sounds as you fall asleep. Think about what sincerely soothes you.
Create small moments with others. You can do this both at home and at work. For instance, some of Salmons’s clients take the time to stop by their colleagues’ desks to say “good morning” and chat for a few minutes. Other clients aim to engage in at least one prosocial activity per day, such as giving a compliment, bringing a colleague coffee, or offering to help on a project.
“Attorneys I interviewed who said they had at least one colleague whom they could trust reported that these relationships played a significant role in reducing stress.”
When at home, some of her clients have stopped discussing work with their spouses and instead use that time to reconnect or do something fun together.
If you have kids, Sawyer suggested asking them about their day, letting them read to you, and finding ways to laugh together. As she said, “Laughter is great medicine.”
Meet multiple needs with one activity. That is, go to a fun networking event, which includes professional development and social time, Salmons said. You also might take a walk with a friend, or start a monthly book club with family.
In other words, “group things together to get the most out of your time,” Salmons said. To start, think about what you need, particularly during the week, and what single activities check off several of those boxes (e.g., the need for connection, the need for calm, the need to play).
Identify what’s siphoning your time. You might have more time than you think for things that rejuvenate and energize you. Many of Salmons’s clients who are high achievers also procrastinate. “Once we work on their procrastination, they find that they free up a lot of time by being more effective and efficient while at work—and consequently don’t have to work overtime or [bring] their work home.”
Another time suck are mornings if you end up taking a while to get ready. This is when Salmons’s clients have streamlined their wardrobes or lay out their clothes the night before. This saves time, which can be spent doing something that brings joy, such as journaling, meditating, dancing, drawing, or cooking breakfast.
Social media also siphons our time. “[M]any people spend hours per day on social media: five minutes here, ten minutes there, it all adds up,” Salmons said. If you reduce your social media use or eliminate it altogether, you can free up hours each day to practice self-care and other meaningful activities, she said.
In other words, take a look at how you structure your days and accomplish tasks. Can you do something to simplify your process, to decrease decision-making—and thereby give yourself more time to do what really matters, to do what you love, to do what makes you smile?
“Recharging during the week is simply about being intentional and also having self-compassion,” Hodge said. “Show yourself your value by making time for the here and now versus reserving happiness for the weekend.”