After a particularly stressful week at work, our instinct is usually to spend the weekend doing whatever we can to forget about our responsibilities. But most of the time, these activities take a toll on our mental and physical health. Staying out late, drinking enough margaritas to cause a two-day hangover, oversleeping, eating poorly, spending money irresponsibly. We tell ourselves that we’re doing these things to ‘recharge,’ but all we’re actually doing is just setting ourselves back even more and exhausting what little energy we have left.
Sometimes, restoring your mental energy before Monday hits is actually a lot more simple (and a lot less expensive) than you would think. So if you feel like you really need some time to catch your breath, here are a few examples of easy (and immediate) ways you can rejuvenate your mental energy this weekend.
Make a legitimate promise to yourself that you’ll do absolutely no work this weekend
This seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but a huge reason why our mental energy suffers is because we frequently skip the obvious truths and go straight for the complicated stuff. We don’t give ourselves the time to reflect on what mental wellness means, so we never actually get to that place of rest and rejuvenation. You can tell yourself that this weekend will be “treat yo’self” time and that you’re going to drink wine and wear face masks, but if you’re simultaneously checking work emails and stressing about Tuesday’s presentation, a bottle of Cabernet and an exfoliating cream is just a band-aid solution. If you want to actually make this rejuvenation weekend worthwhile, you have to hold yourself accountable.
You have to walk out of the office on Friday afternoon and consciously promise yourself that you will not check your email, you will not try to get a jumpstart on next week, you will not “just take care of one or two things real quick.” This is your time for yourself. You have earned it, you have every right to disconnect from your weekly stresses, and you don’t owe an explanation to anyone.
Turn off social media notifications on your phone
Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to ~*change your life*~ with a social media purge. I actually find that more damaging, like a crash diet – in the past I would swear off social media and delete all the apps from my phone, and then after three hours I’d redownload everything and start once again consuming my news feeds at an alarming rate. What I’ve found to be a hundred times more helpful is not avoiding my social media usage, but rather, learning how to be conscious of it.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are still on my home screen, but the notifications are disabled, so there’s never any alerts popping up and there are no longer any seductive red numbers hovering over each app. It’s a tiny change, but since I turned off notifications a couple of months ago, I’ve already noticed a huge difference. Each time I click on an app now, I’m aware that I’m doing it of my own accord and not because there’s a notification that my brain subconsciously thinks it needs to look at immediately.
Even though my scrolling is still dreadful, it’s slowly decreasing and getting better each day. At the very least, I’ve become aware of how many times I’m opening these apps every day, which makes it a lot easier to focus on cutting back.
Be deliberate about the food you put into your body
This is not the same thing as depriving yourself of any food that brings you joy. All it means is that you’re making conscious choices about what you eat based on what your body is craving in that moment. If Friday night rolls around and you just really need pizza, give yourself permission to enjoy it. If you’re being honest with yourself, you were probably going to order it either way, so you might as well make the choice on your own and then let yourself truly enjoy each slice, instead of having an unsatisfying salad, impulsively ordering a pizza at ten o’clock, feeling guilty the entire time, and then eating six slices in twenty minutes because, hey, you’ve already fallen so far off the wagon, why not go all-in?
Spend the weekend striking a balance – let yourself enjoy the foods that make you happy, but sandwich them (pun absolutely intended) between healthy options that also make you feel good. By the end of the weekend, you won’t feel cleansed and pure, but you also won’t feel unsatisfied and grumpy. You’ll be at a happy place right in the middle.
Get enough sleep, but not too much sleep
If you fell very behind on sleep this week, your instinct might be to sleep the entire weekend to “make up the difference.” But while experts say that sleep debt can be repaid over time, they say the most effective option for catching up on sleep is to tack on an extra hour or two per night. Your best bet for feeling a little more refreshed at the end of the weekend is to sleep in for an extra hour or two on Saturday and Sunday, because a little-known drawback of oversleeping is that it can actually make you more tired and lethargic. Give yourself the gift of striking the perfect middle ground, so that when Sunday night rolls around, you’re feeling refreshed, but still sleepy enough to go to bed at a normal hour.
Hang out with a loved one who you can be 100% yourself around
Getting together with a fun group of people can definitely be revitalizing in its own way, but it’s also exhausting. Even when you’re with some of your closest friends, having that many personalities in one space for a small amount of time is a fast way to drain yourself of energy — no matter how much fun you’re having. If you truly need time to recharge your batteries, keep it simple this weekend and hang out with your significant other or one or two friends who you can truly be yourself around. You’ll spare yourself of any energy you would have normally wasted on small talk and overthinking, and instead can just spend it with someone who makes you feel safe enough to let your guard down and get rid of your filter for once.
Organize one small space or corner of your home
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve woken up on a Saturday, decided I was going to completely revamp and reorganize my entire living space, and then given up after 45 minutes because I got distracted after going through one desk drawer. I really believe you only need to organize your living space one section at a time. Don’t “restore your mental energy” over the weekend by spending two full days cleaning, separating, throwing out, organizing, and labeling. Just clean out one night stand, one closet, or one kitchen cabinet. Your chances of success will skyrocket, and just the feeling of completing one task, no matter how small it is, will make you feel so much more refreshed and energized than trying to clean up three separate spaces at once and finishing none of it.
Read something that’s not on a screen
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – try one chapter in that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand for three months, or an article from a publication you really like. Holding a piece of literature in your hands and knowing you won’t be tempted to instantly click away from it to look at five other things will be a much more rewarding and stimulating experience than you’d expect.
Watch Netflix – but with the specific purpose of relaxing
Again, this seems obvious, but think about it. How many times do you open Netflix just because you’re procrastinating or trying to kill time until something better comes along? How many times do you scroll through interesting new options and end up selecting that one episode of that one show you always watch because you’re too tired to try something new?
If you want to do something that will actually restore some of your mental energy, be purposeful about it – choose a movie you’ve wanted to see for a long time or a series that your friends keep yelling at you to watch, put your phone away, light a candle, grab some snacks, and pay attention. Let your mind fully immerse itself in the story instead of half-paying attention and checking your phone every two minutes. It’s such a better investment of your time and such a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.
If you don’t already have a Netflix account (are you okay?) just do the same thing using any other method – Hulu, On-Demand, HBO Go, whatever’s on television at the moment, or DVDs if that’s your jam. Just let your mind escape to another reality for a minute – or 120.
Write something, anything, down on paper
Relax, I’m not telling you that you have to ‘journal’ (although I will hype journaling until the day I die because it makes me feel so much more in control of my thoughts). But if the work week left you drained, exhausted, frustrated, or all three, take out a piece of paper and grab a pen and start writing stuff down. Don’t worry about structure or complete sentences or sounding smart – no one is going to read this, maybe not even you.
It’s just about getting thoughts out of your head and giving them the chance to breathe on paper, so they don’t make your brain feel clogged and suffocated with their need to be heard and acknowledged. If hearing this suggestion makes you want to punch me, I get it, some people hate journaling. So just try this: get a piece of paper, promise yourself you’ll rip it up immediately afterwards, set a timer for five minutes, write until your phone goes off. And then tell me you don’t feel a little bit better and a little bit lighter afterwards.
If you get the Sunday Scaries at the end of the weekend, make a to-do list
I find that when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed and stressed out, my brain thinks less in complete sentences and thoughts and more so just starts sputtering out incomplete thoughts like “TAXES!” or “EMAIL LISA BACK!” Obviously you’re not going to sit down Sunday evening and knock all these duties out at once, but what you can do is just write them down and then, if you’d like, you can rewrite them in order of importance. Any time I’ve done this, the mere act of writing it all down has made me feel better, 1) because once I looked at them in written form, all the things stressing me out weren’t as initially harrowing as I’d thought and 2) my brain felt like it could relax and stop shouting things out because it knew each task was safely documented and would therefore (probably) be taken care of.