For­get the Mon­day blues – some of us are dread­ing our time off, as Char­maine Yab­s­ley dis­cov­ers

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - NEWS - – ELIN TOUGH

“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.”


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.”


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.

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