Q: I’m happy to have my job and I don’t really have anything bad to say about my coworkers or my position. But still, there are people and situations at work that can be really draining on me. As an introvert, by the time Friday rolls around, I can’t wait to walk through the front door of my apartment. 

But once I kick off my shoes and sit down on the couch, it’s like I can’t focus on what I’d actually like to do with my weekend. Sometimes I have plans, but it seems like I spend most Friday nights on the couch, split between absent-mindedly scrolling through my phone and binge-watching a series on Netflix or Hulu. It’s almost as though I’m subconsciously still thinking about work, and it keeps me from actually enjoying myself. 

Basically, I never really feel like I’m actually relaxing, and then Monday morning hits and it starts all over again. How can I actually relax on the weekends?

A: For some people, not being able to relax when they get home from work is an indication of burnout, or pent-up work-related stress or anxiety. On top of that, spending your hard-earned weekends dreading the inevitable return to work is not going to help you recharge your professional batteries. For introverts especially, having time to recharge is absolutely essential.

If you’re feeling like you can’t relax at home, then you’re probably not relaxed at work, either—and then you run the risk of chronic fatigue or anxiety. When these symptoms stick around long-term, we’re far more likely to become irritable or anxious in social environments—which our jobs definitely are. Evidence suggests that we may learn to tolerate chronic anxiety, and it becomes something we ignore. So if doomscrolling while half-heartedly watching TV is a habit, you may have anxious thoughts and feelings that you’ve learned to suppress with these activities.

You may benefit from prioritizing self-care on your weekends, and structuring your time better, while also implementing some more effective coping methods for dealing with chronic work-related anxiety or stress. Think of your Friday night as a buffer between your work week and your weekend; it’s the perfect time to prep yourself for a stress-free Saturday and Sunday. 

For example: 

  • Start avoiding your typical weekend routine as soon as you come home Friday. Choose activities that will help you work through your work-related anxiety and stress—as soon as you get home. Pent-up feelings can be released with a quick meditation, cup of tea, or journal entry. They’re also more effective coping strategies than temporarily distracting yourself with a show or social app. 
  • Say no to extra commitments that will leave you feeling even more drained. We’re all guilty of committing to an activity or event because we felt obligated to say yes. In some circumstances, we may have weekend commitments that we regret; in other situations, saying no is perfectly okay. 
  • Try unplugging for at least 24 hours (either Saturday or Sunday). This has proven benefits. Give yourself a break from the coping mechanisms (being your apps and the TV) that aren’t working for you. Spend that time outdoors for a cognitive reset, dive back into an old hobby, or even catch up on some much-needed sleep. 
  • Dive deeper with a therapist or counselor to talk about the work-related anxiety you’re facing. The first step is recognizing there’s a problem with your persistent anxiety, but the next step (if you’re feeling overwhelmed) is to get a professional’s assistance. A counselor or therapist could not only shorten the amount of time you spend battling your work-related anxiety; they could also help you learn to avoid the same harmful thought patterns in the future. 

Separating work from your home life may seem like no easy task, but it’s necessary in order for you to preserve a sense of balance and well-being. Any type of career requires a marathon mindset—in which we prioritize our personal time as much as our professional development