October and November can be an especially long haul during the school year. Stress mounts, schedules are impacted, and energy is sapped.
And I’m no different.
Somewhere around mid-October, I began to feel the mental and emotional strain in that stretch between the beginning of the school year and Thanksgiving break, so I recently decided it was time to take a mental health day. As I’ve written about before, I am a huge advocate of mental health days. If they are used wisely (and infrequently), they can be an effective self-care strategy.
For my recent day, I had a choice to make. I could go somewhere, like spending time at Balboa Park–one of my favorite places in San Diego–or I could just make it a jammie, napping, do-nothing day. Another time I might have ventured out of the house, but I didn’t want to spend a huge chunk of this day driving, so for this particular mental health day, the P.J.’s won out.
Allow me to share my mental health day with you.
PLEASE NOTE: I share this not to brag, but to model.
5:45: alarm goes off: Up at the same time as going to work because it’s my turn to take my daughter to school and some responsibilities still have to happen. Sleeping in will have to wait for the next mental health day.
7:15: drop daughter off at school.
7:45-8:15: Breakfast at Franco’s Flapjacks (see above). As many of you know, breakfast in a diner is one of my favorite things, so how could that not be on the agenda? I got the usual: three egg breakfast with extra crispy hashbrowns, corned beef hash, sourdough toast, and hot decaf coffee. I like this place for many reasons, but one big reason is because of their mugs. I’ve had mugs that say, “meditate,” “create,” “relax,” and “Calm.” How could a Zen Teacher not love that action?
8:25-9:25: Hot chocolate and reading at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf down the road from the diner. Just sitting still time wondering how second period is going and smiling a half smile because I had no idea whatsoever.
9:30-10:30: Go home, put on pajamas, and take a nap. A glorious, deep sleep, hour-long, pleasant dreaming nap.
10:35-10:56: Snoozing to the Classic Rock Station on Accuradio on my phone.
11:00-11:15: Taking the dogs out because some responsibilities still have to happen.
11:18-11:50: This part gets a little fuzzy. I puttered around the house a bit. Looked out the window to the roses in the backyard. I may or may not have talked to myself and sang and danced a little. I plead the fifth on that one.
11:54-12:31: I went to the office upstairs, sat in the overstuffed chair, and I listened to Let It Be by The Beatles. Not the song, The Entire. Album. And not while I was doing something else. I just listened to the album from start to finish. I closed my eyes, listened to the lyrics, surfed the gorgeous melodies, swam in the harmonies, and got lost in the artistry of it all. Highlights included the driving introduction to “Get Back,” Paul’s vocals on “The Long and Winding Road,” and John’s guitar solo on “Let it Be.” This was one of the highlights of my day.
12:32-12:45: I had two left over tacos for lunch, made with my mother’s famous recipe. Childhood memories always make good food taste better.
12:50-1:50: Read for pleasure in a book my daughter has been wanting me to read for a couple years. Finally had (and by had, I mean “took”) the time to get deep into it.
2:00: Left to get my daughter from school because some responsibilities still must happen.
All things considered, my mental health day was an unequivocal success. I returned to my classroom and my students refreshed, rested, and calm. All of my responsibilities were still around, of course, and all the stuff still needed to be done, but taking a single day didn’t cause a log jam in a way that they couldn’t all be met and accomplished.
And as a bonus, I was able to complete them in a peaceful and relaxed manner.
Of course, your mental health day may look wildly different than mine. And it’s not always doing about doing nothing. Sometimes a mental health day can be used to catch up on grading, home projects, car repairs, or family responsibilities. That can reduce your stress and relieve tension, for sure. Sometimes it can be about getting away for the weekend. Sometimes it can be about being a tourist in your own neighborhood.
The bottom line is that mental health days are all about reclaiming some of your life for the stuff you never seem to get to, but that would improve the quality of your life.
And you know what? You’re worth that.
If you live to be 85 years old, that’s 31,025 days.
You’re allowed to steal a handful of them just to do what you want with them.
Or sometimes, like the day I just described, you can choose to do nothing at all. TZT
IS SELF-CARE PART OF YOUR 2019 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION?