The countdown usually starts on Wednesday. A sigh escapes our lips. We glance at the calendar. Two more days until the weekend.
And then what?
Depending on your current lifestyle it could mean: Two more days until endless partying. Meeting friends. Drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Sleeping in. Being hung-over. Going out for a big brunch. Due to bloodshot eyes not taking off the shades for the balance of the weekend. Crashing on the couch. Watching 5 hours of “Two and a half men” repeats. Defrosting butter chicken in the microwave. Checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to fill in the blanks of the lost weekend.
This is not you? Then maybe the countdown to the weekend means two more days of rest at the office. Then the weekly triathlon in the following disciplines begins again. 1. Getting groceries 2. Doing laundry and 3. Cleaning the house. Plus visiting the in-laws. Plus squeezing in a little bit of the activity that other people do for fun. Plus the things no one plans for but will happen anyway.
So again why are we looking forward to the weekend?
Because it is:
- The period of time between Friday evening and Monday morning were I can catch up on chores and other things I don’t have the motivation to do during the week?
- The exhausting two-day period off from work?
- A time to relax, breathe and enjoy. A time to rejuvenate. Time to de-stress.
If your answer was #1 or #2 then your weekend is borderline out-of-control.
If your answer was #3, congratulations. You are using your weekend wisely. It gives you a deserved break from stress and replenishes your energy storage.
No matter what your weekend looks like. Keep reading for tips on how to achieve a healthy equilibrium.
1. Don’t sleep in
The first benefit of a weekend that comes to mind is: “Finally time to catch up on sleep.”
But there is no such thing as catching up on sleep. Sleep is not like a bank account that we can balance by putting in a little bit more money on the weekends.
Compare it to office logistics. During the day the office is busy. People buzzing around, computers and printers are working, phones are ringing. After we leave the office the cleaning crew comes in. They clean the floors, empty the garbage, restock paper into the printers and coffee powder into the kitchens. Without their work at night a day at the office just wouldn’t run smoothly.
Cut them short 3 hours Mondays to Fridays and their supportive work simply wouldn’t be completed during the week. No matter how many extra hours you allow them on the weekend.
Sleep is the most important source of recovery in our lives. While we sleep, our body is busy manufacturing hormones, repairing tissue, neutralizing neurotoxins and so on. According to a study done by the American Cancer Society people that sleep 6 hours or less or more than 9 hours per night had a death rate 30% higher than people who sleep 7-8 hours.
So get your sleeping habits right. The weekend is not there for catching up on sleep (however, short naps are welcome). Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep in every night. No more, no less and automatically your weekend will be a healthier one. (see also: Does sleep help you lose weight?)
2. Do fun things
Now that we’re actually not wasting precious weekend time in bed, we can plan for little fun things to do. Fun and laugher is nourishment for body and spirit. If you prefer a more business like description call it stress management.
More fun and laughter is priceless medicine for anyone who wants better health. Not only does it relax the body but decreases stress hormones and releases happy chemicals. Please indulge! Here are some suggestions with an added health benefit.
Get lost outdoors
You are standing with arms wide spread on the top of a hill overlooking the valley. Your eyes are closed. You inhale fresh air and absorb the gentle sunlight that is warming your cheeks. Ahhhh! Just thinking about being outdoors has a calming effect.
And true. After seeing green spaces our stress level falls within minutes. And losing sense of time can be quite liberating in our hectic lives. There is more to it. Natural light (not artificial office light) is vital for the creation and activation of vitamin D. Vitamin D has immune-enhancing benefits and activates the production of leptin, which helps with weight loss.
As kids we very rarely worn any shoes on summer holidays. By the look of our soles mom could tell which adventures we were on that day. Sap didn’t bother us. It was stuff that enabled our feet to stick a little better.
How come walking barefoot has become something that only “crazy people” would do? Haven’t humans been walking barefoot for hundred of years (probably even longer than that)? Where would a Cavewoman find a pair of “Jimmy Choo”? I’m not saying that you should walk into the office without shoes. This article is about a healthier weekend. So how about taking our shoes off for an hour while walking in the park?
Walking barefoot is part of the “Paleo” diet. This scientific study highlights the health benefit that comes from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons on any natural surface. The natural energy helps to drain free radicals from the body.
And there is more to “grounding” or “earthing”. Not only does it improves blood circulation, activates internal organ function and provides a free balance workout. It also pulls us into the moment. All of a sudden we’re paying attention to gravel, pinecones, mud, wet grass, dog poo. No room for distraction.
Men, I can’t really remember my last pillow fight. One where feathers were flying and bed mattresses were jumping out of their frames. But I do remember how exhausting and fun they were. We ended up with a disastrous hairdo and couldn’t stop giggling. It’s like a HIIT workout in PJ’s first thing in the morning.
Other fun things
Just to give you some ideas: Blow bubbles. Water fight. Treasure hunt. Piñata. Planetarium. Game night. Paper airplanes. Potato stamps. Flea market. Watercolor. Pillow fort. Mini golf. Sandcastle. Sleep in tent. Dress-ups. Visit a farm. Treasure hunt. And no, you don’t necessary need kids for this kind of fun but you can always invite nieces and nephews and contribute to a healthier weekend for your siblings.
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Who doesn’t experience this? The weekend sucks because we didn’t get all the things done we wanted to. And now we are upset and sad without really knowing why. Thinking determines the way we feel. Our thoughts are powerful. Try feeling stressed or angry without having noxious or angry thoughts. It’s impossible.
To make the weekend happier and healthier we must master our thoughts. We didn’t get the laundry done? Big deal! Instead we were walking barefoot in the park enjoying nature. The garage looks like a war zone? Congratulations, seems like we gathered enough items for a successful garage sale. The grandparents suddenly disinvited us to dinner because they want to play Bridge with their pals at the senior center? Great. Sounds like a great night for checking out a new restaurant.
The weekend is not there to waste energy on things beyond our control or to follow the rules that society dictates. Don’t get all worked up about small stuff and don’t blow them out of proportion. There is no room for negative thoughts. Shoo them away to make your weekend healthier.
4. Try something new
When was the last time you did something for the first time? During the week we are often stuck with a routine. There is not really time for learning a new skill. Routines and habits are boring and uninspiring, which opens the door to disorders like anxiety and depression. Engaging in a variety of new experiences, overcoming fear or building on strength leads to increased confidence, self-esteem, the discovery of hidden talents and maybe new friends.
Try a new workout
Salsa, zumba, boot camp? Tennis, bowling, fishing? Badminton, cycling, swimming? Frisbee, golf, rowing? Yoga, Pilates, lifting weights?
Try a new recipe
Cashew maca balls? Avocado chocolate pudding? Cauliflower crust pizza? Kohlrabi slaw? Flourless banana muffins? Zucchini bread? Kale chips? Sugar-free applesauce? Black bean brownies?
Try a new book
How the body works? Grow your own garden? The secrets of Mrs. Silly? Fine poetry? Huckleberry Finn?
Make yourself a priority. The weekend is not supposed to exhaust you or to please others. The weekend is there to energize your body and mind and to give you new strength for the week ahead. Happy Weekend everybody.