We spend so much time thinking about how to get ahead in our careers, but it’s important to also reflect on how to improve life outside of work. What does Friday night mean to you? Do you collapse on the couch, or do you feel obligated to go for office drinks? Many of us struggle to maintain a boundary between our work lives and our personal lives, so a lot of people spend their weekend eve trying desperately to de-stress after an intense week of work.
It’s important to avoid office burnout, which is why it’s essential you use your days off to relax, unwind, and spend time on the things that really matter to you. Friday night sets the tone for the rest of the weekend! We’ve taken the stress out of figuring out how to spend your down time by compiling these suggestions.
A change is as good as a holiday
Perhaps the best rule of thumb for Friday night is to avoid doing the same thing you always do. Even if you love that thing. For instance, if you always drive home, order takeaway and watch four episodes of your favourite TV show, try to break that habit once in a while.
Although structure and routine is comforting, it’s also important to disrupt routine to avoid boredom. Try cooking something you’ve never made before! Or head out to see a concert or a movie. If you’re saving your pennies there are free galleries in every major city (and many towns). Here are lists of incredible galleries open to the public in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. Or find out if there’s a local venue near you that hosts live music on Friday night!
I’ve previously written about why exercise is so important for your brain. There are ways to stay active while in the office, and I can highly recommend a Friday night gym class to get your endorphins pumping. But you don’t have to burn hundreds of calories to clear your head. There is nothing quite like simply being outside.
Poets have long been fascinated with the restorative power of nature—actually, a peaceful way to spend Friday night would be to read some of the most famous examples here—but scientists also vouch for the health benefits of getting amongst nature. After analysing data from over 140 studies involving more than 290 million people, Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School says, "We found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.”
In the warmer months you could organise a BBQ in the park, and when the weather cools down simply going for a walk somewhere leafy and green can be wonderfully rejuvenating after a hectic week.
Connect with loved ones
Try to think of meaningful ways to spend time with friends or family. You could start a book or film club that meets on the first Friday night of the month, or commit to learning a new skill together. Humans are inherently social creatures, and in her article for the Guardian Jenny Stevens quotes a multitude of experts who all agree that face-to-face social interaction is vital to our mental and physical health. So, while you may be feeling run down at the end of the week, arranging to spend quality time with people you care about will improve your overall wellbeing.
Work on your passion project
The conventional working week is changing, as is our notion of what it means to have a career. Employers are increasingly offering their employees more flexibility in terms of where and how much they work. Many full-time workers are also juggling a side hustle, be that study, a hobby or an exciting business venture.
If you’re feeling dissatisfied or underwhelmed at the end of the working week, try putting your brain to use doing something that engages or challenges you. Is there a small business you’ve been dreaming of starting, or a job you’ve always wanted? The process of getting qualified can be incredibly rewarding in itself, because our brains actually want to be challenged.
Have you heard the phrase ‘use it or lose it’? Dr Dean Sherzai and Dr Ayesha Sherzai explain that undertaking a course of adult education improves mental wellbeing and maintains cognitive function because “…learning involves the memory centres (memorising new words and concepts), processing (understanding multi-step thinking), as well as problem-solving (applying new theories to find solutions).”
Whatever you do, don’t overthink it. If you listen to the little voice in your head it’ll tell you exactly what how you want to use your free time, and the answer might surprise you.