6 Ways to Beat the Weekend Worries and Look Forward to Your Days Off Again, According to Experts

published Apr 8, 2021
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In the “before times,” weekends were the best. The good vibes often started a few days before your official days off — whether that was the traditional Saturday and Sunday model, or some other combination of days. You could look forward to so much, from parties to dinners to all-day brunches to museum visits… or simply some much-needed downtime. Whatever chores and obligations still needed to be dealt with on your days off, everything still had a tendency of feeling bright and hopeful.

Then the pandemic began, and life became one seemingly endless loop of sameness. Weekends — whenever they technically occurred each week for you — lost their magic, and instead of looking forward to them, you may have felt the same dread on a Friday that you used to feel on a Sunday evening — the weekend worries, we call them. How would you fill the time when you couldn’t hang with friends, go to your favorite restaurants, or hop on a plane for a quick getaway? 

If you’ve found yourself plagued by the weekend worries over the past year, you’re not alone. “Weekends simply don’t feel the way they used to. And if you’re an extroverted person who thrives off of the social aspects of the weekend, then you’re feeling this dread even more, as you’re not able to connect with family and friends in the same type of way,” says mental health therapist Paige Love of Minneapolis, Minnesota. “The workweek keeps us busy and gives us something to do, but if you were a person who thrived off of being with others and away from your home pre-pandemic, that isn’t possible in the way it was. That’s something we’re grieving — not only the time spent with our loved ones, but even the acquaintances we surrounded ourselves with at concerts, bars, and restaurants.”

You don’t need to spend your precious weekend hours battling feelings of dread and sadness, however. By setting intentions, being mindful of your emotions, and yes, making responsible and COVID-friendly plans to socialize with your loved ones, the weekend worries can be a thing of the past.

Make (safe) plans you can look forward to all week long.

To help alleviate some of the sad and negative feelings you may be navigating during the weekend, Love recommends making plans — even if they’re a bit different than hanging out at your neighborhood bar, going to a movie, or having a dinner party.

“Find something to look forward to. We can do this by planning ahead and making concrete steps to fill our weekends with events,” she says. You can find ways to gather safely and enjoy the things you love; it just takes a bit more effort (and a mask!) these days. Think outdoor picnics with takeout from your favorite restaurants or backyard bonfires. You can even make an appointment to shop with a friend or schedule a visit to a museum, and if you’ve been vaccinated, you may be able to gather indoors with other fully-vaccinated people, too. Just be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines and local rules, whatever you decide to do.

Identify goals and find purpose.

Conquering weekend worries is all about your mindset. “If you’re finding yourself framing your weekends as two days of the week that you’re feeling bored and stuck, you’re going to feel bored and stuck,” Love says. “Finding the meaning you’d like to make of your weekend can be helpful in giving us more of a sense of purpose.”

Love also advises figuring out what you want your weekend to mean to you and identifying a few goals for Saturday and Sunday, whether that’s catching up on housework projects, focusing on self-care, or spending time socializing either digitally or safely IRL. 

Reimagine what “doing nothing” actually means to you right now.

Doug Marshall, an author and life coach, says to make plans if you can, but also to find the magic in doing nothing at all as another way to enjoy the weekends more. “Embrace what the Italians call ‘dolce far niente’ — the sweetness of doing nothing,” he says. “It’s a great way to reframe where you’re at now.”

For Marshall, the opportunity to reframe arose in the early days of the pandemic, when the things we usually look forward to (weddings, parties, trips) were abruptly canceled. “I started thinking, embrace the less. Let it be enough. Society trains us to know and talk about what the next milestone is, whether it’s a trip or a special night out — it’s kind of what we talk about.” Marshall says to think of your time at home as special. 

“Is it possible we are having more fun ‘doing nothing’ than we think we are?,” he asks. “I tell people to look at it this way: You may never get the chance to veg as much as you might have on weekends in the last year, so embrace it. When a new Netflix series drops, I get as excited as I might for a trip to Miami. I’ve gotten used to celebrating the small wins.”

Fill your weekend with small, meaningful activities.

Marshall recommends small activities to give the weekend more meaning, from playing “Highs and Lows” (sometimes called “Roses and Thorns”) with your household to sharing the best and worst parts of your day, to having a weekly themed food night, to simply texting a friend a pic from happier times and walking down memory lane together.

“People who reminisce about happy memories from the past are proven to be happier,” he says. “They see more possibilities and that energy creates more to look forward to. Eventually, you’ll be making new grand memories.” Keep connected and show friends you care by writing them a letter or a sweet note, sending flowers, or doing a Netflix Party and watching a movie together, virtually. 

Create boundaries between WFH and IRL.

It may also be helpful to set more concrete boundaries between your WFH life and the weekend, as the two can often blend together and create the illusion of sameness. “The basics are important and they depend on the parameters of your job, but setting the boundary by shutting off your work phone, signing out of your email, or putting your out-of-office response up can be easy,” Love says. She recommends creating rituals to signify the end of the work week, from taking a walk to shutting the office door (if you have one) to doing a five-minute meditation to set your intention for the weekend. 

It can also help to designate boundaries between your work computer and your home computer, if you have an office-issued piece of equipment. Off the clock? Don’t touch your work computer if you can avoid it — the New York Times calls this marking the difference between your work laptop and party laptop

Of course, not everyone has multiple computers to switch between, so it can also be helpful to use blocking apps or extensions to designate certain websites, such as your work email, as off-limits during certain times. This won’t work for people who are “on call” or who may need to put out a fire, so make sure your team has another way to reach you in case of emergencies, such as your cell phone.

Don’t be afraid to give in to the “blahs.”

All this being said, it’s OK to not feel all sunshine and roses about the weekends these days; feeling bummed is normal. “Acknowledge to yourself that if you’re someone who has been finding themselves dreading the weekend, it is okay that you feel this way. It’s human!” Love says. “You’re missing what you used to have. When we talk about the grief that exists in a pandemic, this is it. You’re grieving what weekends used to be. Lend yourself some compassion and acknowledge that your feelings of nervousness, worry, and dread are valid. When we acknowledge emotions we have, we take some of the power away from them.”

Marshall agrees. “The compassion you build during a global pandemic is strengthening your resilience,” he says. “I think a lot of us will come out of this changed in a good way, stronger than we think we are. Remember that you’re becoming who you get to be when this is all done. That’s no small thing.”