A Pennsylvania State of Mind
When it comes to taking care of yourself, your mental health is just as important as your physical fitness. In fact, it’s considered imperative that you treat your mental well-being with the same concern and respect as your physical health… and for good reason. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can be just as taxing on your body as physical illnesses like the flu.
For that reason, mental health days are gaining ground as legitimate steps to better overall wellness. In the past, taking time off from work or responsibilities at home in order to care for yourself has carried a kind of stigma. Those who have been smart enough to recognize the need for a break and brave enough to take it may have been erroneously criticized as weak. In actuality, a mental health day (or weekend or week or month) can help manage stress and emotions, helping us perform better at everything we do, from parenting children to making sales at work.
But what is a mental health day? Where do you go? What do you do? What activities actually help improve your state of mind and your overall well being? Well, that depends on your specific circumstances. How many mental health days you need, how often you should take them, and what type of activity you choose will be based on the issue you are struggling with and how it is affecting your day-to-day life.
If you are feeling anxious about your finances, taking a day off to draw up a budget and de-stress with a yoga class may be just the ticket. If you’re grieving deeply after the loss of a loved one, however, one day of rest may not be enough of a break to work through your depression. And you may not be able to do it alone. If at any point in your mental health journey you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Your psychologist or psychiatrist can help you navigate your feelings and emotions and map out a plan to get you back on track.
When planning your next mental health day, there are a few activities you should avoid, like staying in bed all day or purposely isolating yourself from your peers. While sleep and “me time” are both imperative to your mental health, as a general rule, avoidance is an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Instead, do something that makes you feel productive but not stressed. Look for ways to get active, enjoy your hobbies, and promote meaningful social interactions. Whether you’re breaking a sweat, reading a novel, or having lunch with a friend, you’ll trigger your “relaxation response” and counteract the cortisol (stress hormone) that is causing you to feel worried, distracted, or sad.
According to one study, Pennsylvania residents have a lower prevalence of mental illness and greater access to care than those of most other states. That may be because Pennsylvania residents have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to mental health boosting activities. You can take advantage of the great outdoors with a day hike or a weekend retreat in one of the state’s many parks or nature preserves. Spend some time on the lake, soaking up the sun or fishing at the water’s edge. Or, if you’re in the mood to learn, visit a museum or historic site. Go alone or with family and friends, and consider disconnecting from technology for the duration of your trip.
No matter how you decide to care for yourself and your mental fitness, recognizing the need to pursue your state of mind with the same vigor and urgency you would your body is the first and most important step. From there, there will be a plethora of options that will allow you to reduce your stress, cope with depression, and manage anxiety… in Pennsylvania or any other part of the world.