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The Secret to More Refreshing Weekends Is the Exact Opposite of What You’d Expect

The counterintuitive truth according to experts: Too much rest can actually add to your stress.


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If you're feeling a bit burned out after a long, hard week, how do you recover over the weekend?

The first response for many is to kick back and relax with a Netflix marathon, a bit of Web browsing, or a good book. Whatever your preferred way to chill, most people agree that the antidote to stress is rest.

That might sound like the most natural thing in the world, but according to a clutch of experts, we're actually doing our psychological state harm by getting too much rest.

But wait, aren't we all crazy busy?

Your first response to that statement is probably disbelief. After all, we're all surrounded by people telling us how "crazy busy" they are all the time. But, as I've pointed out repeatedly, the startling fact, backed by research, is that these days, Americans, if anything, have more leisure time than previous generations. (All the complaining about busyness is probably just humble-bragging.)

So if we (mostly) all have adequate leisure time at our disposal, why do so many of us genuinely feel overwhelmed and burnt out? The problem, according to psychologist Tony Crabbe, isn't quantity. It's quality.

"Most of us are rubbish at using our leisure time."

"Most of us are rubbish at using our leisure time. We think of it as an opportunity to chill out and do nothing, typically from the comfort of our couches at home," he writes on Quartz. Instead, both ancient wisdom and modern psychology show that, when it comes to leisure, "the more you put into it, the more you get out of it."

What you need, if you really want to recharge, isn't a TV binge but an active hobby that absorbs all your attention. "As we immerse ourselves in real leisure, we take a break from busyness, and all thoughts of work and demands are abandoned. Engaging in challenging hobbies recharges us, and reduces our overall level of exhaustion," Crabbe says.

Getting up early to go mountain biking or volunteering on Saturday might sound exhausting, but Crabbe isn't the only expert claiming that these types of more demanding activities are ultimately more refreshing than lounging around in your pajamas. Time use expert Laura Vanderkam has argued basically the same thing.

"Other kinds of work--be it exercise, a creative hobby, hands-on parenting, or volunteering--will do more to preserve your zest for Monday's challenges than complete vegetation," she writes. In fact, she goes so far as to recommend that you should schedule several active "anchor events" each weekend if you want it to be maximally refreshing.

Time slows down when you're active.

There's another reason you might want to trade some of your couch time for more effortful pursuits, too: Doing so will make time appear to slow down, allowing you to relish your life more. As blog Science of Us recently reported, neuroscience shows that if you don't want your days to pass in a blur of indistinguishable memory mush, "the key is to seek out newness."

That applies both on the large scale (too much routine will make your life fly by) and also to shorter time periods, like the upcoming weekend. "If you really want to stretch every hour to its fullest potential, you're going to have to make some plans. A weekend getaway, for example, will seem much longer than a weekend spent at home. A weekend spent at home, if you spend it exploring new neighborhoods or trying new restaurants, will seem longer than one where you hole up in your apartment with a book," explains the post.

Keep one important caveat in mind, though: Exciting activities will de-stress and refresh you, as well as make time stretch out in retrospect, but when you're actually engaged in them, the minutes will fly by.

So what are you planning to do this weekend? Should you add an adventurous activity or two to your schedule?

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This post originally appeared on Inc. and was published June 2, 2017. This article is republished here with permission.

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