This is why your weekends feel shorter at the moment

Monday again. How are we already here?

The weekend seemed to pass by in a flash – a whirlwind of socialising, chores, exercising, catching up on our hobbies – and we’re right back at work again before we’ve had time to catch our breath.

Of course, it’s always going to feel as though we don’t have quite enough free time to do whatever we want.

Existing in a capitalist society means that most of us have to spend an enormous proportion of our time working in order to pay our rent or mortgage, pay our bills, and pay for food and groceries.

That can leave you feeling pretty stretched, but something seems to have shifted in recent months, with more people reporting that the weekend feels shorter than ever.

‘These two day weekends are starting to feel like thirty minute lunch breaks,’ wrote one Twitter user – and people are relating. Hard.

Maybe it’s an after-effect of the pandemic, or an impact of starting to socialise again after a long period, but these two-day weekends just aren’t quite doing it for us any more.

‘Coming out of lockdown has been a big change for most people, as the unusual circumstances became a new normal for most,’ Rebecca Lockwood, psychology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘With these restrictions lifting, it has created a big change in most people’s lives, relationships and in routines. This has naturally created some panic, anxiety and unwanted emotions for a lot of people because it has caused a lot of people to feel like they have missed out on things during lockdown, or they are now feeling like there is a rush to “catch up” from what has been lost.

‘This may feel like time is going quicker than usual as we are trying to pack more into our days.’

Is it any wonder our weekends feel shorter than they did over the last 18 months?

For large portions of the pandemic, all we could do was go for walks, watch Netflix and make sourdough. The hours stretched out before us and boredom was our biggest concern.

In the blink of an eye we have reverted to the opposite – jam-packed social calendars and plans coming out of our ears.

It can make you feel like you don’t have enough time to recover and rest, particularly if you have gone back to commuting and your working days are now longer than when you were working from home.

‘When we find ourselves in our comfort zones, most people like to stay there as it’s normal, it’s routine and it’s seen as a safe place to stay,’ explains Rebecca.

‘Staying at home and having created a new routine has turned into the new normal and in the new comfort zone. When we start to move out of our comfort zones it causes the feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and overwhelm.

‘This is what we all experienced at the beginning of lockdown, and now it will be having the reverse effect when we come out of lockdown because it has been on going for so long.’

Sarah Cannon, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at Living Well UK adds: ‘A lot of us have returned to the office for work, which has left less time in the week than we may have been used to throughout the lockdowns to pursue our usual activities. This has left us trying to fit a lot more of these activities in during the weekends instead.’

Sarah adds that the weather isn’t helping, either.

‘Adding to this, as we head into the winter months, we’re seeing that the nights have also started to draw in and our days as a whole feel shorter as our exposure to daylight reduces at this time of year too,’ she says.

‘A reduction in our exposure to daylight might also impact on our sleep and wake cycle, causing us to feel more tired and impacting on our ability to feel able to cope with daily demands.’

In fact, the shock of coming out of lockdown is so severe for some that it manifests as a form of stress disorder, coined Post Pandemic Stress Disorder by some mental health experts.

How to tell if you may have Post Pandemic Stress Disorder

If you notice either new or worsening symptoms in the following areas since the pandemic, then it is possible some degree of trauma may be present:

  • Increased levels of anxiety
  • Variations in mood
  • Sleep issues
  • Nightmares
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of pandemic/lockdowns
  • Feeling on guard on constantly vigilant about future pandemics or recurrences of Covid-19
  • Intrusive type thoughts about your pandemic experiences

If you are at all worried about your mental health, or if you’re experiencing the above symptoms, talk to your GP or a mental health specialist.

There are a number of mental illnesses that can cause these kinds of symptoms.

So, if you feel overwhelmed and exhausted because you don’t seem to have enough time at the weekends – what can you do about it?

You can’t shoehorn more hours into the day, and you probably don’t want to isolate yourself at home again after almost two years of enforced lockdown. But Rebecca has some handy strategies.

‘Don’t feel the need to rush into seeing people,’ she suggests.

‘It has been some time since we have been able to see our friends and family, so this may create this notion of a rush into seeing people again every weekend because it is possible to do so. But, just because it is possible, it doesn’t mean you should rush into seeing as many people as you can if you do not feel like doing so.

‘You may be really excited to see people, which is brilliant, however not everyone will feel this way. I suggest not getting caught up in a rush to plan things if you do not feel like it. Be aware of your energy.

‘Some people get their energy from being around others and some people get their energy from being alone. Be aware of where you get your energy from as this will really help you to understand your personality type and help you to avoid social burnout.’

Rebecca also suggests that creating boundaries for yourself is really important, and can help you claim back vital time for yourself.

‘When you know your personality type and where you get your energy from, you can place boundaries in place for yourself to ensure you are filling your energy up in the way that suits you best,’ she says.

As more of us react against ‘hustle culture’ and society’s obsession with busyness, we are looking for more ways to slow our lives down, reclaim our time, and get serious about self-care.

If you find yourself feeling exhausted and disorientated on Monday mornings, it might be time to dial back your weekend plans, and try to make your time off feel a little more restful.

How to make the most of your weekend

Here are Sarah’s three top tips for making the most of your time:

Prioritise sleep 
When we feel rushed, we can often end up going to bed later and later to fit more things into our day. However, this actually goes against us in the long-run.

That’s because the better rested we are, the more energy we will have to be present in our weekends and do the activities that are important to us. 

Make a plan based on your priorities and what is important to you 
A lot of us view routine as something kept to the week but planning how we want to spend our free time at the weekend can be just as important. This might involve setting aside a specific time to sit down and read your favourite book, or planning time to go out with friends or family.

Be realistic with the time that you do have. This may mean saying “no” to certain things this week. However, remember if you are saying “no” to one thing, this will mean you are saying “yes” to something else, which could be more restorative and relaxing.

Practice mindfulness 
Try paying attention to the present moment and recognising your thoughts and feelings. If you notice you are feeling rushed or overwhelmed, pause, take a couple of deep breaths and focus on your senses; something you can see, smell, touch, hear, and maybe taste.

Bringing awareness to the present moment can help to reduce these feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, and give us the opportunity to appreciate what it is we are doing in that given moment.

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