It wasn’t even 10 minutes into the start of my work week when I broke an unwritten rule of office chit-chat. Responding to a colleague who asked, “How was your weekend?”, I took the path of honesty instead of delivering the socially acceptable reply of, “Great, how was yours?” While nothing epically bad or tragic happened, my weekend wasn’t great, and I said so. The reason comes down to what I’m calling a “self-care relapse.” For 60 hours, I abandoned many of the habits that I rely on to buoy my mood and restore my energy so I can begin the week refreshed.
It all started when I turned down an invitation to attend a film festival with a friend on Friday night. In my 20s, I might’ve (and often did) pushed myself to go out, fearing that a night would be “wasted” by staying in. Now, in my late 30s, I’ve become such an advocate for JOMO (the joy of missing out) that I liberally say no to plans when I’m exhausted. While this is generally a good thing, sometimes my Declaration of Couch Dependence (i.e. “No plans are getting between me and my sofa”) leads to feelings of isolation and loneliness — which is a real epidemic for my generation. And if I had paused long enough to listen to what I really needed on Friday, I would have sprung for social connection over PJ time.
As the weekend unfolded, the misses in the self-care department piled up: not enough joy, connection, or sleep; too much Seamless, social media, and rumination. But contrary to popular belief, a less-than-stellar weekend like the one I’ve just experienced doesn’t have to ruin the other five days of the week. The key to bouncing back from a #weekendfail? Prioritizing Microsteps that can turn your mood and mental outlook around fast. Here, a few to get you started:
Reflect, but don’t ruminate
Taking note of our emotional state at the end of the weekend — and the habits that contributed to that feeling — can be a productive impetus for modifying our behavior going forward. But there’s a difference between reflecting on the choices we made, and beating ourselves up for them, says Jonathan Alpert, M.S., a psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. “Reflection is the processing of experiences with purpose, and with the goal of gaining insight, learning, and ultimately self-improvement,” Alpert told Thrive. “By contrast, rumination is when someone thinks about something over and over again, without purpose.” Translation: Think about the things you wish you’d done differently and make a mental note of them — and then let it go.
Double-up your social interactions
One of the negative fallouts of hustle culture is that in our quest to succeed, we may value productivity over people. But seeing our weekends as our only chance for “free time” (or friend time) fails to acknowledge the impact that in-person interactions can have on our mental health. In a report in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin wrote that social support may reduce the impact of stress “by fostering a sense of meaning and purpose in life.” If you think you’re “too busy” for weekday plans, look for ways to “double-up” your calendar. For instance, if you’re booked for an exercise class, bring a friend along. If you’re meal-prepping, invite a pal over so you can catch up while you cook.
Hit the pause button before eating
When we’re feeling blah after a bad weekend, the basics of self-care — like treating ourselves to nourishing, nutritious meals — are more important than ever. As Maya Adam M.D., Director of Health Education Outreach at Stanford Medicine, told Thrive, “Food can be a partner that drags you down and depletes your physical and mental health — the kind of partner your friends and family wish you’d break up with. Or it can be a partner that is truly worthy of you, supporting you in your life’s journey, building you up, and bringing you joy. The choice is yours.” So before your next bite, take a pause and ask yourself if what you’re eating is worthy of you.
Try a tiny workout
Thanks to hustle culture, a lot of people become “weekend warriors”— meaning they “save” all of their weekly exercise for Saturdays and Sundays. But the truth is, we don’t need to fit in an hour-long spin class after work to reap the benefits of exercise during the week. According to a review of research, people who work out for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise. So if you’re recovering from the weekend blues, a mini workout on Monday evening may be just the thing to get you over the slump.
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