Does the following scenario sound like an all-too-familiar weekly routine for you?
After a long and stressful workweek and Friday approaches—and finally arrives—you feel a palpable, positive shift in your overall sense of mental well-being. Your mood lifts, your outlook on life and the world improves, it’s almost as if you’re a completely new person, just in time for the weekend!
And then…Sunday hits and you’re faced with the notion of another workweek. Sunday morning may start out fine, but as the day wears on your thoughts turn to Monday, and all of the things waiting for you at work—the tasks, the meetings, the stress. And suddenly, your new outlook on life isn’t so new and improved anymore, and starts to revert to your usual, not-so-positive workweek mode.
This might perfectly encapsulate this week for you, or last week, or any other workweek that you can conjure up in your memory. And trust us, if this sounds like you then rest assured that you’re not alone. There’s even a term for this—the weekend effect—and it’s a common phenomenon afflicting countless workers across industries and jobs. It can have a wide range of negative consequences on your professional and personal life, beyond ruining at least half of your weekend!
Are you a victim of the weekend effect? Why does this happen? Is there any way to fight it? Great questions! If you’re eager to learn more and discover some helpful strategies for freeing yourself from the dreaded weekend effect, then keep reading!
Causes of the weekend effect
Okay, so now we know that lots of people, regardless of where they’re at in their lives or careers, suffer from the weekend effect. But where does it come from? The weekend effect directly stems from how you perceive your current job. All of the elements of your job factor into this equation—your current position in relation to your overall career aspirations, your job role and responsibilities, your physical workspace, your perception of your coworkers and feelings about your boss, even your thoughts about your daily commute enter into the mix.
If you’re looking to diagnose yourself to determine if you’re a victim of the weekend effect, first take a careful mental inventory of your thoughts on all of the above job-related items. This only works if you’re completely honest, so make sure you pull no punches while taking stock of your work feelings.
You should also check your physiological reactions when thoughts of work enter your mind. Does your pulse quicken and blood pressure rise? Is a headache or slow churning in the pit of your stomach never far off when you start focusing on your work life? Do you feel a surge of negative thoughts and emotions take hold when thinking about your average work day or week?
A great way to figure out if you’re the victim of the weekend effect is to take a daily mental inventory across an entire workweek, and look for trends. Do negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical symptoms worsen at the beginning of the week and gradually ebb as the weekend approaches? Do your friends, family, or colleagues notice concerning trends in your behavior or mood based on the day of the week?
Does this pattern seem to repeat itself every week? If so, then you may be caught in a vicious “weekend effect cycle,” and despite its relatively harmless-sounding name it can have a tangible, measurable, and harmful effect on your life—everything from your work performance and interactions with coworkers to your personal pursuits and relationships outside of work can suffer. Even your physical health isn’t safe from its effects!
If you think you’re a victim of the weekend effect, you have every reason to take things seriously and take matters into your own hands in an effort to escape this. Keep reading for some helpful strategies for freeing yourself from this vicious cycle!
How to combat the weekend effect
A great strategy for combating the weekend effect is to attack it at its roots. According to a recent report by Psychology Today, the key causes of the weekend effect are a perceived lack of workplace autonomy, a disinterest in work activities, a disconnection from professional responsibilities and relationships, and feelings of a general lack of competency on the job, whether real or imagined.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, make a real effort towards positive change in these areas. Overhauling your entire work life all at once may seem daunting, but small, positive steps and incremental change can make a world of difference. Consider the following approaches to help fight the dreaded weekend effect.
Focus on the positive
Sure, there are things at work that bring out negative feeling and emotions, we all have them, but the key is to try not to let them take over your thoughts completely. Try making a list of things that you feel positive about regarding your current work situation, and set your focus there. It can contain things that are large (like one of your primary work responsibilities) or relatively small (maybe you like the fact that your desk is by a window with a nice view?). Some people find that just being appreciative that they even have a job in a tough job market helps them through stressful times. The list itself doesn’t have to be particularly long, the only criteria is that it contains items that elicit positive feeling and emotions. Once you have your list, make sure to turn to it whenever your thoughts about work start to turn negative, and hopefully you’ll start seeing a shift in how the idea of work makes you feel.
Change what you can
This might seem obvious, but so many of us have become so good at putting off making positive change in our lives, and accepting a less positive version of reality, that it really bears mentioning. You know all of the things that make you feel angry, frustrated, and negative when it comes to your work world, and the truth is that some of those things aren’t in our immediate power to change (if only we were able to choose our bosses…). That said, there are certainly things at work that bother us that we can change, and these are the things you should focus your energy and effort on. We suggest you start small. Decorate your workspace so that it’s more cheerful. Try improving your communication and relationship with at least one colleague each week. Take regular breaks during the day (but don’t overdo it!) in an effort to combat burnout. You’ll soon start seeing a wave of positive work-related feelings wash over you. Then take on larger things, like those work responsibilities that you consistently dread or your interactions with your boss. Remember—every positive step you make involving work, no matter how small, will help keep the weekend effect at bay.
Focus on the fundamentals
another obvious one, perhaps, but many people don’t seem to “connect the dots” between living a healthy life and having a positive relationship with our jobs. Taking care of the fundamentals—getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in plenty of exercise—will not only improve the quality of our personal lives, it will also help make us happier and more productive employees. Trust us on this one.
If all else fails—life is short, and none of us get an unlimited supply of weekends to stress out through. If you just can’t seem to shake the weekend effect, consider making a job or career change. We’re not endorsing anything impulsive, but it couldn’t hurt to start making plans for a future shift—sometimes the simple act of setting a new goal, no matter how far off the finish line is, can bring about a wave of positive feelings to help combat the weekend effect.
Say goodbye to the weekend effect!
Now that you know what the weekend effect is, and whether or not you’re among its unfortunate victims, you can start working towards eradicating it. Use the strategies mentioned here and take back control of your weekends.