I am a homebody by nature. It isn’t that I don’t like to go places and do things, but being home, doing homebody stuff, is my gig. I like working in the garden, baking, reading, watching birds on the bird feeders, that sort of thing. In real life, I am a high school teacher. It is utterly exhausting. Along with the demands of planning, teaching and grading for 130 students, it is an emotionally exhausting vocation. Students have family issues, academic difficulties, depression/anxiety, college admissions agita and other assorted things that they sometimes need my help navigating. I hurt for them. I worry for them. I pray for them. Really, I am crazy about them and want the best for them. But they also drain me sometimes, those darling little emotional and mental vampires.
And then there’s the business of my own personal life. I’m a mom and a wife and I am active in several ministries at church. I love it all. It’s just that sometimes I hit a brick wall of exhaustion. The perfect storm of physical, mental and emotional demands just wrings me out. Once in a while, these things just run me over and I go to bed in a state of near-collapse, or worse, wake up feeling that way. And that, friends, is when I take a mental health day. It isn’t laziness or underhandedness to take a sick day as a mental health day. Sometimes the clarity that comes with a little time alone, a little space between me and my daily grind, is simply necessary. This is not to mention the physical rest, the GLORIOUS rest, a mental health day can bring. This is not necessarily a case of “a-sick-day-has-to-happen-or-I-am-going-to-lose-it.” When I take these days on occasion, it isn’t because I have an deep emotional issues or hate my life. It is because I am human and all humans need a break once in awhile.
These days aren’t “hooky”, where I go run the streets like Ferris Bueller, wearing myself out with a string of misadventures and tomfoolery. A mental health day is often a day of extended pajama wearing and copious amounts of tea and/or coffee. Sometimes I will go for a walk, run or bike ride if the weather is pleasant. I haven’t had to take a mental health day in some time, probably since six consecutive weeks of standardized testing disrupted our school schedule last year. Things have been pretty good this year since I intentionally created more margin in my life (here is a little video I made on the topic also). By creating margin, the breakneck intensity of life can be slowed, which allows me to feel less overwhelmed. Perhaps I won’t need a mental health day this school year, but if I do, I will take it unashamedly and know that by taking care of myself by allowing a day of rest and reflection, I am doing a service to everyone around me.
As I see it, when I look back over my life when I am older, I will be glad for the practice of self-care. I doubt I’ll be lamenting that I used sick days sporadically to recharge myself instead of hoarding them up. The practice of running myself ragged for no good reason is foolish. The world won’t end if I am not at school for a single day. In fact, the students just may need a break from me also. And I wouldn’t blame them a bit.