2020, rough and turbulent as it was, gave us some gifts. One of them was showing us how necessary it is to take care of our whole selves, including what we refer to as mental health. In other words, bringing awareness to how we are feeling and giving ourselves permission to listen to our needs.
Before COVID-19 and working from home while facilitating your childrens' online schooling from home, taking a mental health day often meant taking a day to play, sleep or complete to-do list items.
With our new reality of living through a global pandemic, economic strain, civil unrest and chaotic governance, taking a mental health day has taken on new and potent meaning (which in truth, was always something we needed even before the changes of 2020).
The workplace is fast-paced and demanding and has not allowed for the whole person to show up and be, feel, and say what is true for them. We have all learned how to "be a professional" and leave aspects of ourselves at home. This requires energy to withhold and censor ourselves at work, draining and impeding all of what we can bring to the table.
We have always needed mental health days! Thankfully, due to 2020 and all that it illuminated, companies and organizations now have a heightened understanding of the importance of offering this critical tool to their employees.
So, how do you take an impactful mental health day that will pay off in benefits of renewal and recalibration?
First, to really experience a rewarding, fulfilling day focused on feeding your emotional, mental and spiritual coffers, set the intention to honestly take the day to do that and nothing else.
Step 1: Be clear and honest about your why.
No matter how tempting, don't use the day to do something for someone else or complete a to-do list. This is about nurturing your mind, body and spirit so that you can return to work and home with more space and energy!
Step 2: Create an intentional outline for how you are going to spend the day and prepare for it.
Set aside a small budget to purchase candles, incense, sage sticks, bath salts, books, magazines, flowers or whatever else enriches your sacred, intentional space.
Step 3: Get clarity on what's going on for you.
In service to designing the most impactful mental health day that specifically addresses the reality in which you live, bring clarity by engaging with the following prompts.
- What is causing stress? What is overwhelming you? And what feels like a heavy burden in your life?
- What stories do you experience as restrictive, that require you to keep doing things the way you've always done them even though you are not getting a different result? (For example, are you still working long hours to prove that you belong in your role? Do you continue to be the one who "fixes" everything for everyone else and wonder why you are burned out?)
- In the last three to 12 months, what has happened at work or home that you are still holding in your body/mind/spirit that weighs on you or tells you "no, you can't, or you aren't enough?"
In our day-to-day lives, events happen that can cause chaos and trauma, and create an environment of mistrust and fear. This happens at work and at home. When these events and the feelings you have as a result of them aren't identified, validated and made credible by yourself (and if possible, a witness), they reside within you. And then they wreak havoc.
These untended emotions that remain within us fester and grow. Pushing them down or covering them over with placations of "It's fine" actually causes them to expand and get bigger. This is the source of road rage, outburst in the grocery line and "losing it" with your toddler or partner.
Taking an intentional mental health day can be the release valve where you choose to:
- Name the events that have caused trauma, pain or mistrust.
- Identify the emotions you have experienced as a result.
- Identify the stories that these experiences and the untended emotions have created.
- Choose to spend a day releasing the old stories, honoring what you feel without judgment and casting a vision for the new story you want for your life!
2021 is the year of the intentional mental health day! Make it one of your intentions and you will be happier, more productive and able to navigate all that this year is going to bring. If you experience anxiety thinking about what might come up for you in a day like this, there is support for you in the form of a coach or therapist to guide you through your mental health day. It will be worth it!