School is in full swing, sports are ramping up and families are getting busier by the week. Packed schedules are the norm but they can leave parents and their kids feeling burnt out.
“I think the No.1 thing is that we overwhelm ourselves as a society. We are a very ‘yes’ society,” says Emily Pritchett, a limited licensed psychologist at Transcendence Behavioral Health in Livonia.
A child might be involved in a few different sports, take honors classes and more, while mom and dad work long shifts, drive everyone to practice and handle all additional household responsibilities. Families are constantly going, going, going and no one is taking time to slow down and stop.
Over time, people become easily irritable, have difficulty sleeping or concentrating and focusing on one task. They worry more and generally have a heightened level of anxiety.
“We blow past our warning signs and it inevitably leads to burnout and that’s what brings people to therapy,” she says.
This is where mental health days come into play. Here, Pritchett offers insight on their importance and how to do them the right way.
Time out for mental health days
Two days. That’s all children and parents who work a Monday-Friday schedule have off each week. Those days aren’t necessarily considered “off” as they oftentimes have sports, family gatherings and other obligations. Ultimately, no one is really getting a break.
“I think we have to look at our brain just like any other organ in the body. If the kid had pneumonia, we would not push our kid to go to school but I feel like sometimes we’re just like, ‘you have that test’ or things like that,” she says.
School has become even more stressful, thanks to the pandemic. Kids are still playing catch-up, and teachers are trying to work with new guidelines and other changes in the classroom. All the change is overwhelming.
“Implementing mental health days prevents us from getting so burnt out on things constantly changing,” she says.
Take a day that’s free of expectations, Pritchett suggests. Everywhere a child goes, there are expectations she notes, so set up mental health days where those expectations disappear.
Pritchett recommends combining mental health days with something that is stress-relieving, such as a low-sensory activity like a spa day, a bubble bath or even playing board games.
Keep it unplugged, she says.
It’s OK to give yourself permission to take the day off if you feel you can’t function.
“We are not robots. We are not meant to be on 24/7 and everyone has an off day,” Pritchett says.
After all, by pushing ourselves, what are we really accomplishing?
Instead, parents need to be able to show them that mom or dad takes mental health days — or even the whole family does.
“We really don’t take into effect how much our kids are actually watching us and how much they are learning our healthy coping skills based on what we’re doing to take care of ourselves,” she says. “Parenting is harder than ever before. We’re not trying to shield them from it anymore either. We’re not obviously telling them the whole truth about what was stressful that day but we’re really trying to show them, ‘hey we have these feelings too and this is how we cope.'”
Content brought to you by the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation. For more information, visit flinnfoundation.org.