It used to be my favorite day of the week. I’d sleep late, linger over breakfast and a second cup of tea or coffee, maybe catch up on cleaning and laundry, run some errands…no rushing, no agenda, no demands.
Those were the days before Saturday Anxiety.
Like a lot of other fears which the reality (and hormones) of becoming a mother brought to the surface in my life, Saturday Anxiety took what had been an enjoyable part of my week and turned it into something that brought me stress and turmoil. Where once I found Saturday to be relaxing and refreshing, now I found myself always out of sorts, unsettled, discontent. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to keep it at bay, the overwhelm and angst would push into my day uninvited, more often than not causing me to fight with my husband, almost weekly leaving me in tears.
It took me forever to figure out how to deal with it, because for the longest time, I didn’t even know what it was. Something I’ve learned about anxiety over the past three years: while you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to get a handle on what’s actually happening. But as I’ve come to understand and name that shaky-on-the-inside feeling for what it is, I’ve been better able to pinpoint when it’s coming on and figure out strategies to keep it from ruling my life.
I must manage my expectations.
My first issue: every Saturday I was suffering from an Expectation Hangover. I thought Saturday should look the way it always did, back when I was single, or before we had Abby. But my reality today is very different. Back then, there was no agenda and no demands because no one was dependent on me. Now someone is. She needs me to feed her, and play with her, keep her safe and occupied. It won’t always be this way, but for now it is. So, if I go into Saturday expecting to be able to sit and relax for hours at a time, when she has a need (and she will, duh) I irrationally perceive it as an interruption. After two or three such instances, I become frustrated, and the frustration spirals. But the issue isn’t that my child needs me, it’s that my mindset is wrong. My expectation is not realistic. Recognizing and accepting this is the first step in quashing my Saturday Anxiety.
In my “regular” life (ie. Monday – Friday), I’ve found that structure combats anxiety. Implementing schedules and routines for Abby and for myself has gone a long way toward helping me get a handle on my stress. But because of my personality and tendencies (Obliger, Enneagram 9) I hate conflict and usually default with making others happy. This means that for Saturdays, I also need to know what my husband expects. Is he planning on having a busy, productive day where he tackles a project? Or does he plan to rest and relax? Having a huge open day with no structure, but knowing he could spring a project or trip to the store on me at any moment left me constantly on edge. I didn’t want to start my own project for fear I’d have to stop in the middle, and so I’d spend the day in limbo. He was oblivious to all of this, of course, until I explained how I was feeling. (And not in an “ugh, men are so clueless” way…in a “my husband is not a mindreader” way.)
Now, a simple, “what do you want to do tomorrow?” on Friday helps me mentally prepare for the day ahead. This doesn’t mean that things never change last minute, but when my overall anxiety level is lowered, I’m better able to roll with those changes as they come.
I must meet the demands of the day.
Knowing that the day will hold responsibilities and demands that my old Saturdays didn’t, I now need to get out of bed ready to face the day. Usually this means I need to set an alarm and get up early like I do on a regular week day, so I have time to wake up slowly and prepare for Abby to wake up. (Sidenote: This is a crucial piece of my daily routine, but I fought it for a long time. I can only say, if you’re struggling with getting the day going, but you think you need every minute of sleep you can get, try this and see if it doesn’t help.)
Sometimes I do sleep until she’s awake, but on those occasions, I have to remind myself that making the choice to sleep in doesn’t give me permission to be grouchy and short with her when she tries to talk to me before I’m ready.
I also need to get dressed, and go through the other steps in my regular routine: make the bed, put in my contacts, feed the cat. There are still dishes to do on Saturday. There is still laundry that can be accomplished. We might need groceries. Dave might need help with his Sunday School lesson. I need to be on the lookout for things I can be doing to make the day run smoothly so I’m not standing over a sink full of dishes at 9:00 pm, tired and already feeling behind for Sunday.
If I view all these tasks as ways I’m making our lives easier, rather than intrusions into my day off, I don’t get the bad attitude that used to be the norm.
I must choose joy.
For every day of the week, this is the reminder I forget the easiest, but it’s the most powerful when I can reign in my thoughts and make it happen. I have to remind myself that being grouchy and upset when things don’t go my way is a choice that I make, and I have every right, as well as the ability through the Spirit of God in me, to make a different choice.
I choose joy by choosing to watch my thoughts. When I first started practicing this, early in my marriage, I was astonished at what I discovered. The phrases I repeated to myself throughout the day, “I’m so tired,” “I’m so frustrated,” or “This day is terrible,” had become the default background noise in my head, even when I could objectively see that they were absolutely untrue.
I am still learning what it means to take every thought captive, but I know that the first step is paying attention to what those thoughts are. Because they make a huge difference. When I can grab an errant thought, look it in the eye, and speak the truth instead, I make huge strides in choosing joy, and beating that Saturday Anxiety back into it’s hidey-hole.
I heard this quote recently on The Lazy Genius podcast, and I felt like it pinpointed the heart of my Saturday Anxiety issue. I was trying to make Saturday a day of total rest, when my actual life circumstances call for it to be a “work” day.
Now, we aren’t strict Sabbath observers on Sunday, not even close. With both a morning and evening church service, my husband teaching Sunday School, and me interpreting and/or singing with the Praise Team, the only “rest” that really happens is a quick nap in the middle of the day. And of course, there is still a small child in our family who needs us on Sundays as well.
The point isn’t to create time in my schedule to completely check out of my responsibilities, but to find a balance that allows me to keep my home running smoothly and my anxiety at bay, while still enjoying our family time over the weekend.
So I set an early alarm on Saturday and stay on top of the dishes. But during Abby’s nap, I’ll read or take a nap myself. After we put Abby to bed, Dave and I will make sure things are ready for our busy Sunday (laying out clothes, studying for Sunday School, and prepping a roast chicken to bake while we’re at the morning service) and then relax together on the couch with a hockey game or a movie.
On Sunday we’ll experience a little physical rest in between times of refreshing in the Spirit.
By managing my expectations, while balancing work and rest, I’ve found I can reclaim my Saturdays.
True, they aren’t the same.
But that’s okay.