Reclaim Your Weekends!

“I ran across this blog and liked it. The word “Sabbath” means rest and I liked what Martha White had to say about reclaiming your weekend.”

These four activities can turn two days off into rejuvenating mini-vacations that ease the Sunday-night blues.

Do you spend your Sunday evenings feeling tired and dreading the coming workweek? Welcome to the club. More than three-quarters of us suffer from Sunday-night blues as we face returning to the office, a poll from Monster.com found. One key reason, experts say: our lack of a mental “reset” during the weekends. For example, more than a third of working parents report checking work email “Often or constantly” on their days off, according to the American Psychological Association. The failure to take a break is bad for your body, mental health, family, and even career, says Katrina Onstad, author of The Weekend Effect: The Life –Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork. “Most people find their good ideas and have their epiphanies during down time,” she notes.

Luckily, there are solutions. Here are four techniques to turn your weekends into rejuvenating breaks, recommended by Onstad and other experts:

Turn Off Your Phone. You need to fully unplug to really unwind, Onstad says. Worried that could hurt your career? Lots of successful people – such as Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and TV producer Shonda Rhimes – avoid answering work emails on weekends. So you can probably ignore your in-box too.

Go Outside. Spending time in nature elevates your mood, improves concentration, and boosts disease-fighting vitamin D. Better yet: exercising outdoors. Researchers at the University of Essex in Britain found that while exercise in any setting improved fitness, the same routine performed outside made people happier and more energized. “All ages, genders, and social classes respond positively to green exercise,” they conclude.

Hang with Friends. Research increasingly shows that friendships are key to our well-0being. “Times spent with friends are associated with a better mood and we know that defends against stress,” says William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and author of a recent study on the subject. “In some ways, it’s a real escape.”

Do Good Deeds. A survey from HR consulting firm Robert Half found that more than 60% of workers who volunteer regularly say that doing so enhances their well-being. “Everyone wants to do things they’re passionate about,” notes Andy Decker, regional president at Robert Half. Unfortunately, our everyday jobs don’t always afford us that opportunity.

Volunteering can also help your career, since it builds skills and networks, Decker adds. So who knows, maybe having more fun on the weekends can help you land a job you look forward to on Sunday nights.

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Martha C. White

Martha C. White writes about consumer credit, debt and retail banking for TIME.com and previously contributed to AOL's WalletPop.com. She has written about business, finance and the economy for outlets including Slate, the New York Times, MSNBC.com and Fast Company.

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