I first heard of a ‘Mental Health Day’ from my last boss. A college of mine was having a bad day at work, so my boss said that she’d rather my college took a day off and went to the beach instead of staying at work, being mentally elsewhere and getting nothing done. That way they could come back the day after ‘refreshed and ready to work.’
I’ve been back at work a week. A week. I can hardly believe that it’s only been a week. My holidays were wonderful, but getting back to the daily grind has been a bit of a shock to the system. I’m already feeling the effects of stress, so I’m preemptively taking a day to look after myself before the stress makes me sick. Literally. Of course there’s the temptation to go out and have fun and screw the consequences and lack of sleep, but growing up means learning to look after myself. Sigh.
There is so much to do around my house though, so ‘Relaxing’ (With a capital ‘R’) is difficult. If I’m sitting round my house, I feel like I’m being lazy. I need a sense of achievement to beat the blues, but whilst a day full of hard work makes me feel good, it sort of defeats the purpose of taking a day of rest.
So, after sleeping in and staying in bed till after midday, (Take that morning! I didn’t even see your face!) here’s what I’ve done to trick myself into taking a ‘rest’ day and ‘Relaxing.’
Turn off social media.
There are so many articles and studies linking social media and feeling like crap, but that’s not the reason for turning it off today.
“The bottom line is, Instagram discourages people from enriching their lives and taking part in positive experiences, and instead keeps young people on their phones for way too long.”
So if I’m on social media, I’m engaged in what other people are doing, rather than being mindful of what I’m doing myself. That’s not relaxing!
So off it goes.
Which is all good in theory, but disconnecting is hard. So I get help. I’ve an app called ‘Forest’ on my phone. I set a timer for how long I want to stop ‘phubbing’ (as they call it), and as the time goes on a tree grows. If I pick up my phone to access social media during that time, I have to exit the Forest, which kills my tree and plants a stick instead.
I’m surprised by how well it works, as well as how often I pick up my phone withing a very short time period!
So, now that that is out of the way:
Write a list.
When I’m stressed out, my memory goes out the window. I forget things that I need to do, and so stress more about the fact that I’ll forget things, which lead to more stress which leads to more forgetting. Yay for getting older. Gah. So a day off is a great time to write things down as I remember them, and sort out a plan of attack for the future. My list is on a white board on my wall. This means it gets them out of my head, onto the paper/board, and I don’t need to stress about forgetting it.
Throughout the day, if I suddenly remember that there’s something that I need to do/buy/find? Instead of trying to do everything as I remember at the moment I remember it (which generally leads to me trying to do too many things at once, and forgetting things) I write it on the list.
Do some washing.
This one might sound a bit counter-intuitive to the whole ‘Relaxing’ thing, but stick with me here.
If you’re like me, and have a hard time justifying doing nothing when there’s so much to do, washing is a win-win. It has a ‘low effort to high outcome’ ratio and takes five to ten minutes of my actual being there, for a big outcome. It takes an hour or so to wash, depending on your machine, which can happen entirely unsupervised by me. So if I put a load on, in waiting for it to be done I’m literally achieving something by sitting still. W00t!
On the topic of achieving something…
Do That Thing I’ve Been Avoiding.
I’m a tragic procrastinator. I constantly make myself lists of things I want to achieve in my head, but I also love the feeling of awesome ‘focus’ (translation: panic) that comes with an impending deadline. The trouble with my tendency to make great swathes of lists of unreasonably length in my head of things I would like to achieve, is that I will get to the end of the day and realise that I haven’t achieved them, thus making myself feel terrible. So, Step 3 is just to get that one thing done that I’ve been avoiding. Because if I’m sitting around ‘not doing something’ then it’s not relaxing, it’s procrastinating. So my ‘thing’ of today is going to be my dining table. It’s been staring at me since Friday night, literally. There are gummy eyeballs on the table from when a friend brought round awesome belated birthday/Christmas presents. Left over drinks and boardgames from a gathering. Miscellaneous things I’ve already cleaned off from other things. Also googly eyes from a prank I’m pulling on another friend. (Mittens, if you read this: I’m not sorry.) I’m not on a timer, just pottering. Not doing anything else, no matter how many times I’m tempted by distractions of other things that also need cleaning. That’s just a recipe to do a lot of work and yet not finish anything.
Anything that I think of that needs doing, I write it on the to do list.
Make Myself A Cup Of Tea.
I don’t know who I’m trying to kid here, as we all know that I’m already on my third cup by the time we hit Step 4. But I guess this is here as a reminder to focus and be mindful of what I’m doing. Take the time to enjoy the tea and the quiet. Maybe sit outside. Nope, it’s too hot out there. Ok, sit inside and enjoy this moment, and this cup of tea. Delightful.
Do My Nails.
This serves two purposes:
1: I feel like a queen when my nails are done.
2: While my nails are drying, I can’t go anywhere or do anything because it’ll smudge them. It makes me relax because I literally cannot do anything else.
This can be anything from cooking up a batch of something tasty to freeze in lunchboxes for the future, (because taking care of my mental health also means doing cool things for the mental health of future me,) to doing some arts and/or crafts.
I’ve got friends who swear by those Mindfulness ‘Adult Colouring In Books,’ others who like to knit or paint. Each to their own.
As long as it’s something that needs my attention to do, and I have a creative outcome at the end, I generally love it.
Step 7 (and/or .5 of any of the above steps.)
This is my day, and I’ll nap if I want to.
All the above sounds lovely when I put it all down, but I don’t want to wrongly give the impression that I’m some sort of tragic over achiever, as I’m far from it; just that I’m so aware that my mental wellbeing relies on not sitting around being lazy and living other people’s lives vicariously. I can very easily spend the day ‘phubbing’ on facebook and lost in youtube, but at the end of the day I’ll still feel like a slob, and if the purpose of this is to make myself feel better then there are certain things I need to do to achieve that goal.
Going to take a Mental Health Day to refuel? What do you do for your mental health? Let me know in the comments.
Happy chillaxing, Darklings.