23 Tips for a Truly Restorative, Stress-Free Weekend
Reclaim your weekend with these effortless tips that will keep you fit and happy on your days off.
Living for the weekend
Weekends have taken on a whole new meaning thanks to quarantines and social restrictions due to the pandemic. These days it can be hard to even remember which day it is, much less how to make the weekend feel special. You can no longer meet up with friends for happy hour after work without risking your health, particularly with the BA.5 variant surging. If you’re one of the one in four Americans that lost a job or income due to the virus, you might not be able to afford to, anyway. But just because your situation is so different right now doesn’t mean you still can’t make the most of your free time Friday night through Sunday. Here’s how to start your week relaxed and refreshed.
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Keep a journal
Writing or journaling is one of the best things you can do to relieve stress, says Venus Nicolino, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. Journal your feelings, work on a short story, or just make a list of all your weekend activities. Looking over everything you’ve done—even if it’s things like cleaning, working, and running errands—will help you connect with yourself and realize how much you’re actually doing, she says.
Avoid sleeping in
Snoozing until noon cuts into the time you thought you’d spend working out or making plans with loved ones. Sleeping in may feel good but it stresses out your body by throwing off your body’s internal clock, meaning you won’t sleep as well during the week. Do your best to stick to your normal weekday sleep and wake times, says Jonathan Huppert, PhD, professor at the anxiety lab and Chair of Clinical Psychology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “Maintaining a good, consistent sleep routine is essential to good mental and physical health, even if you don’t have to go anywhere,” he says.
Take a morning stroll
Walking sounds simple but even a stroll triggers a host of health benefits. Taking a walk as soon as you wake up—even before coffee and brunch—gets your workout out of the way and gets some sunshine on your skin. You’ll come back feeling energized, less stressed, and get a healthy start to tackle the rest of your weekend activities, says W. Nate Upshaw, MD, a clinical psychiatrist with NeuroSpa TMS in Tampa, Florida.
Get up at least once an hour
Sitting hours on end five days a week is bad enough—when you start bringing work home for the weekend, health problems from staying sedentary get even worse, says Claire Siegel, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritional Freedom. If you need to spend time hunkered in front of your computer, spend 10 minutes every hour doing equipment-free exercises like lunges, push-ups, or jumping jacks. It won’t cut into too much work time and you could add up to more than an hour’s worth of exercise by the end of the day. A 2017 study published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that just standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour can put you in a better mood, dull mood cravings, and make your mind sharper.
Commit one day to fun
If you do need to do work or run errands, get all your tasks done in one day instead of spreading them throughout both Saturday and Sunday, says Dr. Nicolino. Keeping a day free for fun weekend activities like yoga in your living room, making movies with your kids, or gardening.
Get more done during the week
Another option for getting chores done is to spread them out through the week, Dr. Nicolino says. During the time you’d normally spend vegging out on the couch after work, take a little time to run to the grocery store or do some vacuuming. When Saturday rolls around, you’ll have the freedom to pack in more fun.
Get your work done early
Sometimes you can’t avoid bringing work home for the weekend so if you do have to tackle a project, get up an hour early and focus for a set amount of time, Dr. Huppert says. You can even set an alarm so you don’t get so consumed that your work sucks up your whole weekend. When the alarm rings, turn your computer off and spend the rest of your weekend without work.
Don’t just watch sports—get in on the action
For every hour you watch a sports game on TV, spend 30 minutes playing sports or exercising to keep from becoming a couch potato, Dr. Upshaw says. Not only will this encourage you to watch less TV but you’ll get more exercise. Get your spouse or kids involved and make it family time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. You can get a head start on that if you’re active on weekends.
Tap into your inner child
Instead of sending your kids outside while you spend the day cleaning or reading, join in the fun, Dr. Upshaw says. Weekend activities like playing tag, making cookies, or shooting hoops are just a few ways you can stay active while laughing and bonding with your children—and still staying at home.
Schedules are important, even in quarantine, but not all to-do items are of equal importance, Dr. Huppert says. Every Thursday night, make a realistic list of what you need to do and what you’d like to do over the weekend. Then mark down all the non-negotiables, like making your kid a birthday cake or scheduling a video call to catch up with family. Then fill up the rest of the time with the other things so you don’t resort to sitting in front of the TV or shopping online for clothes you don’t need.
Mix up your routine
Just because you can’t go very far outside doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge your inner weekend warrior, Siegel says. Many places still allow biking and running outdoors, as long as you follow social distancing guidelines. Or you can do a virtual bike race from your stationary bike, take an online dance class with friends, do yoga in your living room, or follow along on an app workout.
Sign up for a race
Training for a run, bike ride, or walk will motivate you to lace up on the weekends and keep exercise a priority, Siegel says. However, since organized races are cancelled for months, pick a virtual race. There are online options for marathons to 5Ks and everything in between. You don’t have to let quarantine keep you from reaching your fitness goals.
Keep exercise equipment handy
Now’s not the time to be a neat freak, Dr. Upshaw says. Put your dumbbells, yoga mat, and athletic shoes out of the way but in a place where you can still see them, he says. Then if you find yourself with a bit of extra downtime, you can squeeze in some exercise. It’s also a great way to ward off weekend-related weight gain.
Spend time outdoors
Going outdoors is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your sanity during quarantine, Dr. Huppert says. Most places still allow people to walk through nearby parks and green spaces, as long as they don’t stop to hang out and stay at least six feet away from other people. Take a family walk through a park or a forest to lift your spirits and raise your heart rate. A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that as little as 10 minutes in nature can lessen stress.
Do some yard work
From improved mood to weight loss to better sleep, working outside in the yard has lots of benefits. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and weeding a garden can burn calories and build upper-body strength, Dr. Upshaw says. For extra fitness, make the labor as physical as possible by using a push mower instead of a self-propelled one, or grabbing a rake rather than a leaf blower. You’ll burn more calories and reduce air pollution.
Give yourself something special to look forward to that you just do during the weekend, Dr. Nicolino says. That could be grilling out, having a family movie night, enjoying a treat, or taking a long, luxurious bath—anything that feels decadent.
Organize your closet
There’s just something that feels so satisfying about a clean, organized space, Dr. Nicolino says. Even though it requires some planning and work, it’s totally worth it, she says. If you’re going to be stuck indefinitely quarantined in your home, you might as well make it a happy place to be. You don’t have to do a full spring clean, simply picking up your bedroom or doing the dishes are little things you can do right now to feel instantly happier and less stressed.
Help your community
There’s never been a time when your neighbors and community are more important to your health and happiness. Use the weekend to find quarantine-safe ways to give back, Dr. Huppert says. Pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, check-in virtually with friends who’ve been too quiet, drop off a bottle of soap or a bag of food at the food bank, make masks for retirement homes—the options are endless if you’re willing to get a little creative.
Prep healthy meals
One way to ensure a smooth start to your week is to take some time over the weekend to prepare simple meals you can grab and go, says Siegel. Just make sure you avoid these 7 ways to avoid stress that actually backfire.
Go camping in your living room
A family camping trip is the perfect way to create happy weekend memories together and you don’t have to skip it just because you’re quarantined. Set up or make a tent in your backyard or living room, roast s’mores over the stove, sing campfire songs, and spend some time watching the stars from your yard. “It’s all about taking negative experiences and finding a way to turn them into a positive one,” Dr. Nicolino says.
Join an online club
Weekends were made for hobbies and now is the perfect time to try something new or learn more about an existing hobby, Dr. Nicolino says. You can join virtual clubs online for everything from knitting to model trains to bird watching. Don’t miss these mini-meditations you could do this weekend to reduce stress.
Do a little online window shopping
If you’re missing the mall this weekend, take a virtual tour of your favorite stores and check out the sales. Whether you end up buying anything or not, it can be almost as relaxing as hitting up a real store. And you don’t have to worry about crowds online.
Quarantine weekends are the best time to really take care of yourself, Dr. Nicolino says. Do that clay mask, dye your hair, paint your nails. trim your beard into a bonsai tree—whatever makes you feel loved and cared for. Next, check out these 33 ways to make managing stress much easier.
- CNBC: “1 in 4 Americans have either lost their job or had pay cut from coronavirus shutdowns: Survey”
- Venus Nicolino, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles
- Jonathan Huppert, PhD, professor at the anxiety lab and Chair of Clinical Psychology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- Nate Upshaw, MD, a clinical psychiatrist with NeuroSpa TMS in Tampa, Florida
- Claire Siegel, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritional Freedom
- National Sleep Foundation: “Is It OK to Sleep In on Weekends?”
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: “Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function.”
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “How much physical activity do adults need?”
- Frontiers in Psychology: “Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review”
- Journal of Women & Aging: “Influence of Yard Work and Weight Training on Bone Mineral Density Among Older U. S. Women”