Sometimes my Sunday Scaries are so terrifying that I pray for a light family emergency just so I don’t have to deal with the emotional drain of Mondays. So when I came across research suggesting that getting over a weekly case of the Mondays just requires a mental rebrand of your weekend, my interest obviously piqued.
The research calls upon results from two studies, for which 500 participants were asked to rate their level of happiness going into the weekend. For the first study, a control group was instructed to go about their weekend business as usual and the other group was to, as much as possible, treat the two days as a vacation. Come Monday, the vacationers rated themselves as both happier and more present. The second study, also of 500 participants split into two groups—a control group and a vacation mind-set group—asked people to keep a journal of activities they did and how they felt about each. Again, the vacationers reported being happier and more present on Monday. Though the vacation group ultimately did fewer chores and more of the…dirty, researchers note that the activities themselves weren’t as significant of a predictor of happiness as the mind-set sustained while doing said activity. Meaning, it’s not necessarily what you do, but how you feel about doing it. Enter vacation mind-set.
Vacation mind-set doesn’t require you to take endless weekend jaunts (which might be a better way to exhaust rather than rejuvenate yourself). Instead, it focuses on the restorative effect that often accompanies getting away and taking a break from your routine. Great, but how do we actually do that without just going hard on indulgences? And also, how can we adopt vacation mind-set without neglecting regular-life stuff?
The key is to not just look at your weekend as a vacation, but as a successful vacation, says applied social psychologist Jamie Gruman, PhD, author of Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in the Age of Unrelenting Demands. To transform your “downtime into uptime,” you might just want to follow his ReNU model of refilling certain psychological buckets.
Use mindfulness to rebrand your weekends as staycations using three simple steps.
A really good way to burn out is to relive every last work task in different contexts during your leisure time. If you’re a lawyer who argues all week on a client’s behalf, and then coaches at your kid’s Little League game and argues about who the starting pitcher will be, you’re going to feel drained come Monday, Dr. Gruman points out. Apply that thinking to whatever your job is.
“Make sure you’re replenishing all the resources that you used up at work during the week,” he says. “So you want to do an analysis, an audit of the resources you used.” Then, flip the script and do the opposite. For a surgeon, that could mean listening to music (i.e., not using your hands). The point is to stop repurposing the skills you use at work during your weekend time.
One nourishment activity is both easy and essential to do: sleeping more. “Sleep is actually the most important recovery mechanism we have,” Dr. Gruman says. It’s going to transform your weekend into a glorious time, more so than anything else, potentially.” So if you’re not already, get on Team Sleep, and take note on all the health risks that could come if you don’t clock enough of it.
Beyond that, try to pencil in some self-care me-time. Socialization is good, of course, but to really break up your routine, you might want to learn something fresh. Now would be a good time to finally take that course in interior decorating instead of mindlessly Pinteresting all weekend, for example. Just make sure it’s something that appeals to you, specifically.
“You want to make sure that you’re scheduling in some time for yourself so you that you get to choose your own activities,” says Dr. Gruman. “That also has a beneficial effect on how much we flourish, how we thrive, and how recovered we feel on Monday morning.”
Ah, yet another excuse to stay off Gmail over the weekend: Unhooking, or unplugging, is necessary for psychologically detaching from your job and the stress it can bring to downtime.
“Psychological detachment is the mentally turning off from work,” Dr. Gruman explains “It’s not enough to just physically leave the office; you need to mentally leave the office. If you go on your vacation and you’re checking your email three times a day to see what you’re missing out on, you’re not going to psychologically detach. And if you’re spending your weekends checking your phone to see if your boss has texted you, you’re also not going to psychologically detach.”
Duly noted, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to close my laptop and get to some me-time.
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