Once again, the days and weeks are rolling into one. Friday afternoon might signal the end of a working week – but what we do on the weekend remains pretty much the same: stay home, save lives.
Last lockdown, my boyfriend and I made a point to only drink booze on the weekends – despite often wanting to crack open one mid-week. The closer 5pm on Friday got, the more excited we were about having a drink.
Our weekend was marked by a “cheers” in the kitchen. We were still indoors, yes, like we had been all week, yep, but it was Friday! And we were having a drink.
It really made a difference, so we thought about how else our Saturdays and Sundays could differ from our Mondays or Wednesdays. A fancier, bigger brunch. A longer walk. My boyfriend even saved his favourite binge-watch for Friday, so had something to look forward to as the weekend kicked off.
It’s hard to differentiate between the week and the weekend when our freedom to move around and go outside is restricted. But this is our reality yet again, says Vanessa King, psychology expert at Action for Happiness, and author of 10 Keys to Happier Living. So we need to make the best of the situation.
“This requires thinking ahead, where we may not normally do, about how we put that differentiation in place,” she says. Don’t succumb to the idea that there’s “no point of weekends” now – instead, make an active decision to have a good one. Here’s how.
Clear, and close down, your work space
We don’t all have a desk or a study to work in, so many of us are working in our living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms or other communal spaces. Either way, Friday when you clock off, it’s time to separate yourself from work.
“Clear your desk or work area and put work papers out of sight and reach,” says Sam Fuller, founder of The Wellbeing Project. “Don’t take your work mobile with you during down time and have very clear entry/exit times for opening and closing your laptop.”
Have weekend ‘rituals’ to signal a difference
King says we should focus on mini “rituals” – small symbols or actions that signal shift or a change – to enter into our weekend. Think of what you’d usually do on a Friday afternoon: do a little less work, speak about going to the pub with colleagues? Maybe then, says King, organise a hangout with your colleagues at 5.30pm to kickstart the weekend.
Make new rituals for your Saturdays and Sundays, too. King suggests “social Saturday”, where you reach out to people who are on their own – not necessarily old, or vulnerable, but living alone in lockdown.
Save your “I deserve it” beer for Friday
Not only does it give you something to look forward to – alcohol or no alcohol – it’s better for your health. Drinking heavily throughout the pandemic could end up leaving you feeling worse and making you vulnerable to infection.
“Have some clear rules about when you’re allowed to drink,” says Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking movement Club Soda. “It’s easy to slip into new bad habits so having firm boundaries will keep alcohol in its place.”
Dress up for the weekend
There’s no reason to have a “work” wardrobe and “weekend” wardrobe right now – but we still can. If you’re wearing joggers and jumpers during the week, save your jeans and tops for the weekend. Or just dress differently to make some sort of distinction.
Some people have been sharing photos of themselves on #DressUpFriday. “There might be nobody to see, but I’ve got frocks and nice tops and a new pair of leather trousers and I demand opportunities to wear them,” tweeted one.
Plan your Saturday and Sunday
We need to be much more intentional about what we’re doing during the week and at the weekend, says King. Whereas before, we were able to go with the flow – spontaneously head to the pub with friends or have an unexpected brunch meet – things are different now.
The idea of no routine on the weekend may be enticing, but it also a recipe for either not doing anything, doing too much of one thing, or having your Saturday and Sunday blur into the week, says Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at LSE and author of Happy Ever After and Happiness by Design.
What are you going to do on the weekend that’s different to weekdays? Walk to a different park? Do a different exercise? “The real danger is that people let the weekends drift, with each day starting with good intentions and ending with nothing getting done,” he says. “If you want to do something that will make you happier, you have to make a plan about how best to implement your intentions.”
It’s also okay simply to catch up on sleep – that’s what weekends are for, right?
Keep kids busy and happy
That last point might have made you scoff if you’re a parent or carer. Weekends with kids are a different proposition, of course. But a lot of these points apply to families, too. It’s healthy to differentiate the week from the weekend for children.
That probably means setting aside the school work you’ve been trying to get them to do all week and enjoy some family time – plus run off some of that pent up energy that’s been building up in a safe and socially-distanced way.
Or if you’re feeling exhausted, here are some creative ideas to keep them occupied indoors that require little to no energy on your part.
Eat well – and differently
Is your weekday breakfast porridge with banana? Change it up on the weekend and have scrambled eggs, instead. Or, just up your breakfast game in general to give yourself a weekend treat. Consider getting a takeaway on Friday or Saturday from a local restaurant if they’re offering them, seeing as you can’t go out to eat. Or cook your favourite dinner to mark the beginning of the weekend.
Perhaps you might spend longer on a recipe, says King, or tackle something new and challenging that might need more time.
Arrange to ‘meet up’ with your favourite people
Just because you can’t physically see these people doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see them – on screen. “Use your downtime to keep the relationships with your friends and family strong, for example by calling/video chatting with people you are currently unable to see in person,” says Frederika Roberts, a positive psychology author and The Happiness Speaker.
Have a Saturday morning coffee over Zoom, a Sunday brunch over FaceTime, or, if you’re tired of screentime, a phone call while you walk around the garden.
Take your favourite weekend activities online
It’s healthy to replicate your pre-Covid-19 weekend activities as much as you can. Usually head to the cinema? Have a film night at home with popcorn and your favourite film. You could watch with friends and get together to swap notes – the HuffPost UK Ents team are full of viewing and streaming ideas.
Or, do you usually head to a yoga or gym class on a Saturday morning? Get up at the same time and head to a quiet space in your flat or home where you can either do a live online class or follow a YouTube lesson. Here are our favourites.
Make a separate weekend and weekday list of “ideas” for things to do, adds King. “Creative ideas keep popping into my head,” she says, “so I have a list that I add to for things I could do on the week and weekend.”
The more creative and adaptable we are, the more we’re likely to enjoy our weekends. Are you doing anything differently that is sparking joy? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.