If you're dealing with anxiety, then I bet you're on the lookout for ways to better manage it, so you can start feeling more like yourself again. And that might mean talking to a therapist, chatting with friends, or even taking medication, if necessary. But did you know making a few small changes to your weekend routine can also help reduce anxiety?
That's because, "at its core, anxiety is fear about the future," Dr. Rachel O'Neill, a licensed professional clinical counselor and Talkspace Therapist, tells Bustle. And really, what better time to be present, and practice mindfulness, than on your days off?
But the weekend can also be your time to create a schedule, plan ahead, and establish a few anxiety-reducing habits. That might mean creating a plan for the week, taking time to unplug, or practicing a few healthy habits — such as meditation or yoga — that you can fall back on, if anxiety hits you midweek.
"Setting up a weekend routine helps put anxiety-reducing activities on autopilot," life well coach Sharon Roemmel, ACC, E-RYT, BSW tells Bustle. And, sometimes, "simply having a routine can help to reduce anxiety because you feel more in control of your time," she says. Here, a few small tweaks experts say you might want to make this weekend, so you can feel less anxious come Monday.
1Visualize What Monday Will Look Like
If you get the Sunday Scaries — you know, that intense feeling of anxiety on Sunday night, as you think about the week ahead — it can really help to visualize what your Monday morning might look like, and remind yourself that it doesn't have to be so bad.
"Find a comfortable space, take a few deep breaths, close your eyes, and see yourself walking into your place of work, visualize yourself greeting your colleagues, [and] getting settled into your day," Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, LMFT tells Bustle. "Visualize yourself feeling safe, productive, [and] valued at work." Imaging things going well can help lessen anxiety, as you go into the week.
2Make A Plan
Going into the week without a plan — or worse, without anything to look forward to — can seriously amp up anxiety. And that's because so much of anxiety often comes "down to feeling out of control, or feeling like we never have time for anything we enjoy," therapist Alex MacLellan, of Practical Anxiety Solutions, tells Bustle.
So, on Sunday night, sit down and map out your week. "Using a mobile calendar, plan in your working hours ... and then finally add in a couple of things you are going to enjoy doing like going to an interesting event or the cinema," MacLellan says. "Prioritizing some much-needed recuperation and enjoyable time during the week makes a massive difference to anxiety levels."
3Set Yourself Up For Success
To reduce anxiety throughout the week, you should consider planning meals and doing a few chores ahead of time. "Making a menu for the week or meal prepping can decrease anxiety during the work week," psychotherapist Janika Joyner, LCSW tells Bustle. Get a few groceries, do some meal prepping, or make a crockpot full of your favorite food, and that way you won't have to worry come Wednesday, when you're too tired to cook.
And the same is true for your clothes. Joyner says it can help ease anxiety if you select your outfits for the week, all in the name of decreasing the amount of time it will take to get ready. In doing so, you'll be lowering your stress levels, and effectively lowering your anxiety, too.
4Forget About It
Once you're finished visualizing your Monday and laying out your clothes, allow yourself to forget about the week ahead. "One of the biggest changes you can make is to adopt a present-focused mindset," O'Neill says. "So, instead of worrying about things that are days, or even weeks away, focusing on the present moment."
One way to do that is with meditation (which is mentioned below), but you can also simply remind yourself to stay present. "For example, if you catch yourself worrying about something in the future, simply telling yourself 'I’m going to enjoy the present moment' can be a great way to re-focus your attention."
5Meditate For Three Minutes
The idea of meditation can feel overwhelming if you think you have to sit there for an hour, with eyes closed and legs crossed. But really, just two or three minutes of mindfulness will do.
As therapist Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT says, "It helps keep you present and grounded in that moment, but people who consistently meditate daily (even just for two or three minutes a day) often start to become more mindful and notice the world around them on a deeper level." And that can definitely help reduce anxiety.
6Take Time To Disconnect
Tell your friends and family that you'll be unplugging for an hour (or an entire day) and then put your phone away. "Take some time away from your devices to allow yourself to recharge and start the new week with new energy," Christine Tolman, LPC, a Talkspace therapist, tells Bustle.
And consider putting your phone away when out socializing, too. "Being on your phone can take you out of the present moment and make it more difficult to feel connected to others around you." By doing so, you'll remain more mindful, which is a good habit to get into.
7Schedule An "Anxiety Hour"
It might sound counterintuitive, but giving yourself a scheduled chunk of time to sit with your anxiety can actually lessen it. As MacLellan says, "One of the best anxiety reducing tips I've come across is scheduling a time in the day to be anxious in. This is not usually when you are feeling anxious, so decide when that time of day would be, 7 p.m. for example, and when anxious moments occur write down the thought and the situation that caused it, and put it away in a little box or envelope. Later on, during your anxiety time, open that box and look at everything in it critically."
Here's why it works: "Writing it down and getting it out of your head instantly reduces how severe it feels, and delaying when you think about it gives you back some feeling of control," he says. "When people feel in control they feel less anxious."
8Stick To Your Usual Sleep Routine
The weekend may feel like a free-for-all when it comes to sleep. But you're really doing yourself a disservice if you stay up super late, or allow yourself to sleep in all day.
"Our sleep affects our hormone production and throwing off your sleep schedule over the weekend by more than an hour or two can leave you more anxious," Chicago-based clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky tells Bustle. So go out and have fun, but try to come home at a reasonable hour. And get up at your usual time, even if you're still tired.
9Don't Go Overboard With The Drinks
Yes, the weekend is the perfect time to time to go out drinking, or spend an evening sipping wine with friends. But did you know that alcohol can actually increase your anxiety? "Alcohol stimulates cortisol production, which will leave you anxious the next morning and possible for the next few days," Odessky says. "Limiting alcohol or abstaining over the weekend will take out that physiological trigger."
And the same may be true for caffeine for some people . "Even a cup of coffee a day can have a major effect on some people and you might not even realize how much it's affecting you until you go without," psychotherapist Brennan C. Mallonnee, LMHC, tells Bustle. "Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and therefore can mimic the central nervous system symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, jitters, etc.)." If you think alcohol and caffeine could be making your anxiety worse, try cutting back to see how you feel. And then carry the changes into your week.
10Forget About Work Emails
In order to feel less anxious in the week ahead, allow yourself the full weekend off, without checking work emails or listening to voicemails. "We need a work break to recharge and refuel, but with increased connectivity we may be working or increasingly attending to our work responsibilities during our time off," Odessky says. "Take a break from work emails for at least 24 hours every weekend."
11Get Some Fresh Air & Sunshine
While it's fine to spend a portion of your weekend sitting on the couch and watching your fave show, do make an effort to go outside, see the sun, and breathe in some fresh air.
"Fresh air makes a difference," psychotherapist Samantha Yerks, MSW LICSW LADC tells Bustle. "Being in the sun — especially for those in colder climates — improves exposure to vitamin D through sunlight. Most northern climates have lower levels of vitamin D, that can impact mental health, causing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Also, changing our environment can improve overall wellbeing because we are taking a moment to get out of our surroundings or our regular routine."
12Do Slow Yoga
As with meditation, you don't need to be a yoga master in order to reap the benefits. "Slow paced yoga will slow your heart rate down," Roemmel says. "Yoga massages your nervous and digestive systems in addition to effecting your muscles, circulation, endocrine, and respiratory systems. Depending upon your body, try child’s pose, a forward bend, legs up the wall, or corpse pose ... People will wonder what you did all weekend when you arrive with a smile on Monday. "
13Get Your Thoughts Out On Paper
Whether you're thinking about last week, or looking forward to the week ahead, jotting down some thoughts in a journal can help center your mind, slow your roll, and reduce anxiety.
"Journaling helps you acknowledge and release the thoughts that are causing anxiety," Roemmel says. "Having a place to download what’s been circulating in your head can help you enhance your awareness. From a place of awareness you have more options. For example, you might choose to focus on something uplifting or take an action."
It's all about making an effort to change how you think, slowing down, and establishing healthy routines. If you can take advantage of your weekend, and use it as a time of planning, rest, and relaxation, you should be able to sail through your week, anxiety-free.