Lillördag: Why You Need a Midweek Break

Lillördag: The Swedish 'Little Saturday'

On this blog, we've explored all sorts of methods for breaking up our days to mitigate stress and burnout. With work norms continuing to shift in the pandemic, we're certain that more will continue to surface. As with anything though, when you're too close to the ground, you lose the forest for the trees. This week, we humbly propose a concept borrowed from some friends across the pond called lillördag. 

Lillördag (or lille lørdag) is a Swedish phrase that roughly translates to "Little Saturday." It's a Nordic cultural tradition that's observed in Sweden as well as other countries like Norway, Finland, and Bulgaria. Lillördag treats Wednesday nights as an opportunity for little weekend-like celebrations to get you through the week. In essence, it takes the idea of blocking out time for rest and extrapolates it to the broader workweek. 

Rickard Grassman, a lecturer at Stockholm University, says that the expression comes from a bygone era when servants and maids working Saturdays would take a weekday off instead. Nowadays, lillördag is more widely observed in Nordic countries by people of all walks of life.

The basic idea is to plan some sort of small celebration on a weekday, most commonly Wednesday night. The midweek break can take any form whether that be a happy hour with friends, catching a movie, or enjoying a glass of wine at home. The goal is to disconnect from work and set aside time for enjoyment during your little Saturday.

The Benefits of Lillördag

Lillördag is a stark distinction from the American perception of Wednesday as 'hump day'-a phrase popularized by an insurance commercial and inevitably immortalized by someone in your office. Hump day views Wednesday as a low point of the week, a slump in motivation. Lillördag, on the other hand, helps break up the monotony of the week and regular work hours, and can have positive effects on your mood.

hump day camel

While there are plenty of advocates for a four day workweek, there may be specific benefits to celebrating lillördag on Wednesday nights. Dawna Ballard, a chronemics scholar (the study of time) and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says that our human experience is ordered by pacers, both internal and external. Some pacers, like deadlines, only temporarily demand our attention but cyclical pacers like a two-day weekend or five-day workweek carry a huge psychological influence.

That's why Mondays can be particularly tough, your internal rhythms are brought to a screeching halt by the external pacer of work. This type of misalignment can be jarring. Ballard contends that a Wednesday break interrupts the externally-imposed pacer of work, giving you a chance to recalibrate during the week and providing a greater sense of calm and control. If you struggle with getting back in the groove on Mondays, lillördag could be just what you need!

Don't just take our word for it, even Nobel prize winners think there's something to this! 2017 Nobel Prize winners Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young write, "Chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases."

5 Ideas for taking a 'Little Saturday'

1. Enjoy a happy hour or bar trivia with friends!

Happy hours and bar trivia nights are a great way to break up the work week and destress. They offer a chance to relax with friends, have some fun, and maybe drink or eat too much.

2. Catch a movie

Streaming movies at home is all well and good, but when was the last time you caught a movie at the theater? There's nothing quite like movie theater popcorn. Plus, there's something about seeing a movie on the big screen that just makes it feel more special.

3. Enjoy a glass of wine at home.

No need to get fancy, whatever you can find at the grocery store will suffice! The best wines are the ones shared with company. Invite some friends over for wine and cheese, board games, or just for some great conversation.

4. Take a walk in the park.

Spending time outside is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It's easy for the lines between work and personal life to start blurring when you work from home. Getting outside and spending time in nature has been shown to have profound benefits for your mood and well-being.

5. Cook a meal with your friends

Food is the universal love language. Cooking a meal with your friends is a great way to relax and catch up on each other's lives. It's also a great way to do something hands-on that doesn't involve screens.

Putting it into Practice

Whether you're taking a Wednesday off or using it as a work-from-home day, allowing yourself a 'little Saturday' is a simple self-care cue we can take from the Swedes to purposefully carve out time more time for joy and help you.

For more on little Saturdays and other ways to de-stress, check out the links below.

Have a great Lillördag!

Further Reading:

Lillördag: Sweden's workers de-stress with 'Little Saturday'

What's Better Than Summer Fridays Off? Summer Wednesdays Off

Fika: Why You Need a Swedish Coffee Break

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