The vast majority of us are spending most of our time at home right now because of COVID-19, but prior to being sheltered in place, a lot of us spent our weekends socializing and exploring—brunch with family, date nights, shopping, hiking with friends were all the norm. Right now, none of that is possible.
But just because we’re staying home doesn’t mean we can’t still have wonderful days, and the weekdays and weekends don’t have to blur together—you can create a distinction that makes Saturdays and Sundays feel both fresh and invigorating.
Here’s our guide to having the perfect weekend day in quarantine from wakeup until bedtime.
Wake up naturally.
Although you might feel pressured to be productive during the pandemic, there’s no need to set an alarm on the weekend. When you use an alarm clock to wake up, you’re often interrupted from a deep sleep, which can leave you feeling irritable and groggy. But when you wake up naturally, you’re letting your circadian rhythm run its regular course. You’ll feel more energized and ready to conquer the day ahead.
Treat yourself to a warm cup of coffee.
In reasonable doses, caffeine has several health benefits. Not only do moderate coffee drinkers (defined as drinking three to four cups a day) have longer lifespans, but they also have a reduced likelihood of developing medical conditions like Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So jumpstart your day with a guilt-free cup of Joe—or two.
Not a coffee drinker? Try one of these four energizing drinks instead.
Dig in to a hearty, protein-rich breakfast.
You’ve likely heard countless people tout the benefits of eating a big, healthy breakfast. They’re all on point—research has shown eating breakfast makes you less likely to be overweight, plus it helps you concentrate and enhances your memory.
Start with something high in protein and nutrients and low in carbs. Think an egg white omelet with veggies and cheese or a fruit smoothie with a slice of avocado toast.
Limit your technology use.
If you’re working from home during the pandemic, you likely spend countless hours hunched over your laptop or smartphone responding to emails and dialing in to Zoom calls.
Take a technology break during the weekend. Your eyes likely need rest from all of the blue light emitted from your devices. Plus, it’ll feel good to detach from the near-constant news and social media updates for a bit.
Learn something new (but don’t feel pressured to).
Most of us have more free time on our hands now. Instead of succumbing to hours-long Netflix binges, considering spending 30 minutes or an hour over the weekend learning something new. After all, the positive effects of learning on our brains are well-documented. Try your hand at cross-stitching or knitting. Plant a garden. Watch a MasterClass. Learn conversational French.
Remember, though: You shouldn’t feel pressured to be as productive as humanly possible during the pandemic. If you’re already busy with work, childcare and other tasks, and the thought of learning something new causes you stress, don’t worry about it. Spend time doing something you love that relaxes you instead, like reading, playing video games, crafting or watching a movie. Mental health matters more than productivity right now.
Get a dose of socialization in.
Being sheltered in place can feel incredibly isolating, especially if you live alone. Human beings are social creatures, and we’re not meant to spend this much time apart from one another. Although the research in this area is still nascent, experts strongly believe this level of isolation is bad for both our mental and physical health. (Research suggests it’s particularly hard on the elderly, so make sure you’re checking in on older family members.)
Use the weekend to get some virtual socialization in. Set up a Zoom conference call with your best friends. Call your sister while you’re on a walk outside. Text a few friends you haven’t spoken with in a while to see how they’ve been. Even if you don’t feel like making the effort at the time, you’ll likely feel much better afterward.
Go for a stroll outside.
We can’t visit restaurants, movie theaters, shops, museums, bars or anywhere else we typically go on the weekends. But luckily, we can spend time outdoors—as long as we’re six feet away from one another, of course.
The benefits of spending time in nature are significant. So significant, in fact, that doctors have begun writing “park prescriptions” in which they advise people with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions to spend time outdoors. Plus, a little Vitamin D never hurt anyone.
If your state’s parks are open, spend an hour or two going for a long stroll in one. If you live somewhere where they’re closed, a simple walk around the neighborhood will do. If it’s raining or bleak outside, bring nature to you—sit close to a window while reading or buy a few houseplants online to brighten up your space.
Burn some calories.
If you decided to take a long, strenuous hike outdoors, congratulations—you’ve checked two items off of this list. If your walk didn’t get your heart rate up, it’s time to burn some calories. Exercise releases endorphins—natural feel-good hormones—which is particularly important right now.
Go for a light jog, ride your bike, or stream a YouTube dance, yoga or aerobic video to get your heart pumping.
Wave at your neighbors.
Research has shown weak-tie connections—think grocery store clerks, yoga instructors and baristas—are just as important to our well-being as strong-tie connections like our family members and friends. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated most, if not all, of our weak-tie connections.
When you do venture out into the world, remember these connections. Wave at your neighbor from your porch. Ask the grocery store cashier about his or her day. Thank the drive-thru attendant for their kindness and service during this time.
Eat an early dinner.
Although you might be accustomed to eating dinner at 7 or 8 p.m., there are countless benefits to eating dinner early. One big one? You’ll likely sleep better because your digestive system has had hours to break down your food by the time you hit the sack. Don’t be afraid to indulge in an early bird special—your body will thank you later.
Take a deep breath.
Most of us have struggled with anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness or fear at some point during the pandemic. One great way to combat spiraling emotions is through meditation. If you’re a beginner, try mindfulness meditation, which involves relaxing your mind by honing in on the present moment.
Sit in a quiet room. Focus on your breath and bodily sensations. Whenever you feel intrusive or judgmental thoughts enter your brain, acknowledge them, let them pass, and then refocus on your breathing. (Here’s a helpful guide to get started.)
It can be hard to feel grateful right now. We’re in the midst of an unprecedented time. We’re not sure how the next week, month or even year will pan out.
One way to combat the uncertainty and fear is through gratitude. Before going to bed, make a list of three things you’re grateful for, whether it’s a stable job, the health of your family or simply a cozy space to call home. Refer to this list whenever you need an emotional boost.
Think about the day ahead.
Another way to cope with the immense uncertainty we’re all dealing with is to think about what you’ll accomplish the following day. Make a list of any must-do activities and think about how you’d like to spend your free time. This little bit of planning will prime you for the day ahead.
Photo by @justingovender_/Twenty20.com
Jamie Friedlander is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former features editor of SUCCESS magazine. Her work has been published in The Cut, VICE, Inc., The Chicago Tribune and Business Insider, among other publications. When she's not writing, she can usually be found drinking matcha tea into excess, traveling somewhere new with her husband or surfing Etsy late into the night.