Mental Health Days are important. Here’s how to make it worthwhile.

Good readers share advice on how to get away from it all.

“How did it become so hard to relax one day?”

Lena Poole, a primary care physician in Austin, Texas, recently posed this question when she and her husband, who work in public health, decided to plan a much-needed mental health day together. So, she said, they went “around and around” to figure out how to use it.

The pandemic has pushed many of us to reconsider our priorities and become more attuned to our needs, so the idea of ​​taking a day of mental health away from work or school has begun to seem significant rather than daring. But what is the ideal way to fill those hours so we walk away and feel fresh and recharged?

We turned to our readers to find out what they do during a mental health day. The answers poured in – and not just from those trapped in the rat race. Some said they had been retired for years, others were stay-at-home parents, and some responded on behalf of their burnt-out teens.

Here are their ideas:

From August, I started planning a “play day” once a month to do what I want. I usually take the bus / train into New York City to a museum, a park, window shopping, etc., walking as much as I can. I buy lunch (eat outdoors) and usually a decadent sweet treat to enjoy alone. I get home right after noon (so I don’t feel obligated to cook that day) I feel rested and ready for the next daily grind.

Colleen Goidel, Hoboken, NJ

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I’m going to a matinee movie. I go alone. Get my own soda and popcorn and I immerse myself. It’s a good way to avoid all the competing demands of my attention for a few hours.

Candace Davis, Washington

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I usually take a mental health day because I just have to lie in bed all day and stare at the walls. The point is not what to do these days or how to do it, but the feeling of relief that comes from “I’m OK beyond what I can do or produce. I’m worthy and OK, just because I’m here.”

Ilse Murdock, City Island, Bronx, NY

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During my last day of mental health, I hiked up to the top of Flattop, a mountain in Anchorage, Alaska that looks like a huge tabletop overlooking the city. I needed space and air. It was just hard enough to escape and get a thrill, but safe enough not to be stressful. There were some paragliders jumping from the top of it that day and it was beautiful. I watched them float down the mountain valley and wondered how and where they would land.

Elijah Haines, Anchorage, Alaska

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Pull weeds in my garden. They do not speak back, so it is the perfect stress reducer. And the yard looks better when I’m done.

Mary Ann Rood, Fernandina Beach, Fla.

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My mom let me take a “mental health day” when I was in high school in the ’90s, usually exhausted from a series of big projects and tests or just needed a break from teenage life. I always had to treat it like a sick day when we told everyone that was why, so a quiet day of reading, garbage TV, movies and maybe baking and kitchen experiments in comfortable clothes. My mother said she knew that if I had a day off, I would be able to stay healthy, but if I burned out, I would be more likely to get sick.

Elisabeth Leekley, Boston area

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I have bipolar disorder, so I usually take a mental health day when I feel prone to a depressed, manic or mixed episode. Typically, I will listen to a new album, either one that has been released recently or one that is new to me. Then I would usually go for a walk to a nearby park and just sit somewhere and observe everything around me – dogs going for a walk, kids playing tag, couples going for a picnic. Sunlight and fresh air can make me go from melancholy to balanced, or at least closer to balanced.

Claire Goray, Glasgow

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My 13-year-old football-obsessed son asked to miss school for a mental health day. He spent the day in bed, sipping hot chocolate and working on a script for a musical. He said it was the best day of his life.

Holly Roberson, Berkeley, California.

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It’s a little sad, but when I take a day off with mental health, I use it to clean the house, plan vacations, camp / babysit, and schedule appointments. Basically, I use the time to catch up on things that are hard to do in the regular work week. Granted, I usually do this while I’m still in my PJs, drinking hot coffee or tea, and possibly with a podcast or a show playing in the background – and when the kids are all in school! So it’s not all bad.

Claire R., Seattle

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My days of mental health are usually triggered by the fact that I feel completely overwhelmed by my self-inflicted and overly ambitious to-do lists. So I cross elements off. I make that recipe, organize that corner of the apartment, find a YouTube video that can help me fix the window with drafts. Or at least I’m pretending I’m going to do these things. Instead, I spend a few hours doing something mindless in front of a screen, doing maybe one or two things, and then quietly deleting half of the remaining items from the list.

Lauren Gledhill, New Britain, Conn.

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I am a therapist who assesses and treats PTSD at Memphis VA. My days of mental health (few and far between) often go by pulling weeds and tidying up my garden beds – clearing out the clutter I can and letting some spaces exist as they are. It’s a lot like my work, but not that painful.

Kitty Frazer, Memphis

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I have been retired for 8 years. My wife is still working. That means I’m the “housekeeper”. As any caretaker in the world knows, taking care of the house and family is exhausting. So a retired guy also takes a mental health day. I close the blinds and get the house up to 70 degrees. I will not receive news. I’m going to watch fun shows. I’m having a glass of wine. A pot gummy bear maybe. I “float” around in my backyard and try to stay in the now and appreciate how beautiful my garden has become. Maybe I’ll get pizza delivered. I often lie in my pajamas all day. It is wonderful.

Jerry, Bay Area

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