Life is full of things that stress you out. Work, bills, social life, kids, spouses – it can all be so demanding. It comes at you like a train going full speed ahead. A good mental health day is almost always the answer.
This is especially true if you have kids and even worse if you have more than one kid. You love them, and they love you. This doesn’t mean that you should be embarrassed to want a break from them.
Unfortunately, for a lot of parents, that break never comes. Many parents don’t make it a priority to take a mental health day to relieve themselves of all the stressors they deal with. They use their kids as an excuse as to why they can’t take time out for themselves.
If this is you, it’s good that you’re reading this article. You need to know why it’s imperative that you give yourself the occasional mental break. Here’s what counselors have to say about it.
Why You Should Take a Mental Health Day
As a parent, you’ll often put your kids first. Your needs get put on the back burner until you get some free time (which doesn’t come very often). You may find that your list of requirements keeps getting longer and longer.
Although you may be the best at managing stressful situations, that doesn’t mean you should continuously do it. The effects of stress can creep up on you and even impact your relationship with your children. You may not realize how stressed you are until you’re on the verge of having a breakdown.
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., president & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, says it’s common for people not to realize how stressed they are. “Often people minimize the stress they are under, the effect it has, and don’t take action,” he says. This pressure is hazardous to your health.
The problem with ongoing stress is that your body never has a chance to settle down. According to Dr. Borenstein, the human body is designed to deal with short-term stress, not long-term stress. No matter how well you handle stress, it’s still stress.
Taking a mental health day ensures that you get a break from stress. This way, even if you don’t realize you’re stressed, you’re still getting a break. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to put yourself first. In fact, doing so helps to teach your children good stress management.
When You Should Take a Mental Health Day
The time to take a break may not be evident because, as stated before, you may not realize how stressed you are. Because of this, you should schedule these days regularly. However, there are a few signs that can let you know if you’re stressed out. Some of them include:
- Jaw or tooth pain
- Expanding waistline
- Having a hard time focusing/concentrating
- You keep having headaches
- Trouble sleeping
If you notice that any of this is happening to you, it’s time to take a day to yourself. These few symptoms are manageable, but not taking care of them can cause worse symptoms that will impact your health as well as your relationship with your family.
Once you realize how important it is to take a day to yourself, you’ll probably wonder when the best time is for your day. Scheduling your day can be just as stressful as anything else in your life.
Just keep in mind that scheduling is the key. If you make a plan and plan far enough ahead of time, you can make sure that things will be handled while you’re having your day. The last thing you need to be worried about is who’s taking care of your kids and your household while you’re doing you.
A failure to plan will lead to you feeling guilty about putting yourself first. Guilty feelings lead to stress, and this can cause you to cancel your day. It’s imperative that you make a plan so you can have a peaceful mental health day.
One great way to start your plan is by picking a day that your spouse is off from work. This will ensure that you have someone to watch your kids when you’re not around. If you’re a single parent, try picking a day when a friend or family member is fully available for the entire day.
If you don’t have either of those options, you may have to hire a babysitter. You could save money by picking a day when your kids go to school—that way, the babysitter only needs to be there in the evening.
How You Should Take a Mental Health Day
While you’re planning the date, you should also plan your activities. However, don’t plan a strict schedule. A strict schedule could make you stressed if you can’t stick with it.
You should expect your day to be relaxing above all else. To do that, you need to figure out what you need most of all to rest.
Do you need complete solitude? Perhaps you need more time with your loved ones? A massage is a classic choice.
Whatever it is that you need, put that at the top of your activities list. Try focusing anything else you do that day around your priority. Think of some activities that will relax you and help you have a peaceful day.
Even if you decide to do that one activity, that’s okay. The goal is to renew yourself. But to do that, you’ll need complete peace of mind. Just make sure that you take the whole day to yourself, even if it’s to do that one thing.
Here Are Three Positive Activities to Help You Enjoy a Relaxing Day
You can take your mental health day alone, with friends, or with your partner. Modify these activities to suit your lifestyle.
1 – Treat Yourself to a Day at the Spa
Enjoy a pampering retreat, either alone or with your partner. Enjoy a manicure-pedicure service, massage, and facial masks. While these services might feel decadent, remember that you deserve it! This self-care is essential to well-being.
2 – Connect with Mother Nature
Do you live near a beach, National Park, or mountains? Grab some of your friends, pack a picnic, and hit the bicycling or hiking trails they offer to visitors. Getting your heart rate pumping as you engage in these activities will invigorate you. And, the grand vistas you see along the way are food for the soul.
3 – Explore Cultural Activities
If you are not the “outdoorsy” type, consider a day trip to a nearby city. Open your mind to learning by exploring their cultural offerings. Do they have an art museum, historic district to explore or live theater? Are any festivals happening that you would enjoy? Expand your mind. That focus on learning new things will entertain you as well as engaging your mind.
What You Shouldn’t Do on Your Mental Health Day
The objective is to have a peaceful day that renews you and gets you ready to face your stressors with a clear head. So far, you’ve been told what you should do during your day. However, there are some things that you shouldn’t do either.
1 – Illegal Drugs
You should never do illegal substances. For starters, it’s illegal. Doing anything against the law is a bad idea. Plus, getting arrested is going to stress you out more than anything your kids could do. Doing drugs while you’re already under pressure can lead to a higher risk of debilitating addiction. Then the drugs will cause even more stress on your mental and physical health. It’s a vicious cycle that can have devastating effects on your life.
2 – Infidelity
Infidelity never ends well. Sure, you may feel good on that day or that night, but eventually, the truth will come out. When it does, it will cause more stress than you could ever imagine.
The stress will come from guilty feelings, but more of it will come from the effects that the infidelity will have on your spouse. Talal Alsaleem, an expert infidelity counselor, says that infidelity causes “…triggers, flashbacks, hypervigilance, avoidance behavior, and manifestations related to the knowledge about the affair and everything related to the affair.” Dealing with this type of fall out in an already stressed marriage could be enough to push you over the edge.
If you’re tempted to cheat on your spouse, perhaps what you need to schedule is marriage counseling instead of a mental health day (you may need both). Communication can significantly reduce stress between you and your spouse.
3 – Overspending the Family Funds
Going shopping is a great way to relieve stress unless one of your regular stressors is finances. The last thing you want to do is aggravate your stress when you’re supposed to be relaxing. If money is a problem in your life, try to plan your day with activities that are free or low-cost.
Even if money isn’t a common issue for you, overspending can stress you out once you’ve realized how much money you wasted. Joel L. Young M.D., medical director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine, compares overspending to using drugs. He says that even if people have unlimited funds to spend money, overspending can lead to feelings of guilt or shame, hoarding, and undermining relationships.
Enjoy your day, but don’t bring more stress on yourself by spending unnecessary money. There are plenty of ways to do you without breaking your wallet.
Final Thoughts on Why Parents Should Take an Occasional Mental Health Day
You’ll always be Super Mom or Super Dad to your kids. However, remember that you’re human. You get stressed out, and that’s okay.
What’s not okay is ignoring the fact that you need a break. Even if you handle stressful situations well, you need to renew your mental health every once in a while. Not doing so will begin to affect you and your family in ways you may not even notice.
Focusing on your mental health is setting an excellent example for your kids. After all, you wouldn’t want your kids to subject themselves to constant stress, right? Taking the occasional mental health day will keep you in the right frame of mind to continue being the best parent you can be.