After a long week at work, the weekends seem to go by faster than we would like. Even those extended, three-day holiday weekends and full vacations become just a blur.

No matter what the situation, the bottom line is that, for workers, leisure time seemingly passes faster than time spent at work.

Thankfully, many mental health experts say that there are steps that workers can take to get the most from their weekend and help them feel a little more fulfilled.

Why Weekends Matter

Healthcare professionals say that weekends are important for workers.

We all need the physical space and time to recharge and relax the body and mind following a work week. A separation from work, either at the end of a day, on the weekends, or vacation, is necessary for mental health and physical recovery. It is how we replenish the resources that have been depleted at work. It is similar to how an athlete needs recovery time and days of rest after a tough workout.

This article will outline some of the best ways to optimize your recovery days while getting the most from your precious time away from work.

Plan your off time

The best way to get the most out of your weekend or any time off is to plan activities you enjoy.

When you create a plan for your time off, you are more likely to follow through on those enjoyable activities that help you make the most of your time away from work. For example, you are likely to follow through on your commitment to take a bicycle ride if you’ve rented the bicycle ahead of time or coordinated the bike ride with someone else. In doing so, you’re less likely to feel disappointment toward the weekend you just had, come Monday morning.

Although merely planning your activities won’t make the weekend longer, per se, you will certainly feel you have maximized your free time by planning activities. That planning can also be beneficial during the work week because it gives you something that you can look forward to, especially when things are getting hectic.

Look for a hobby and reduce screen time

Scrolling through social media or binge-watching Netflix can make it feel as if time has flown by too fast. In fact, there is plenty of scientific evidence to show that spending too much time on these activities can lead to a warped sense of time and leave us trying to figure out how it went by so quickly. Of course, both of these activities are okay, as long as they are done in moderation.

Spending leisure time doing rewarding activities like reading or exercising can help you feel rejuvenated when Monday morning rolls along. By breaking away from television and social media, you can connect with the things that can make you happiest and help you to make your days away from work more fulfilling. Instead of spending time in front of a screen, reconnect with an old hobby or take up a new one.

Ensure that your “time-off” activities are different than your work activities

When looking for weekend activities to engage in, be sure to find something that uses completely different resources than what you use at work. For example, if your job is incredibly technical, you should spend weekends participating in activities that use other skills. In that case, you might want to play an instrument or get out on the basketball court.

Conversely, if you are in the arts, you might want to avoid “creative” activities on the weekend and go in a completely different direction. These methods aim to avoid being reminded of work during the time you are not there.

Always put the work away on your days off.

Work should take place on weekdays, not during your time away. For your mental health, you must keep a distance between yourself and your work life on the weekends and days off. When we worry about work, we waste valuable time better spent with loved ones. The weekend will feel just a little longer when you put your work away (and also out of your mind).

Some of the best ways to distance yourself from work on your days off are to turn off the work phone, disable your work email, and put away the work laptop. A planned outing with a friend or family member is a great way to get some distance between you and your work while making the most of your weekend free time.

Achieve some balance between resting and going out.

Resting on your day off is definitely important for your mental and physical health, but staying in bed through the weekend isn’t healthy. If you do this, the weekend will pass you by in a flash.

You can best utilize your time off when you find a balance between rest and stimulating, enjoyable activities. It’s even better when those activities enrich or involve learning something new. By Monday morning, you are more likely to approach work more energized and in a good mood.

Live in the present moment.

While this one is often much easier said than it is done, living in the present moment is always the best way to enjoy your day off to its fullest. Studies have shown that ongoing meditation and mindfulness help us to experience time more slowly.

If you find that your mind is beginning to wander to thoughts of an upcoming assignment or something that happened at a staff meeting last week, use your senses to ground yourself,

Here’s an easy exercise you can try. Take a deep breath and, out loud, do the following:

  • Name five items you can see.
  • Name four items you can touch.
  • Name three items you can hear.
  • Name two items you can smell.
  • Name one item you can taste.

You will forget all about work in no time and find yourself right back where you belong, which is in this present moment.

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