For the last couple of weeks I've found myself crying and spiraling into a frenzy about 'what if.'
What if something happens to my black son?
What if I get stopped by an officer and the situation goes left, and I don't make it home?
Am I doing enough? What can I do to help others that are hurting?
These thoughts and questions keep me up at night. I found myself saying the following to my friends for four days in a row, 'it's not a good day.' I would go on about how I had to cry it out, or just scream it out, about the most recent breaking news tragedy. It's too much!! My logical side recognized that these back-to-back days of random crying was out of character which means, my mental health alarm had been ringing. Many of us ignore our mental health warning alarms. These alarms can differ from person to person. For me, crying is a one of my biggest alarms. I'm not a random crier. Typically when i'm crying, it's usually out of frustration and nothing else.
Why do we ignore our mental health alarm? I think we don't slow down enough to recognize it's going off. I mentioned crying is my biggest alarm but a few other key warnings are:
Lack of eating
We only have our one body and it is time to focus on recognizing our mental health alarms. The world around us is crazy, IT WILL ALWAYS BE CRAZY, there is always going to be a new crisis out there, but if we aren't mentally stable to deal with it, we can't physically be there to save it. Our first step is to listen to our bodies. Take notice of behaviors that don't align to your personality.
After you've recognized your mental health alarm is ringing it's time to wake up, no more hitting snooze. If you ignore, or consistently snooze your alarm, it will turn off. We never want to find ourselves in a situation where we are physically present but not mentally, it won't be good for anyone.
Here are ways I take a Mental Health Day, which can vary depending on which alarm is ringing.
Mental Break : It' okay to do nothing, and watch other people live for just awhile.
Practical Application: I binge a show that isn't a trigger warning, just mindless, typically funny, TV and I do nothing but that. I had to remind myself it is okay to do NOTHING. Usually if I were watching TV, I needed to fold clothes or work on some assignments, whatever task to justify the time. In order to truly disconnect, just allow yourself time to fall into someone else's world.
Clean-up : Removing physical clutter in your space, helps to remove clutter from your mind
Practical Application : I cleaned out my entire car, I mean deep cleaning not just 'straightened up.' I washed the seats, vacuumed, put Armor All on the dashboard, added some 'smell-good,' it was a new car again. It took me close to three hours. For whatever reason, I felt a release of stress. No, it didn't solve all my problems, but it did help me feel better, which helped me look at my problems differently.
Art Project : focus on a project that adds no value to the world, just makes your world a little better
Practical Application: I put a desk together. I ordered a desk online and of course when it was delivered it was in a million pieces. The instructions were useless, but if I focused, I could put this together, it wasn't rocket science. This desk wasn't going to be the answer to humanities problems, so I had to look at it that way. It also wasn't going to be the center piece of my home, and define my existence, it was a desk. A small desk at that. So, I took four hours and put my desk together. The reviews said average time was thirty minutes, but I run my life, not reviews, so I allowed myself time to be great. The point is, I didn't allow it to add stress, and during that four hours, I didn't think about anything else BUT THAT DESK. It was a good break from the world.
There are several ways to take a Mental Health Day, I just listed a few above that don't take much, and don't ask anything more from you. You may have read in other articles that hanging with family and friends are another great way to 'take a break.' I do agree, however, when I'm around others I feel the need to be 'ON.' The entire purpose of a Mental Health break is to allow yourself time to be 'OFF.' Remind yourself as often as you need to, it's okay to take a break from the world so you can recharge.