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 our friends across the pond: lillördag.
Lillördag (or lille lørdag) comes directly from the Swedish words for 'little' and 'Saturday.' It's a Nordic cultural tradition that is observed in places like Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Bulgaria that treats Wednesday 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. These celebrations 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.
The Benefits of Lillördag
Lillördag stands in stark contrast with 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 to break up the monotony of the week and can have positive effects on your mood.
While there are plenty of advocates for a four day workweek, there may be specific benefits to taking a mid-week break. 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.
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."
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 reset during the workweek.
Have a great Lillördag!