We often feel a keen sense of anticipation for the weekend as a Friday afternoon turns into Friday evening. Or, perhaps if you're a shiftworker and you don't work regular Monday to Friday hours it's that moment before your "weekend'' kicks in.
There's a whole world of possibilities waiting for us in our days off. We have time to do the things we want to do and when we want to do them. Hey, there maybe some chores in the mix but we've got plenty of time to get it all done.
The feelings before a weekend are often in stark contrast to the feelings we experience before our working week. The return-to-work feeling can leave us feeling a bit depressed, agitated and even downright antsy. The "Sunday Night Blues'' have knocked on our door and let themselves in.
Rest assured, you're not alone in experiencing these feelings. Research has estimated 60 per cent to 75 per cent of people experience impending dread of a coming week. That's a fairly high percentage and this can even be true for those who like their jobs. So, what are the Sunday night blues about?
It seems there are a number of things that contribute to them.
The Sunday night blues are created by a combination of realising weekend fun is coming to an end and anticipating the next five days of pressure. Added to this is the phenomenon of work "leaking'' into our home lives. Many employees and the self-employed never really feel like they've had a true break, so the feeling of work on top of work can become overwhelming.
Besides a sense of dread, depression and agitation, the other effect the Sunday night blues deliver can be impaired sleep - it's not uncommon to find your Sunday night sleep completely disturbed, just when you need a good night's sleep to wake refreshed and energised for the week ahead.
I think I should point out I'm not highlighting all of this to make your entire weekend a bleak depressing affair! Knowing a little more about the Sunday night blues can give us some ideas about how to counteract them and put the pizazz back into your weekend or days off.
DO SUNDAY ON SATURDAY
Typically we tend to schedule more of the fun stuff on Saturday and the obligatory stuff on Sunday. It's not hard to see that this may well reinforce our sense of dread come Sunday. Instead, try the "weekend switcheroo'' and put some of the less enjoyable tasks, errands and commitments into your Saturday, when you're naturally in a better mood and retain some fun, relaxing and more enjoyable things for Sunday.
Homework can be another Sunday downer. Nagging kids to hit the books on Sunday night can be pretty unpleasant for everyone. Consider spending some time on Saturday and/or Sunday morning rather than as the last detested task on a Sunday night. This will, of course, have to be worked around weekend sport, dance classes and birthday parties etc. It's worth acknowledging this can be a hard sell for teenagers, but if you have younger children, instilling this habit now might really pay off a little down the line.
RELAX AND DISTRACT
Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to forget about it. When you're at a loose end, feelings of anxiety and dread can come to the fore. Planning some enjoyable activities or hobbies that are relaxing and distracting on a Sunday can be important. If you fill your time and thoughts with something enjoyable, there's less mind space and time for the dread to creep in.
Identify the times you tend to feel anxious as the weekend wears on (it may even start before Sunday evening) and purposely plan something for those times to keep your mind focused on something else. However, if there is something that is persistently causing you feelings of anxiety or dread, please seek professional help.
SCHEDULE SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Why do we save all of our fun for the weekends? Think about setting up things to look
forward to throughout the coming week, and even the following weekend. This has been shown to help soothe Sunday evening dread.
These don't need to be elaborate or expensive activities - it can be as simple as watching your favourite TV show, catching up with a friend, planning a family board game night or taking a relaxing bath with a good book.
These activities are best if they are small enough to be feasible for a workday, but enjoyable enough to give you a sense of excitement or contentment.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Make a plan for Monday morning. Before you leave work on Friday, be clear about what you are going to do on your return to work; make a to do list. Try to leave your work area as organised as you can, so you're not coming back to a complete bombsite on Monday. Having the thought of returning to a complete mess and no idea where to start can be very off putting during the weekend.
MAKE A PLAN FOR YOUR WEEKEND
There's a delicate balance that needs to be struck here. You don't want things to be so rigid and tied down that your days off involve a stop watch and military precision! However, if there are tasks or events that simply have to be accomplished then make sure they are scheduled. If you have to, schedule some down time, too. Resist the urge to make your days off as busy and pressured as your weekdays. Like a lot of things, recovery time is important.
THE SUNDAY NIGHT SLEEP
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a physiologist, sleep therapist and author of Tired but wired: How to overcome your sleep problems, suggests "there are a number of reasons why we might not be able to sleep on a Sunday''.
Potentially we might slip into sloppy sleep habits over the weekend. This can include having a sleep in on Saturday and/or Sunday and maybe a long Sunday afternoon nap. These things disrupt our sleep routine. A good sleep routine is fundamental for sound refreshing sleep. Maintaining a similar bed and wake up time year around is extremely helpful.
Nervous anticipation for the week ahead is another common reason for disturbed sleep. That may be partly due to not quite feeling ready to go back to work and partly because we're worrying about the amount of the energy it will take to get us through the week. In turn, we feel pressure to get a good sleep and that mental pressure is the very thing that stops us from sleeping.
Getting some outside exercise during the day and focusing more on resting and relaxing, rather than getting "X'' hours sleep can help relieve the pressure and ensure we wake feeling better prepared to deal with the week.
With a little bit of thought, and perhaps tweaking the way we approach things, we can make our weekends and days off more enjoyable and minimise that sinking feeling.
What's not to like about that?
Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.