Pay Attention to Yourself – Then Act Accordingly

I took a mental health day today, and it was wonderful. The day has been cloudy, with a temperature staying steady in the high 40s and low 50s… essentially a perfect day to stay home in your pajamas.

I find it hard to take mental health days; I guess I find it difficult to take a vacation or sick day if I could just as easily go into the office, but choose not to. It feels like I need a better excuse. Mental health is important though – I know that – and you know that – and yet it’s still hard to just admit that we need a day off to recharge.

My anxiety had been building up for the last week. I had one of those weeks where everything felt like it was piling up all at once. I felt like I was falling behind at work, at home… the to-do list just kept growing, as did my feeling of inner dread. I’d had an emotional week too, a bit of a roller coaster.

*Side note: have you ever played the level on the Wii’s “New Super Mario Bros.” where you ride the skeleton roller coaster over the lava? It’s insane… and fun, and stressful… all at once. That’s kind of how my week was. Watch this video to see the level in action – it’s aptly titled “The Roller Coaster From Hell”:

One of the best things I’ve learned to do over the last few years is really tune in to my body and the state of my mental/emotional health. If you’ve never done it before, it’s as simple as just stopping and taking note of how you feel physically and mentally. It’s practicing mindfulness. You do it without judgment, and just observe.

Once I assess myself, I can determine what to do from there. Sometimes it requires going a bit deeper into my feelings, and finding out why I feel the way I feel.

For example, I can easily know when I feel angry about something. It’s obvious. But many times my anger is masking other feelings, like shame, guilt, or other vulnerable emotions I am wanting to avoid. Anger feels good in a way, it’s powerful – it’s more comfortable to be angry.

But many times my anger is like a band-aid, just covering up the places I really need to deal with and heal from.

Getting back to the point, I took a mental health day because I was able to recognize that my anxiety was affecting me, and I knew what I could do that would actually help. I am a person that needs alone time to recharge. So being able to have the house to myself for an entire day was a rare treasure (having a spouse and a 4-year-old son this does not happen often).

Other ways I can refill my emotional and mental energy are:

  • Singing (many times Frozen 2 songs or other such epic ballads)
  • Dancing to music
  • Running/walking outside (while listening to music of course)
  • Talking one-on-one with a close friend
  • Checking off (simple) tasks from a to-do list

It’s essential that you know yourself well enough to know what will either fill or drain you. Most of my “filling” activities are things I do when I’m alone (which again, is hard to do when other humans live with you). So it’s really imperative for me to carve out this alone time into my schedule to make sure I’m staying healthy and balanced.

One of the best things others have done for me, is to ask me, “What do you need from me right now?” My husband knows that when I’m stressed, I need extra alone time. So he will ask me if I want to eat lunch together, or if I’d rather eat alone. Recently when texting with a friend, she asked me what I needed, and I told her I just needed to be told I was a good mom.

It’s a good question to ask yourself, or to be asked by someone, and it really helps you get to the core need that is requiring attention at that time.

So, how are you feeling right now? What do you need, either from yourself or others to get back to a good place? Be bold – take a mental health day if you need it. Tell your friends and family exactly what you need from them, don’t make them read your mind. As Brené Brown would say, “clear is kind.”

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