Little Minds Need Mental Health Days

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Little Minds Need Mental Health Days

I am a grown up and as a grown up, I’m always encouraged to take these things called “mental health days.” Oh, you know what they are. Feeling perpetually run down or overwhelmed? Mental health day. Emotionally frayed? Mental health day. Personally or professionally exhausted? Mental health day. Did you put the milk in the microwave instead of the fridge and can’t remember your middle child’s name or even if you have a middle child? Mental health day.

Mental health days are a true and real thing.

Recently, I had a medical scare that landed me in the hospital for a pretty intense weekend. I thought I had been doing all of the necessary things to address my illness which included taking prescribed antibiotics. The end. That’s it. That’s all I did. Western medicine should cure it, right? I don’t need to stop or sit down or rest or (gasp) take a nap. What’s a nap? Anyway, it caught up with me. When I finally got home, I did some tough re-evaluation of how I’d been handling my health. As a newly single mom, I had pushed myself to the physical and mental limit and, boy, did my body give me a stern talking to.

During my recovery time of naps and reflection and Netflix, I had a thought: What about our kids? Don’t they need to take days off sometimes to regroup and recharge their little minds and emotions?

Moms try to keep the well-oiled machine running, thinking “No, you need to go to school” or “No, you need to go to <insert any one of the countless sports or activities our children do here>.” But as a person who just got a hefty reminder of how important self-care is, I found myself saying yes to something I had never said yes to before. My son sat on the couch one morning, looking like a college kid who’d pulled an all-nighter (he’s in 5th grade), eating Cheerios like a zombie, using all of the tissues in the Tennessee Valley thanks to allergies. He looked at me and asked a question he’s asked a hundred times before.

“Mama, can I please stay home?” You know what? YES, YOU CAN.

Don’t get me wrong me. I’m a realist over here. I knew he would play video games and watch cartoons and just take a day to do nothing besides blowing his nose 5,000 times. But, you know what? I let him. We laid in bed and laughed and snoozed and read. We ate almost everything in the pantry and then ordered Uber Eats. We rested our hearts, bodies and minds and had not one worry all day. A month ago I would have felt guilty about this. I would have felt panicked about this. But, not anymore. Teaching our children that it’s ok to stop and rest is ok. Showing yourself a little, precious grace should certainly never be considered a bad thing or a lazy thing.

If we don’t show our kids that, who will?

If we make our children push themselves then that’s exactly what they’ll learn. To push themselves even when they feel an instinctive need to rest. And when they grow up that’s exactly what they’ll do. Keep pushing. Instead, we should teach them to really listen to their minds and bodies and not feel bad for saying “Nope. I need a day.” I know this is counter to pretty much everything our routines have modeled over the years with busy lives and non-stop schedules. But, every so often — or however often we need — we need to stop. We need to relax. We need to rest so that we can stay whole, physically and mentally. I absolutely believe that now.

We NEED mental health days. And that means all of us.

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