We all know what it's like to have one of "those" weeks. Day after day, you wake up late and rush out the door. When it's time to head home, you order takeout before you can even say "5 p.m." You eventually doze off next to clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away, dreaming of that workout you meant to do.
For many, the work week is pure chaos. As a result, it's common for healthy habits to take a back seat.
With the right approach, though, it's possible to set yourself up for a healthier, more balanced work week. The key is to use Sunday—or whatever day you have off—to create future opportunities for positive behaviors. You'd be amazed at what a couple hours of prep work can do for your physical, mental and emotional health during the next few days.
These nine Sunday rituals will allow you to keep a steady head and motivated mind no matter what the week throws your way. Choose what works best for you and adopt each habit as you see fit. Before you know it, the "Sunday scaries" will be a thing of the past.
1. Meal Prep
Meal prepping is one of the best things you can do on Sunday. For starters, it helps you save time and money throughout the week. It also reduces any stress you might feel in terms of shopping for and making your next meal. Most importantly, meal prep helps you eat more nutritious dishes by limiting the temptation to call the pizza guy on days when you work late, feel exhausted or are craving something that's not in line with your ultimate goals.
If you're new to home cooking, the idea of meal prep might seem intimidating. But who says you can't start small? Instead of prepping breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for an entire week, choose one meal—like breakfast, for example—and make an easy dish, like quiche or overnight oatmeal. As you develop a routine, slowly incorporate other meals and dishes.
Ultimately, when you make meals in advance, the morning rush (and post-work crash) won't govern your daily food choices.
2. Tidy Up
And when we say "tidy up," don't panic—we're not suggesting you deep clean every week. Instead, take 15 to 30 minutes out of your Sunday to clear the kitchen table, clean out your work bag and organize your vanity. Put away that laundry and take out the trash. These small tasks may not be exciting, but you'll thank yourself later.
Remember that the result doesn't need to look immaculate. The point is to take care of the little things. When you wake up and come home to an organized space (instead of a messy one), you'll notice a major shift in your mental energy.
3. Check Your Calendar
While we're on the topic of mental wellness, let's talk about your calendar. On Sunday, take a minute to look at what's on the agenda. If you work odd hours, or if your job involves many meetings and deadlines, this habit can be a gamechanger. Not only will it give you time to mentally prepare yourself for the tasks ahead, but you can make any necessary changes in advance, too. Checking your schedule also nurtures awareness and mindfulness, which is crucial for managing stress.
4. Start a Big Project
Now, about those meetings and deadlines. If you have big project coming up, why not get a head start on Sunday? Read up on necessary materials, start a rough outline or simply do some research. Whether you're a notorious procrastinator or not, spending time preparing before something big—no matter if it's building a shed outside or preparing a quarterly report for your boss—allows you the time to think about it from multiple angles and make important decisions with a clear head.
Do you have to hash out every little detail? Of course not. Instead, use this time to gently nudge yourself in the right direction. It's a small yet impactful way to reduce your stress levels during the week.
5. Schedule Exercise
We're always told to schedule exercise like appointments or meetings. Well, what better time to plan than on a Sunday? While checking your calendar, pencil in at least three workouts. Aim for at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for the week. This might include gym time, morning walks or a few spin classes.
By planning exercise in advance, workouts become something you "will do" instead of something you "should do." To top it off, you'll also be more likely to hold yourself accountable when you've already set the dates.
6. Plan Your Outfits
Planning your outfits isn't about being stylish or on-trend; it's about reducing the morning rush and getting ready on auto-pilot. Think of it like meal prep, but for your clothing. And if you wear uniforms to work? Get those ready, too. Make sure you have enough tops, bottoms and whatever else you need to last you until the next laundry day. While you're at it, prepare your gym bag, too!
When you limit any decision-making at the break of dawn, you'll have more time to be present with yourself before heading out to face the day.
Before heading back to the daily grind, give yourself permission to relax. Do something that makes you happy, whether it's practicing a hobby or watching a movie. It can be as simple as reading, calling a friend or taking a nice bath.
In a perfect world, we'd be able to do these things every day. But when you're exhausted after work, it can be difficult to find the energy. So, at the very least, treat yourself to some R&R on Sunday.
8. Go Outside
Make time to go outside, whether it's part of downtime or your weekend workout. For example, garden for half an hour or take the grandkids to the park. You can even just read on the porch and soak up some sun.
According to a 2018 study in Health & Place, spending time in outdoor environments reduces stress, which ultimately improves overall health. Another 2015 article in the journal Work shares that exposure to nature helps you bounce back from work-related mental fatigue. Clearly, going outside has awesome mental and emotional benefits. Who are we to argue?
9. Sleep Early
If you only do one thing on this list, make it this one.
When you get enough shuteye on Sunday night, you'll head into Monday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. In turn, you'll be able to start the week on a positive note—not a groggy one.
To set yourself up for a good night's rest, avoid caffeine at least four hours before bedtime, and expose yourself to morning light so your melatonin levels naturally drop at night. Before bed, avoid heavy meals and electronic screens. White noise machines, bubble baths and melatonin supplements can also help you hit the hay at a reasonable time.
About the Author Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle writer, editor and author. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition and is currently based in New York. Kirsten spends her days writing articles and dreaming up healthy recipes.
How do you set yourself up for a healthy week? Comment with your favorite Sunday ritual to inspire other readers.
More From SparkPeople