4 February 2024

Ten ways to beat stress in your time off

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family playing with a soccer ball in the park

Spending quality time with the family on the weekend is an excellent way to relieve Monday-to-Friday stress. Photo: iStock.

Travis Bradberry says proper management of your weekends is the best way of preventing stress building up during the week.

Stress has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, but how you respond is only half the battle.

The secret to winning the war against stress lies in what you do when you aren’t working (and presumably aren’t stressed).

While I have a hobby (surfing), it isn’t the antidote to stress you might think. Even if you have a hobby that you’re deeply passionate about, you probably aren’t going to spend more than 10 per cent of your time outside of work doing it. It’s what you do with the other 90 per cent that really matters.

You need to structure that 90 per cent wisely. Otherwise, you’ll fall into bad habits that can magnify your stress, rather than alleviate it. I structure my time by following 10 rules when I’m not working. My rules help me to shift gears to relaxing and rejuvenating activities during my time off. Try them and see if they help you to find balance.

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Disconnect: The most important strategy on this list, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work, then you’ve never really left it. If taking the entire weekend off handling work emails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking emails and responding to voicemails. Scheduling short blocks of time will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.

Minimise chores: Chores tend to monopolise your free time. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.

Exercise: No time to exercise during the week? You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. I know that a lot of my best ideas come to me while I’m surfing. While you’re out in the ocean, the combination of invigorating activity and beautiful scenery creates the perfect environment for an influx of creativity. Whether you’re running, cycling or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fuelled introspection.

Pursue a passion: Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing catch with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap dividends over the coming week.

Spend quality time with family: Essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favourite restaurant, and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.

Schedule micro-adventures: Buy tickets to a concert or play, or get reservations for that cool new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable.

Wake up at the same time: It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm (and can aggravate depression). Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready). When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. If you need to catch up on sleep, go to bed earlier.

Reflect: Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organisation, and your job. Without the distractions of Monday-to-Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

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Designate mornings as ”me time”: Finding a way to engage in an activity you’re passionate about first thing in the morning can pay massive dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. Your mind achieves peak performance two to four hours after you wake up, so get up
early to do something physical, and then sit down and engage in something mental while your mind is at its peak.

Prepare for the coming week: As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is its execution.

Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart. His books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com. This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website.

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