How to Make the Most of Your Weekends

Now that summer vacations are fading into a distant memory, it’s time to start thinking about how you can get similar de-stressing benefits from your weekends. It turns out, many of us aren’t making the most of our time off and by Monday morning, we are just as stressed as we were on Friday.

A study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that different types of weekend pursuits can help you recover from the week’s demands and replenish your emotional energy, while other types don’t. Charlotte Fritz, Ph.D., from Portland State University and her co-authors found that two things need to happen. Weekend activities should decrease negative emotions (hostility, sadness, fear and fatigue) and increase positive ones (joviality, self-assurance and serenity).

Here’s what helps.

Three factors improved positive moods and decreased negative feelings:
• Take more time to relax. Relaxing can mean different things to different people, but the researchers looked at activities that required little effort like listening to music, going for a leisurely walk, meeting friends for dinner, and meditation.

“Activities that you don't have to force yourself to do or that require very little effort to initiate and complete are particularly helpful in recovering from the week’s stress,” says Daniel J. Beal, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas, San Antonio. The stress-reducing effects of relaxing were felt well into the following week.

• Challenge yourself. Learn a new hobby, climb a mountain, take a language class, take up a new sport. Mastering a new skill can enhance your sense of competence and energize you even though it may take some effort.

• Detach from work. Try not to think about work or do work over the weekend. The study found that though detaching from work did not lessen negative feelings like hostility and fear; it did increase feelings like joviality and serenity, making it partially effective.

“When people detach, it may allow them to engage more easily in beneficial activities,” says Beal. “So it may not be detachment per se, but what detachment affords you that matters.”

One activity increased stress:
• Don’t leave all your errands for the weekend. Hassles that the subjects dealt with over the weekend hampered their recovery from the week’s work. These hassles included conflicts with family members, household chores and errands, and pet responsibilities. It may be wise to squeeze in some of your least favorite errands and discuss contentious issues during the week, so your weekends can be freed up for relaxing and new experiences.