I don’t know about you but for me, every day this week has felt the same. I have completely lost track of which day it is. I even missed my virtual Wednesday Pilates class which I have been going to for years. With the current Covid19 situation my routine has been turned upside down. I don’t know if I am Arthur or Martha!
In our household, we are being very good at restricting our going out time to just exercise. We also decided at the start, to just shop once a week.
But tomorrow is the weekend and if we don’t change it up a little, how are we going to know? More importantly, how will our brains and bodies know it’s time for some rest and recovery?
Why is it important to recognise the weekend and have some rest and recovery?
We all like certainty, and knowing where we are in time helps us to have some structure. It also increases certainty and, as a consequence, naturally reduces our stress levels. Right now, there are enormous amounts of stress and strain with all the uncertainty associated with these very unusual circumstances.
Periods of chronic stress are not good for our bodies and minds and, if left unchecked, can lead to reduced immune systems, various physical diseases, and mental ill-health. Chronic stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, back pain, diabetes, depression and much more. We need to do what we can to bring down the stress response and give our bodies a break. It sounds simple in concept but it won’t happen unless we put our minds to it.
The chances are that the Covid19 situation is likely to be more of a marathon than a sprint, so it’s important to pace ourselves by carving out regular downtime, rest and recovery.
Ordinarily, most people would use the weekends for most of that, but nothing is ‘ordinary’ right now and if you’re not careful, each day could meld into the next.
So, what can you do to acknowledge it’s the weekend and show your mind, body, and soul that it’s time to rest and renew before the new week starts?
Here are my top tips for weekends:-
Decide when you’re ‘shutting up shop’ so to speak. When will you stop ‘work’ and when will you start again? What time on Friday will you close up the laptop and decide it’s the weekend? Now I know that’s not possible for everybody right now, particularly those who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat. However, it is still important to decide when you’re working and when you’re really taking some time off. Decide upfront and share with your household members so that they can support you. Allowing yourself some time off will really help let the dust settle and help you to see the way ahead more clearly.
Carve out some time this weekend just for you. The chances are, if you’re not living alone, you have been on top of others way more than you are used to or might like! Whatever your living arrangements, carve out some ‘me time’ to do something you love. Whether that’s reading a book, meditating, watching a favourite movie, stretching, doing some exercise, pampering yourself or just pottering around. You might need to negotiate that with your family but with luck, you’ll be able to reciprocate so everyone has their ‘me time’. If you are living alone, it’s just as important and you might need to give yourself permission. Please do!
Change Your Food
One way to show your body and mind that it’s the weekend is to change what you eat. If you are used to eating porridge for breakfast make it something else. Choose a different cereal, eggs and avocado if you can get it, banana on toast, or a fruit smoothie. Eat something different and that will help demark that it’s now the weekend and will help set up your body for the weeks to come.
Create a Different Version of Your Usual Weekend.
Keep to your usual routine where possible. If you’re used to being sociable and meeting up with friends and family for coffee, drinks or dinner, keep doing it but in a virtual way. I am enjoying meeting my friends and work colleagues for virtual G&T’s (gather and thrive) these days. I have even done some virtual meals together which have been quite fun. The good news about that is you don’t have to cook anything special (unless you want to) and you certainly don’t have to make the effort to tidy up. It’s a great way to connect with others. If you’re used to doing chores at the weekend, my suggestion is to keep it that way. Everything that you can do to keep your regular routine will help demark weekend time and increase your levels of certainty and give your body permission to unwind.
Be creative and crafty
This may or not be something you are used to doing at weekends, but either way, it’s a great way to unwind while increasing your creative muscle, problem-solving and neural pathways. If you like cooking, this is a great time to dust off an old cookery book and find a recipe that your ingredients allow (might require you to go off-piste if you haven’t got all the ingredients). Crafts are a great way to entertain the kids and a lot can be done with all those empty loo rolls and other household items. Creativity can come in many different forms so do something you love. I am planning to be creative in my garden (feeling very lucky to have one) this weekend and create a vegetable patch.
Connect with the people you love
I know many people are missing the face to face contact with our loved ones. I am, for sure. I miss being with my 84-year-old mother and I am concerned about her welfare every day. Fortunately, she’s able to use her phone and we can Facetime. There have also been times over the last year when I have gone to phone a friend and decided for whatever reason, it wasn’t the right time. My attitude now is ‘just do it’ and weekends are a perfect time to contact the people that matter. I have even resorted to flicking through my address book and contacting people I haven’t spoken to in years. I have been surprised just how much joy it has brought them and me.
Make a Difference
When you are feeling stressed and anxious, one of the best things you can do is to help others, and you might not normally have time during your working week. Weekends are a perfect time for this and with more time on our hands, we have no excuses. From a physiological point of view, when you help others, oxytocin is released which not only makes you feel good but it also naturally reduces blood pressure by dilating your blood vessels so you feel less stressed. It’s addictive too. So, if you want to be addicted to any drug, make it oxytocin! There are plenty of ways to help others right now, including just giving people a smile from the other side of the street. Try it out and see.
Learn something new.
We undoubtedly have more time on our hands right now, and what we choose to do with that time will determine how you will emerge from this challenge. If you continue to do what you have always done you will get what you have always got. Now is the time to do things differently. The world is not going to be the same after the Covid19 pandemic.
This is your chance to expand your knowledge and learn new skills. Not only could that help you in the future, but it will keep your brain alive and growing new neural pathways. Why not use part of your weekend to learn something new and distract yourself from your worries and the news. I have to say for me this is one of the delightful by-products of this time we are living in. It has never been easier to learn something new, there is an endless supply of expertise at our fingertips.
I have decided to re-unite myself with my concertina and learn how to play it properly. I have to say for me this is one of the delightful by-products of this time we are living in. It has never been easier to learn something new, there is an endless supply of expertise at our fingertips. I have decided to re-unite myself with my concertina and learn how to play it properly. You’ll see from this video I have a long way to go! I am reading books I have wanted to read for years and attending online lectures on subjects I never knew existed.
What would you like to learn? Perhaps you have an old guitar at the back of the cupboard or a language you’d like to get stuck into – now is the time. I have a long way to go! I am reading books I have wanted to read for years and attending online lectures on subjects I never knew existed. What would you like to learn?
Have Some Fun
I know it might not feel like a time to have some fun, but let me assure you it’s not going to make things any worse, and will likely make things feel much better. There are just so many ways to have fun and each of us has different ways of doing it. You know what brings a smile to your face, so do what you can to create moments of fun over the weekend. I like to play games (card games, mah-jong, monopoly) and do jigsaw puzzles. My partner likes to be creative and make things. Do your version of fun.
Catch up on Your Sleep
If you’re like most people your sleep is probably more disturbed right now than it normally is (understandable under these unusual circumstances). Take every opportunity to top up your sleep quota, whether that is a lie-in, an afternoon nap, or an early night. The weekend is a perfect time to catch up. Now I know this isn’t always possible especially if you have small kids but grab every opportunity you can. If you haven’t heard me bang on about it already, sleep is the most underrated health habit and productivity tool. Being sleep deprived is not something you want to be right now. Think about how you might set yourself up for the week ahead by getting some early nights.
Catch up on jobs you’ve been wanting to do for ages.
In the past, I have often had good intentions for doing certain jobs I’ve been meaning to do for ages and just never got around to them. I no longer have an excuse. There are so many things that could be tackled over the next few weekends. Clearing the cellar, loft, shed, cupboards or garage. Tidy that room that has been neglected, throw away paperwork gathering dust, create a photo album, re-cycle old clothes, toys, unloved gifts/purchases (perhaps not right now, but get them ready anyway).
The chances are, if you are now working from home, you are doing less movement that you are used to. Perhaps you are stuck in front of your computer and don’t get up as often as you might. You no longer have the commute or the face to face meetings or coffee conversations that would have naturally caused you to move. If you want to stay away from muscular-skeletal problems you need to move. How about changing your movement routine from your usual weekday routine. How about a longer walk or swap running for a cycle at the weekend? Oh, and it doesn’t need to be conventional exercise – you can get the benefits from dancing with your loved ones, playing games with your kids (young and old) or entertaining your pets. The bottom line is ‘change it up’ and MOVE!
Do what you can to continue to have a weekend break and distract yourself from work and worries. This will reduce the stress hormones, help you keep a sense of normality and I believe it will serve you well over time.