Today, I decided to take a mental health day. I haven’t taken one in a very long time. Usually, I don’t take time off until I can’t function anymore, and at that point, it’s a sick day. Even CNN thinks it’s a bad idea.
I encourage everyone to take a mental health day every once in awhile. Sure, there are weekends, but if you’re anything like me, I spend them doing housework and visiting family. (I hope you don’t think I’m too much of a party animal!) Life goes so fast, and I always seem to be thinking in the past and planning for the future. That’s why a mental health day is so important. It’s a one day vacation where you can just catch up to the moment.
So, what does a mental health day entail? You can do anything you want! I prefer to stay home alone (I get so much done that way), but the world is your oyster. You can watch your favorite TV shows, read a book, go for a walk, or even spend the day sleeping. Maybe you like video games. Maybe a day trip. It’s your day and you can do anything you want.
If you need some ideas, this is how I spent my day:
- Browsed Reddit and Pinterest
- Cut collage items out of magazines I need to recycle
- Made the bed
- Sang as loud as I wanted while vacuuming
- Dislodged the sock I accidentally vacuumed up (whoops)
- Reorganized my kitchen
- Back to Pinterest, where I found a recipe for homemade pretzels
- Sliced my finger open on the food processor while making said pretzels (double whoops)
- Watched Parks & Recreation reruns and nursed my poor finger
- Soaked my feet. Couldn’t find anything fancy, so I used dish liquid
- Played with my cats
- Admired the IKEA art cart I assembled yesterday. Råskog means, “Awesome job, Clean!” in Swedish*
- Drew with charcoal
- Drank a deliciously artificial grape soda and enjoy it (rather than my usual process of stressing about the corn syrup and purging)
- Went to get replacements for all the ingredients I lost
- Went to a small farm stand where I fed a pig and pet a cow.
* Not actually true
So, how will you spend your mental health day?
Reader mode is the best idea web developers/designers have ever had. Ok, that’s definitely an exaggeration (this is the real “best idea”), but it’s up there.
I’m easily distracted, and I often have a hard time concentrating on text when there’s so much around me. I look at the spacing, the stock art, the ads, the related content… anything but what I’m supposed to read. While this is a valuable asset in my job (web design), it makes it very difficult to glean any of the important written information.
Enter reader mode. Reader mode is a setting on most web browsers that filters out unrelated pictures, ads, and extraneous information on web pages, leaving only the words on a white background. It cleans up the text so you can concentrate on what really matters.
To enter reader mode:
Firefox for Android
Safari on iOS
Safari on Mac
Today, I read an article on Let’s Feel Better about managing chronic illness and your career. She approaches the topic from a physical illness, but the same concepts can be applied to mental illness as well. Her rules?
- Nobody Has to Know Your Business Unless You Tell Them
- You Don’t Have the Luxury, Deal With It
- Do Something You’re Good At and Something You Like
- Accommodate Yo’ Self
- Plan for Shit to Go Down
Check out the article: Five Basic Rules for Dealing with Chronic Illness and Your Career
Beginning to eat healthy can be a very difficult to start. If it’s something in which you’re interested, check out this downloadable “Quick Start” guide made by Whole Foods. It’s pretty easy to understand, accessible, and gives some great tips on building smoothies and breakfast bowls, along with a few recipes and a shopping list. You can find the ingredients at most supermarkets.
Experiment with your medication time frames. [NOTE: Please consult with your doctor first to make sure this is ok.] For example, I’m on two doses of a stimulant that decreases my appetite, so I try to time lunch between them. I take my sedating night medications (such as antidepressants and antipsychotics) at night, generally around 10:30pm. I’m in bed by 11:00pm, and hopefully asleep around 11:30-11:45. If I take them earlier, I notice that I’m more likely to want to eat. If I take them too late, I’ll be groggy the next morning. For me, a 15 minute bracket of time can make all the difference. Now that I’ve established times that work for me, I set reminders on my Fitbit to make sure I fit in that 15 minute window.
I use a health monitoring app and wristband called Fitbit. While I use the device mainly for health concerns, one feature that I really like for mental health hygiene is the vibration alarm. You can set the alarm to go off at any time, and it’ll silently alert you using a quiet and peaceful vibration.
I used the alarm function to remind me to take pills, change activities, perform tasks, go to meetings, etc.
Keep a container of cleaning wipes by commonly used surfaces, such as by your bathroom sink, tables, etc. Every so often, use a wipe to wash the surface. This will keep your area clean without much effort and without having to look for cleaning supplies.
If you live with your family or roommates and you divvy up the chores, see if they’ll accommodate you. Ask for a task that doesn’t trigger you and isn’t time dependent. For example, I find that working with trash triggers hallucinations, so I ask someone else to do that. I get nauseated when I wash dishes, which makes me anxious, so I try to avoid that. Instead, I cook (which can be replaced with take-out), do the laundry (which can be deferred to the next day), etc.
You can print a chores list here: Chores List
You can also check out the apps Homeslice and Chorma if you like virtual lists.
If you do feel like cooking, salad bars are a good resource for vegetables and proteins. You can buy the exact amount you want without having to prepare them and store any extra. Sometimes, this extra step is enough to make the difference between cooking an easy, healthy meal and ordering out.
Now that I can cook more, I use a service called Eat This Much (eatthismuch.com). It can be difficult to organize, plan, and shop for meals, but this website streamlines the process. It’s not free (about $7.00 USD a month), but it’s worth every penny. You can input your favorite foods, foods you don’t like, nutritional needs, and typical meal sizes. The service then generates a meal plan based on your preferences. Every week, you get an email with the meal plan, directions, estimated cost, and grocery list prepared for you. If you happen not to like a meal, you can go back and change it. The set-up can be a bit of a hassle if you’re not feeling well, but if it works for you, it’s one less thing to worry about.