10 ways to reclaim the weekend

With longer hours and Sunday opening, the weekend can simply be an extension of the working week for many of us. Viki Wilson explores ways to reclaim the gentler pace of a traditional weekend


10 ways to reclaim the weekend

1. Visit a farmers’ market

‘Supermarket shopping is convenient, but it’s much better to spend a little time at the weekend shopping in a way that is more enjoyable and leaves a better taste in your mouth,’ says Elspeth Thompson, author of The Wonderful Weekend Book. ‘I still remember my first ever visit to a farmers’ market, sipping hot spiced cider, buying freshly baked bread, jars of honey and armfuls of garden flowers – a real antidote to the supermarket. Nowadays, many of us have access to a farmers’ market where fresh, seasonal, local produce can be bought directly from the people who grow or rear it.’

2. Do some gardening

Horticultural therapist Dr Konrad Neuberger has led several studies which reveal that the traditional weekend pastime of pottering in the garden, or even tending a window box, can help us reduce the stress of the working week and raise our self-esteem. ‘When you’re gardening, you expose your body to air, sun and rain and exercise your ability to recognise, to enjoy, persevere or to change,’ he says. ‘You can connect thoughts and emotions and loosen them, if that is what is needed.’

3. Bake a cake

‘One of my weekend rituals is to bake tea bread,’ says life coach Carla Miller of Space To Be, a coaching service that aims to help women find more ‘me’ time. ‘Baking is a wonderful antidote to the fast-paced week. Slow down and enjoy the textures of the ingredients and the wonderful scents that fill the kitchen. It’s a very nurturing thing to do, for yourself as well as those who’ll enjoy the end results.’

4. Have a pre-weekend workout

According to Dr Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University in The Netherlands, some of us can suffer from ‘leisure sickness’ — headaches, muscle pain and fatigue — over the weekend, especially those with perfectionist tendencies or heavy workloads. A key solution, says Vingerhoets, is to walk home or head to the gym on a Friday evening. ‘Physical exercise helps the physiological transition from activity to rest,’ he says.

5. Learn to relax ‘We all have good intentions of relaxing at the weekend but it can be hard to abandon the many tasks we’re involved in,’ says Stephen Russell (aka The Barefoot Doctor). ‘Try this simple meditation exercise. Sit somewhere comfortable and close your eyes. Stretch your neck and drop your shoulders, let out a sigh and order your muscles, head to toe, to relax. Focus on slow breathing and visualise enjoying yourself and sharing happiness with others.’

6. Enjoy a quiet night in Perhaps because there is an expectation that we should socialise on Friday nights, making a positive choice to stay in and enjoy some time alone can have enormous benefits. ‘Positive solitude can give us a sense of inner peace and make us feel more in control of our lives,’ says Dr David Gershaw of Arizona Western College.

7. Have a Friday-night ritual Mark the beginning of the weekend with a clear ritual as you leave work on a Friday, says career coach Nick Woodeson of extensor.co.uk. ‘Note down what you have achieved and completed. This gives a feeling of satisfaction and a psychological boost. For open issues make a note of progress you have made and tell yourself you don’t need to think about them again until Monday.’

8. Abandon the lie-in ‘If you always need a lie-in at the weekend, you’re probably sleep deprived,’ says Dr Andrew Cummin, director of the West London Sleep Centre. ‘Studies show that sleeping in for longer than an hour over your weekday wake-up time can disrupt your body clock and leave you feeling disorientated and lethargic throughout the weekend.’ He advises going to bed a bit earlier during the week, so you can enjoy a longer weekend and feel more energetic.

9. Revive Sunday teatime ‘We often begin to feel anxious on Sunday evening, as we anticipate the stress of the working week ahead,’ says psychotherapist Dr Malcolm Cross of London City University. ‘Introducing relaxing and enjoyable rituals at the end of Sunday, such as enjoying toast and cakes by the fireside, can help you to stave off the Monday blues.’

10. Be adventurous One of the greatest regrets about the weekend is that it flies by too quickly, but we can alter our sense of time passing. ‘Time isn’t something real or absolute, it’s something created by our minds,’ says Steve Taylor, author of Making Time. ‘Make sure your weekend is as full of new experiences as possible. When there is less novelty in your life you take in less information from the world around you and time is less stretched. If you make an effort to travel to new environments and expose yourself to new situations, new challenges, even something simple such as trying a new hobby or trying a different route to get somewhere, then this degree of newness slows down time.’