Take Back Your Weekends: Reduce Stress & Increase Productivity

It’s a weird concept to grasp, but shockingly enough, most of us find that our weekends are more stressful than our weekdays. And this isn’t a new problem either – there’s actually data going back almost thirty years that illustrates this dilemma.

So, why is everyone so stressed on the weekends?  Why aren’t we relaxing and recuperating from our work week?  The studies pinpointed several causes, but emphasized a lack of organization and unexpected problems that we are underqualified to solve as the major causes of this stress creation.  An article by Time Magazine addresses this subject specifically:

Usually if the workplace is well organized, and moneymaking enterprises often are, the employee has a defined set of tasks…On the home front, however, people have no such clarity. Rare is the household in which the division of labor is so clinically and methodically laid out. There are a lot of tasks to be done, there are scant or intangible rewards for most of them.

The author of one such study, Sarah Damaske, concluded that the solution to this problem is greater flexibility in the workplace. There have been many efforts to achieve greater workplace flexibility in the past, but there is expected to be significant progress in the next few years.

This progress will largely be due to Millennials’ strong desire to have and maintain a healthier work/life balance.  Specifically regarding their views of the workplace and tendencies towards contract work which allows them to be able to have greater amounts of free time where they can work on personal pursuits and developments.

Between now and then, here are some ways that we’ve been able to find serenity with our time during the weekend:

1. Make Time to Read

Reading is one of the first things that we stop doing when we don’t have time.  It’s considered a luxury, or something that we do on vacation, but we should have the opposite mentality.

Reading reduces stress, promotes empathy, and helps us learn more about ourselves and others.  It helps us retain knowledge and broaden our horizons mentally and emotionally, because we gain insights from ideas and thought processes that are different than our own.

We all get busy, but it would benefit us to find just twenty minutes in a weekend to sit, think, and read a book or an article – newspapers don’t count.

2. Travel (Even Locally)

You don’t have to go to Italy to travel, but if you have the means, do it!  An easy way get the same mental relief that traveling brings us, is to find a place within driving distance and then go for an adventure.  Going on trips like this and interacting with other cultures allows us to again step outside our own perspective and enjoy learning about one another.

If you’re particularly pressed on time,  go explore your community.  Sure you live there, but surely you can find somewhere you’ve never been before.

3. Listen to Music

Listening to music passively is great for a lot of reasons.  It can be on while you work, cook, clean, etc., but this isn’t what we’re talking about.  Find your favorite album and actively engage with it. We’ve heard this works best with vinyl, but it’s more about whatever works best for you.  The most important thing is to listen quietly, think, and reflect.

In our current age, we multitask far too often with the things that we should be doing for our leisure.  If we don’t concentrate on relaxing, and doing things that we enjoy consciously, it will have an opposite effect on us.  So, find a comfortable space to focus, listen, and think about your favorite music.

4. Wake up early

There are conflicting studies that discuss the benefits of waking up early versus staying up late, but the main point of both arguments is that you should find a time where nothing is expected from you.  One person interviewed simply used his extra time in the morning to make the “best omelet in the world.

Another point that is equally important is to stay on consistent sleep schedule during the week and the weekend.  If we can do this, we’ll find ourselves less tired to start the week and be more productive during our weekends.

5. Exercise

We are all quick to make excuses about why we don’t exercise, but we all understand that it’s important.  We also know that we’ll feel relaxed after exercise too, but did you know that it’s possible to find clarity and relaxation during exercise? Also, a recent study shared by the New York Times shows that you would only need about 20 minutes of exercise per week to improve your physical and mental health.

6. Engage in Culture

Attend a local concert or cultural event, or just go for a walk around your neighborhood.  Participating in your community creates a sense of unity between you and your neighbors, and let’s be honest, when was the last time you barbecued with a neighbor?.  It’s a simple thing to do, but having a social awareness of your community is highly rewarding and also reduces stress.

There are many ways to do this, but here are a few fun examples: Go to a farmers market instead of a grocery store, visit an independent restaurant instead of a chain, or find an “open mic” night and listen to young talent play music.

7. Put The Phone Down

Disconnect.  It doesn’t have to be for too long, but it’s important to be free from interruption for at least a little while.  Sure your work may need to contact you, but it’s necessary to have down time where we can be free to not think about work.

Phones decrease interaction and external awareness, and technology can be addicting if you let it.  So let’s be mindful of this and take mini vacations from your phone during the weekends.

8. Do Something Spiritual

Church, yoga, meditation, hiking, etc.  Spend time finding your preferred method for recharging yourself spiritually.  All the things discussed above contribute to this concept, but finding time to peacefully think about who you are, and where you are in life is very important, productive, and reduces stress.

9. Volunteer

There are thousands of organizations all over the world that are in need of volunteers, and will happily accept any help you would offer.  When volunteering, you look at life through a different lense on a problem previously unknown to you.  Often times after you volunteer, you come away with a much different perspective of how to solve problems in your own life.

There are even studies that show how volunteering is beneficial to your mental and physical health.  Some large companies even understand the value that volunteering has on their employees, so they provide opportunities to volunteer and some even offer flex-time for these efforts.

Conclusion

Initially the concept that the weekend could create greater stress than the work week seemed absurd, but as Sarah Damaske said,  “study findings are counter-intuitive, but in some ways, truthfully, they’re entirely predictable.”

People have become accustomed to dealing with stress because they feel that they cannot do anything about it.  We owe it to ourselves and others to not accept stress as normal in our lives.

While this is helpful and important,  it isn’t just about finding a better work/life balance, we need to take better care of our own mental state of mind.  Fortunately, we can DO something about it, and we hope that this post showed you a few ways that you can be more productive and less stressed during the weekend.