Though the condition isn’t in any medical book, it could unofficially be called the “Long Weekend Blues,” or, perhaps, LWAD (Long Weekend Affective Disorder). Many people, it turns out, do not look forward to long weekends. In fact, they dread them.
As a 37-year-old Vancouver lawyer says, “Every long weekend feels to me like everyone else has big, unusual fun plans. I dread it. It’s a reminder that my life is a little slow or empty or something. The last long weekend, there was a truck of people dressed up with brass instruments having the time of their lives. As I watched them drive by, I was like, ‘Where are all you people going and how come I don’t know about it?’ It just feels like a long weekend is one big party I had no idea about.”
Another woman, 41, from Toronto, says long weekends depress her because she ends up doing chores; she also feels like she’s missing out on some sort of party, which makes her feel lonely. “I just try and get ahead for the week, making my lunches, doing groceries, going to the dry cleaner. Long weekends aren’t attached to anything meaningful except maybe some dead queen.” Still, she jokes, “They should call it ‘No Suicide Long Weekends.’ ” She adds, “I get really sad because my daughter is all grown up and isn’t around and all my friends seem to go visit their families. One of my friends said, ‘We’re going to visit my in-laws so my husband can fix their roof.’ They weren’t looking forward to it, but on my end I thought, ‘That’s nice that you have something to do.’ Not that I would want to fix their roof either. But what was I going to do? Buy another book?”
Alyson Pancer, a clinical social worker and therapist in Toronto, says that any change in routine, like adding that third day when you don’t have anything specific to do, or another day with children and no break, raises people’s anxieties. Just as with other holidays, like Christmas, says Pancer, people get their expectations up. “They think the long weekends are going to be all fabulous and positive, but the reality is that it’s not always great. Some people dread seeing their families.”
Pancer can see why people feel like they’re missing out on some sort of party. “You turn on the news in your car and it’s all about how busy the airport is or there are traffic reports on highways to cottages. Well, not everyone can go away. Not everyone has a cottage. Some people don’t have the type of financial means to have those plans. So when you get back to the office and people ask, ‘How was your weekend?’ it can be brutal,” she says. Kind of like asking a single person how their night was the day after Valentine’s Day.
One 44-year-old woman also feels like everyone is doing something better than she is. “I feel so whiny when I talk about it. But when my child was little, that extra day of no help whacked me out. But now, it’s even worse. I hear the fireworks going off and I think, ‘Well, I don’t want to be there,’ but there must be a lot of people there and I just feel sad. And you do go back to work feeling like a chump when everyone else seemed to have a great weekend.”
According to psychotherapist Barry Rich, humans may not be wired to deal with that one extra day, because it’s just not enough time. “We might do things, sometimes things we don’t even want to, that involve travelling out of town for instance, when we would rather just chill at home and do nothing for three days instead of two. Research has shown that it takes the average Westerner at least a week to even begin to unwind, so that extra day gets us not a whole lot of ‘real relaxation.’ It might just mean an added six hours of being bumper-to-bumper in traffic.” (Maybe that’s why even some of my friends who go to cottages are depressed when long weekends roll around.)
Rich does say that long weekends are definitely harder on lonely single people, because of “enforced frivolity.” We have been led to believe that on long weekends we are supposed to have a really great time, and if we haven’t, then we have screwed up big time. “God forbid you really just want to stay at home,” says Rich. His suggestion for those who suffer from the long-weekend blues is to “not make a big deal out of it and if you really truly don’t want to go somewhere or do something or spend a lot of extra money because of the extra 24 hours of leisure, stay home and enjoy that third day with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, or something else you’ve been meaning to do.” Part of what he stresses is that attempting to have a good time, or forcing yourself to have a good time, just becomes “an added stressor” in our lives.
A 37-year-old Torontonian who works in social media tries not to make a big deal out of it, but says, “I just end up feeling guilty about not doing anything. Then I get depressed for feeling guilty. And also, when you go back to work, the week seems longer even though it is shorter. Why is that? All I can say is that I hate long weekends.”
There are seven long weekends in Canada.