Do you dread the weekends? Start to feel anxious at the thought of time off? You are not alone. Terms like Weekend Anxiety Syndrome and Sunday Scaries are entering our mental health vocabulary alongside the Monday Blues. These terms describe the feelings you get before you go back to your normal Monday to Friday* work routine.
*I’m using the standard mon-fri week but you could feel like this whenever you have free time and you don’t have to be working, raising a family etc to experience the overwhelm
It’s that feeling of dread, the knot in your stomach, the racing of your heart. It can make you feel like you should be continually on the go or that you want to throw the duvet over your head and hibernate until the weekends is over.
How do these anxieties present?
Are you the type of person that keeps busy in the week and you dread having free time because you don’t know what to do with yourself? Are you always planning or writing to do lists because you feel anxious if you stop. People who like structured lives often find it hard to relax when there is free time.
Or maybe you are the type of person that has so much to do in the week, that you have to cram everything – shopping, cleaning, kids parties or clubs, visiting family – into the weekend? You hate the thought of the weekend because you feel you are so busy doing all the non-fun stuff that you are missing out on life.
Perhaps you suffer with anxiety? When the weekends approach you dread the social invites that you get but the thought of turning them down increases your anxiety and you worry what people will think.
Maybe you don’t get any invites to go out? Maybe you are a parent and your weekend is all about your children. Perhaps people have stopped inviting you out because of your physical or mental health or your child’s physical or mental health? Do your children visit their other parent at the weekends leaving the house empty and lonely or you may be a carer for a loved one and family member. Not being invited out or not being able to have any outside social activities increases loneliness and isolation.
Finally are you the type of person that feels pressured to live life to the fullest? Expectation that you have to cram everything into the weekend, go off on adventures, create life experiences to tell your workmates/friends, socialise, visit friends and family but all you want to do is relax at home and catch up on boring self care stuff like housework but you/your family don’t want to miss out?
Ways to reduce free-time anxiety
- Avoid social media – it’s not real life and it can increase FOMO (fear of missing out). If you struggle to stay off line, read inspiring stories, look at cute pictures, watch a funny YouTube video. Just steer clear of anything that makes you want to compare yourself.
- Plan one fun thing to do – you don’t have be having amazing experiences every waking moment. No money – go for a walk, visit a museum, be a tourist in your home town for a day, don’t just wait for the sunny days either!
- Kids and no sitter, make it an indoor date night. Single but nothing to do, date yourself – create your perfect date. Do something you WANT to do not what you feel you NEED to do.
- Feel like you are always doing chores. Choose 3 that really (and I mean really) need doing, do them before everything else so they are not hanging about.
- Do you plan or do you wing it and end up exhausted and overwhelmed? Some people are winging-it masters others, like me, need a little stability. I am a planner – one of those scribbled to-do listers, it helps me focus on what needs doing and stops me acting like a headless chicken. My lists are short, I write them on a Monday so I know what I have to do all week but here is the key – I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get it all done! Prioritise the important stuff.
- So you plan all week but approach the weekend like bull in a china shop with no clear direction other than wanting to get it all done. Draw up a weekend plan, just make sure you put in 5-10 minutes each morning/evening where you don’t do anything and I mean literally nothing – no tv, no social media, no interruptions just sit listen to music, have a cuppa soaking up the sun. Enjoy being in the moment, slowing life down and increasing your JOMO (joy of missing out).
- Arrange time with friends on your terms – it doesn’t mean going out for drinks or being in a large group unless what you need is a night out . Grab a quiet coffee, have lunch date, go for a walk – slow the pace down, life doesn’t have to be constantly lived fast and loud.
- Check out any local groups for people like you who are in the same situation as yourself. There are groups for those with disabilities, for families, single but not wanting to date, those who are struggling with mental health or grief. Join a club or society if you feel you are always stuck indoors.
- Anxiety is crippling and can be hard to manage but keeping the same sleep schedule (don’t stay in bed all day ); doing something that makes you feel good; moving about and listening to music that makes you happy or calm can all help reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. I have sensory overload that leads to anxiety, to help with this if I go out I always have my headphones on me to block out noise or to play soothing music when I need time out. It isn’t rude, it’s self care and if people care they will understand. Limit your time with people and situations to an amount that is comfortable for you, keep breathing, relax your body.
- Relax and recharge – knowing when you need to rest and doing it is important. If you feel the need to chill out after a busy week, it’s okay to say no. Burnout is not good. If you are a parent – distraction is good! If they are old enough to distract themselves, put a film on, give them an hour creating, playing a game, watching tv.
- Put boundaries in place. If work ends on Friday and starts Monday that’s where you leave it and pick up. Continually checking emails or work plans increases the Sunday scaries. If you really have to check, allocate a specific time to do it, then leave it alone.
I hope this is of some help to you, perhaps you felt like this but didn’t know why? Try out some of the suggestions and let me know how you get on. I would love to hear any other suggestions for banishing free time anxiety