FROM THE EDITOR
Forget the Monday blues – some of us are dreading our time off, as Charmaine Yabsley discovers
“I didn’t sleep last night” – a phrase I often find myself saying, and hearing from friends and colleagues. The truth is, we probably did. Sure, it may not have been the full eight hours of shut- eye, but we likely had a couple of hours here and there. And according to the latest thinking, that may be fine.
Our report on page 14 investigates whether the best way to treat insomnia is to just, well, ignore it. Experts claim that worrying about achieving the elusive eight hours is making things worse and, in fact, many of us aren’t wired to get that volume of sleep. It’s a fascinating theory, especially as more than three quarters of Aussies admit to worrying about sleep at least some of the time.
Another thing we’re increasingly worrying about is our weekends. It seems that the classic ‘Sunday night dread’ is being replaced by a fear of our time off. With so much to pack into 48 hours we’re beating ourselves up for failing to tick it all off. Sound familiar?
H ow was your weekend? It’s the typical question you might ask friends and colleagues on a Monday morning, but for some, their response to this generic enquiry may be an indicator of emotional health issues. “Weekend Anxiety Syndrome (WAS) appears to be anxiety that’s related to the repeated failure to do everything you want to do or feel you must do at the weekend,” Catherine Madigan, clinical psychologist at Anxiety Treatment Australia, says.
“Weekend anxiety may indicate you’re used to a controlling environment at work”
Dr Luke Martin, clinical psychologist and project manager at Beyondblue, agrees and believes WAS may be a side effect of modern life. “We’re so time poor, there’s a lot of pressure to get our weekends right,” he says. “On social media, everyone lives the perfect, busy life, so it’s easy to think there’s something wrong if your life doesn’t measure up. On Monday, when everyone’s comparing notes from the weekend, and you feel like yours doesn’t measure up, then your body doesn’t like that, which can cause anxiety.”
CURSE OF THE WORKAHOLIC
Ironically, it’s those who work too hard during the week who are more likely to be afflicted by this syndrome. “Weekend anxiety may be an indication that you’re used to a controlled or controlling environment at work. And it’s easier to manage anxiety under these conditions,” Martin says.
Plus, perfectionists or those who are immensely busy during the week may be using their crammed calendars to cope with generalised anxiety.
“Being faced with free time on the weekend can be anxiety-producing as they want distractions from their worries,” Madigan says. “Monday to Friday worriers who work may have a fixed routine that helps them feel in control and less anxious. On the weekend they may find they’re being invited by friends or family to do new and spontaneous things, which they perceive as threatening. Worriers may also engage in a frenzy of activity to avoid thinking about their concerns instead of getting rest and relaxation.”
TURN IT AROUND
The key to tackling WAS is to learn how to make the most of your weekends. If you find that you feel best under a controlled or planned calendar, then continue this, albeit loosely, into your time off. “If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a blank page on Saturday morning, bring a little structure to your days off,” Martin says. “Make plans in line with what you value: Think about what book you’re going to read, who you’re going to meet for coffee, which movie you’re going to see, or when you’re going to exercise.”
Spending time in nature, doing some yoga, meditating or breathing exercises can also help. “Follow your curiosity and do things that interest you,” Martin says. “That way the weekend is made up of mini-moments, small things that make a big difference to your health. You don’t have to spend the weekend jumping out of a plane – it’s about getting the balance right. Sometimes your weekends will be busy, other times quiet; that’s the normal pattern. What’s important is that you use this time to recharge from the week and get ready for the week ahead.” If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, call Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.