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The Beauty of the Mental Health Day

I got an email this morning that the time has come for Barbara Meade to retire from Politics and Prose.  I knew this was coming; that new owners were lined up to keep the store going in the same direction it has always gone, and retired doesn’t mean gone entirely — she’ll still need to buy her books somewhere.  But it was a bittersweet message to read, especially after the death of her co-owner Carla Cohen a few years back (here is her fabulous advice).  That bookstore shaped my childhood and adulthood and gave me a receptacle to pour in my love of books.

I love going to Politics and Prose, and the email triggered a memory of a day I spent wandering the store and then reading in the cafe.

A few months after the twins were born, I woke up one morning and Josh announced that I was to take a mental health day.  No work.  No errands.  Just go out and take a day for myself, and he’d take care of the kids.  I was so stunned, I didn’t really know what to do at first.  Then I realized that something I really missed was going to Politics and Prose as if I had all the time in the world.  So I drove downtown, ate lunch at a favourite restaurant, and then went to the bookstore to browse, buy, and read.

Best. Day. Ever.

We stay home and nurse ourselves back to health when we are physically ill.  We take vitamins and vaccinations to stop ourselves from becoming ill in the first place.  We exercise, eat right, get sleep.  We take care of our physical bodies.  And then we completely ignore our emotional health.  We force ourselves to go to work even when we’re miserable.  We don’t make time for therapy.  We keeping racing along without break even when we’re stressed beyond belief.  And all of that is because we suck as humans.  We place a value on one part of our body over another.  We somehow collectively agree that brains are only important when something is affecting them structurally such as a tumour and cease to be important when something is affecting them chemically such as depression.  We shouldn’t let ourselves get to breaking points; to get to tears of frustration.  We should just stop every once in a while and read.

So Josh, I’m going to take a mental health day soon.  And give you one as well.

What would you do on a mental health day?  Read?  Sleep?  Eat out?  Spa?  Go to an amusement park?


1 Chickenpig { 01.10.13 at 12:56 pm }

I did exactly what you did 🙂 My husband gave me a mental health afternoon when the twins were babies. I went to the local Babies R Us, and then popped into Borders to get some books and to enjoy a cup of coffee. So awesome.

2 Sharon { 01.10.13 at 1:07 pm }

I have been thinking about this one a lot lately (too much, really).

I would love to go away for a weekend at a tranquil spa somewhere in the nearby desert where I could hike by myself, get a long massage, eat healthy foods (prepared by someone else, of course), sleep as late as I want, read, and just be alone with my thoughts.

My husband talks often about how we need to “get away” for a weekend somewhere together–and I’m not saying he’s entirely wrong; it’d probably be good for our marriage to do that–but I would much prefer to do my spa weekend. I’d only need about 48 hours to come back fully refreshed.

3 a { 01.10.13 at 1:23 pm }

We get 7.5 hours of sick time per month at work, and since we’re mostly healthy individuals, most of our sick days are mental health days. I’m a firm believer in taking some time away from everyone else in my family to do what I want to do. (However, no one else in my family believes in that, and they don’t really understand why I want to do it. They’re way more social than I am.)

Usually, on my mental health days, I go shopping. I’m having a half sick week (I got my hernia fixed on Tuesday), half mental health week (since I’m reading and knitting and watching TV and surfing the internet) this week. It’s nice and peaceful, when my husband’s not being insensitive (yesterday, 1 day after surgery, he says “you’re going to milk this for, like, 5 months, aren’t you?” I was all “I had surgery YESTERDAY, you idiot!” He is really not used to having to do all the work, even though he claims he always does all the work.) and my daughter is not asking me to play catch. 4 more days of sitting around…

4 Kate { 01.10.13 at 1:44 pm }

I had a hysterectomy + kidney stents put in this fall. My husband thought I was milking it, until the day I got the stents taken out (10 weeks after surgery). Then he said it was a night and day difference. He even apologized for his attitude.

I like to people watch for my mental health. I go to the park, with a book and headphones, and just watch.

5 Ana { 01.10.13 at 1:57 pm }

This is timely because I’m planning a mental health day tomorrow. I’ve been planning one for several months, but every time I do, I end up staying home from work with a sick child, instead—so NOT what I had in mind! I plan to practice sewing, shop, and read. Fingers/toes crossed no one gets sick tonight!!!!

6 Pepper { 01.10.13 at 2:08 pm }

I had a mental health day planned the day I instead got put on bedrest. This was almost 2 years ago and I still think about the day that could have been… I had appointments to get my hair done – color and everything! -, I was meeting a friend for lunch, some shopping, maybe get my nails done. It may not have turned out to be as awesome as I imagine, but I still dream about it. And for some reason, doing those things now just aren’t as fun. I don’t really know why. I guess I feel guilty.

7 nonsequiturchica { 01.10.13 at 2:31 pm }

Read, go to spa, take a walk with my dogs, and just try to relax.

8 Lacie { 01.10.13 at 2:58 pm }

I’d go to my favorite beach, where hardly anyone else goes. You can set up a chair there and watch the waves crash on the rocks all day. I’d sit right by the water and take it all in for about an hour and then I’d read. Maybe People magazine and then a good book. I’d marvel about how lucky I am to finally be at the place in life where I find myself these days.

9 YeahScience! { 01.10.13 at 3:05 pm }

I love the idea of spouses giving each other mental health days, too… because I think the main reason we don’t take them otherwise is the weight of all our obligations. Once that’s lifted, it’s very freeing and very good for us, too!

10 Kimberly { 01.10.13 at 3:48 pm }

I love those mental health days. Hubby just forces me to drop everything and sends me to the spa followed by me browsing a craft store for a few hours. In fact, hubby gave me a gift card for a hot stone massage for me and a friend for my birthday last month. I haven’t used it yet, but the move into our house during the holidays made it hard to find time. But I’m ready to use it and give myself a mental health day.

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.10.13 at 3:56 pm }

This is a good reminder. I like that you’re doing this for each other.

I would read and take a long bath. And read in the bath.

12 Elizabeth { 01.10.13 at 4:06 pm }

I do this every so often…. Read, knit, exercise, yoga, watch a movie. My most favorite thing is to be home – aloooooooone!

13 Esperanza { 01.10.13 at 4:20 pm }

I usually try to see a friend when I’m given (or request) some “me” time. I love to window shop with people or (gasp, shock, horror) see an actual movie in an actual theater. If no one can meet up I love to read books for long luxurious hours or sip hot chocolate at a cafe and write. If I have the cash a massage usually helps me tremendously.

Man, writing that makes me want to take one so bad, but I have no sick days to spare with my daughter always requiring I take them. Plus, writing sub plans is way more work than the happiness of a mental health day is worth.

14 Another Dreamer { 01.10.13 at 4:22 pm }

My mental health days consist of lunch/dinner with a friend, going to a movie, getting a couple hours extra sleep, or reading a book while taking a bubble bath. I don’t get out much though, and I’m pretty co-dependent- either I’m at home alone lounging, or I need to be with my husband/son. I don’t like eating alone at restaurants, and I’ve never went to a movie by myself, I don’t like shopping alone very well either… which is weird for how introverted and anti-social I am!

15 lifeintheshwa { 01.10.13 at 5:04 pm }

After dropping kiddo at daycare 0r school, I get a new magazine, some chocolate, and some new bubble bath or face mask at the grocery store and put my PJs back on and chill out for the day. I’d nap and then plan something special for hubby or kiddo for that night. (or, I’d just take kiddo out of school/daycare for the day and just do fun things together that he loves).

16 loribeth { 01.10.13 at 8:39 pm }

I’m actually taking a sort of “mental health” day tomorrow, although I am actually taking a vacation day to do it. Dh gave me a spa gift certificate for Christmas, and Saturday is my birthday. I debated whether to use it now or perhaps in February, when I might REALLY need a mental health day ; ) but I have had a hard time getting back into the swing of things at work since returning from Christmas vacation, so I decided what the heck. ; ) I’ve done this a couple of times & I love it: I go into the city with dh at our usual time for work. The spa doesn’t open until 10, so I head to a cafe for a latte and pastry and finish reading the papers. There’s a bookstore near the spa that opens at 9 so I go there to browse. After I’m finished at the spa I get some lunch (the foodcourt is fine) and then I head to the Eaton Centre to shop. And then either take an early train home, or meet dh at Union Station when he’s finished work. Sometimes we’ve gone out for dinner after that, but I think we will wait & do that on Saturday, my actual birthday. : )

I feel too guilty to actually take a sick day as a mental health day. But I will admit to having stayed home on days when I wasn’t HORRIBLY sick. ; ) I feel too guilty to go out, but I hang around the house, read a book, catch up on my blog reading, etc.

17 Tiara { 01.10.13 at 8:53 pm }

Oh what I would give for just one day off…sigh. I would spend the morning cleaning, a good proper cleaning & reorganizing. I would treat myself to a delicious lunch, take an afternoon nap then read until dinner which I would eat in front of the TV watching one of the dozen movies I’m dying to see then read some more before drifting off to sleep. That would be a devine day

18 Queenie { 01.10.13 at 10:09 pm }

I really need one of these!

19 Battynurse { 01.10.13 at 10:22 pm }

My problem is that I seem to be on a mental health month. Or two. And I can’t seem to pull out of it right now. The only place this is a problem is the statistics class I signed up to take that I have absolutely no interest what so ever in doing right now. That leaves me wondering how much money I would lose if I dropped it now.

20 Mali { 01.10.13 at 10:23 pm }

Well, being without kids, I don’t have the same need for quiet time. But as I’m self-employed, and work from home, having a day off to do whatever I wanted, guilt-free, would be wonderful.

I’d sleep in, go out for a late breakfast (nice latte and croissant at a little French bakery) with a good book, then a massage and facial at a spa. After that, anything goes. Gelato by the sea, shopping or a lazy afternoon nap (can you tell I like sleeping?), before perhaps meeting a friend at our favourite cocktail bar (with a view of the harbour) and then a quick, casual dinner on the way home with DH.

21 persnickety { 01.10.13 at 10:54 pm }

We have a few days booked to head over to NZ for a pinot Noir festival- a 4 day holiday to enable 2 hours of drinking pinot (which i am now not able to participate in- excellent timing). A couple of days in Wellington, and then due to not noticing that the rugby sevens were on, and taking into account the catastrophic effect on room availability (everything, and i mean everything is booked) a couple of days in Paekariki, a (hopefully) sleepy coastal town. I am preppingg the Kindle with books in anticipation.

22 Jen { 01.11.13 at 1:46 am }

Wow… I think I would stay home – alone – and watch some films, read some books, drink some hot beverages and sit outside in the sunshine with the canines. Might need to plan one of these soon…

23 Justine { 01.11.13 at 7:45 am }

I would go to New York, and walk, and breathe, and eat. And then maybe go to yoga. 🙂 Thanks for giving one to me … now just to figure out the child care part … 😉

24 Deanna { 01.11.13 at 9:15 am }

For my mental Health Day, I would grab a good book on my Ipad and lay in the sun.. Just relax and veg. I am usually on the go so much with volunteer and painting and.. and … and.. that I dont take time for me… Its about time, I started to take time to smell the flowers and slow down. A small vacation with hubby would be good also. Love your blog!! 🙂

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