Why Mental Health Days are Important For Your Child (and for You)

My family went through a lot when I was 15. My younger brother passed away and there was a lot of extra stress on top of that. I remember one time during that year when my mom pulled me out of school. She took me hiking in the nearby national park. It was a wonderful day as my mom and I spent time submersed in nature, enjoying our time with each other. We developed a greater connection with each other. It was also a wonderful break from all the stresses that we were facing in our lives. My mom called it a mental health day. 

I have never forgotten that day nor have I forgotten the benefits that my mom and I gained from having our mental health day. I want to share with you some of these benefits and why taking a mental health day can be beneficial to both you and your child.

1. Time to Recharge from Overstimulation

As an introvert, life can be draining. We are constantly stimulated by everything in life. We need time to recharge because when we do so, we can perform to the best of our abilities. When I first became a mom of two little girls, I became overstimulated and I did not take enough time to recharge. This led to burnout and depression. You can read more about this experience and how knowing more about introversion helped me to overcome it in my post Heartache and My Struggle to Reconnect.

One of my favorite podcasts is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. On a particular podcast, she talked about how when her in-laws go on vacation they always save a day at the end of the vacation to be at home. I thought it was a great idea. Vacations can often be filled with fun and exciting (aka stimulating) things, which we enjoy, but wear us out. Even if your vacation is more about relaxing on the beach and not as stimulating then taking a day at home before getting back to work/school will make it easier to go to back the next day. Also my daughters take a few days to readjust after being away from home. I usually try to have a day of familiarity after we get home so that they can settle back into home life.

When your child becomes overstimulated, they may become cranky and irritable. Your child also needs time to recharge. Recently my Lil Bug had preschool and then that same day we had some extended family events. She was overstimulated and exhausted by the end of the day. Even though she had fun being with family, it was exhausting for her and she was easily upset and struggled with sleep when we got home. She slept in the following day. Even though she had preschool, I decided not to wake her up. Instead, I let her teacher know that she needed a break and would not be there. All the events from the day before were too much for her and she needed some time to recharge. To unwind. She needed a mental health day. She had enjoyed her time the day before but she was overstimulated and overwhelmed by everything that had happened. She needed time to recharge before continuing in the world. When she did wake up, I could tell I had made the right decision. She needed the solitude of home and the calmness of the activities that we do at home. Usually school is one of our priorities for pushing Lil Bug out of her comfort zone, but in this case it was too much for her. She needed the break. 

I’m not saying to always take your child out of school, but just consider your child and what is best for you both. Maybe you can wait until Saturday to do something different. At the end of a long week of school, think about what would help your child recharge and help them do it. If you’re finding that you are using the mental health day idea too often, then reevaluate the underlying causes of your child’s distress. Something needs to change, it’s not a matter of just relaxing. In any case, take time to assess your child’s needs and decide what is best for them.

2. Time to Think and Make Sense of the World

The next benefit is
the time we have to think and make sense of the world. This is beneficial especially
when you and/or your child are dealing with intense emotions, caused by heartache,
stress, or too many changes in the environment. A day, or even a half day, away
from the stress that we encounter each day can help us to process all of the
emotions that we have encountered. We can gain a greater understanding of our
situation. And oftentimes when we take time to feel our emotions fully we can
work through them more easily.

Remember also that your children,
especially if they are highly sensitive can sense your emotions and
consequently the stress you feel.

Adults and children are both
seeking to make sense of the world. Children especially are inundated with new
ideas and concepts, but adults experience new ideas, experiences, and stimuli as well. Taking
some time to really process what is going on in your life helps you to make
needed connections that cause you to better understand yourself, your child,
and all the other relationships that you have in your life.

As a 15 year old, I gained great
insight into the direction my life wanted to go. I discussed this at length
with my mom that day. It was done in a setting and at a time where I could
think when needed and say what I wanted to at a pace I enjoyed. I was able to
work through some of the things that I had either been pondering or that I
needed to think about but had not had sufficient time to do so.

3. Meaningful Connections

This particular benefit comes from doing a mental health day with someone else, in this case my mom. She was someone I knew and loved. She was familiar to me. It was not stressful or anxiety creating being with her. We also did something that I loved to do, hiking, being in the outdoors, away from crowds. It was a calm, healthy environment for me. That healthy environment and the calm activity of hiking, deepened my connection with my mom.

As a parent, I am constantly wanting to create meaningful moments with my daughters. Moments where I am completely focused on my kids. Moments where I feel an even greater love and joy just being with them. Moments that help both my children and myself thrive. Seek those meaningful moments each day, then when you have a mental health day with your child, deepen those moments.
There will be times that we need our time alone, but it can also be re-energizing when we deepen the connection with those with whom we have meaningful connections.

4. Example

This particular benefit of that day with my mom is something I am only now realizing. My mom took the time to be flexible for me. She showed me an example of a parent who cares and loves their
child as she created time for me. She also showed me through her example the importance of taking time for ourselves, not necessarily when we want it, but when we need it.

As parents, do we not want to teach our children to take care of themselves? We try to teach them the importance of eating healthily, exercising, educating themselves, protecting themselves from
physical harm, but how often do we teach them to take a break when they really need it? How often do we teach them to process their feelings and process what they’re going through? How often do we teach them to be flexible enough to take care of themselves? And how often do we show them these things through our example?

Being an example is one of the most important ways to teach our children. Teach by example, the importance of taking time to recharge.

As an introvert parent it might be a bit harder to find time to take a full mental health day. Sometimes just an hour or two is enough. If you find you really need a full day, ask for help from friends and family. But, whether you can make it a whole day or not, try to take some time each evening to help yourself recharge. Read some ideas for recharging at the end of the day here. There is also The Wallflower Box which is a subscription box that is specifically geared towards helping introverts to recharge. I am not an affiliate with them but I love what they are doing so I wanted to share it with you.

I have found that as I’ve made time to recharge that I have become a more patient and loving parent. When my children have taken that time to unwind and recharge, they are happier. This is the last benefit that I’ll mention, the feelings of peace and understanding that come from recharging.  Let’s take some time to make sure we set a good example for our kids and teach them the importance of processing emotions and stimuli.

Special Thank You to Women

A few years ago I wrote about the influence of all the women in my life. I posted it on a personal blog that was only meant for friends and family to see. It was my first Mother's Day as a mom. I had so many feelings going on and I wanted to thank all of those women who had an impact on my life. I decided to go ahead and revisit that post, update it to reflect where I am today and share it with you.

As I sat writing those years before, I remembered the past Mother's Days leading up to being a mom. I could still feel the pain I had in not being able to be a mom. I love being a mom. I'm passionate about it and I intensely wanted to be one. It took a while for my daughters to come to me. My husband and I had struggled for a few years with getting pregnant and there was lots of heartache involved. I would always try to make it through church, but in those times that I have succeeded it’s been difficult. After church was easier, because I would put all of my focus on my mother and my mother-in-law, both amazingly strong and loving women. But, the pain of not being a mother was still there. Even now, I feel the emotion and sorrow, breaking through, the memory of the emotional pain is strong. I can still recall it with only a moment’s notice.

In addition, I have always been aware of others' emotions around me. I know that whether or not you have kids, Mother's Day can be difficult. Whether it be from emotions of unfulfilled dreams, loss of one you love, or unmet expectations, there are many emotions that surface on Mother's Day. Perhaps because of all these emotions, I now perceive Mother's Day as a day to think of others. A day to think of all the women in my life who have in some way or another had an influence on me. I choose not to focus on what I want, but on ways that I can thank others for what they have done for me.

I have come to recognize that this day is more about the beauty of women and their extraordinary influence in the lives of those around them.

I only share with you these things so you can better understand me and better understand why this day means so much more to me than having children. In my view, all women have the ability to bless and influence the lives of others, often in ways we do not completely understand.

With that in mind, I want to take a moment to focus on those women who have been strong and beautiful examples in my life.

The Leaders of My Youth:

You were there during one of the most difficult times in my young life. You comforted and strengthened my through not only your words but more so through your actions. In those times that I sought answers, you helped me to find the answers for myself. You reminded me that there is a higher purpose to our lives here on earth. I have thought of you often, especially now that I am now in your place as a leader of the youth.

Lifelong Friends:

I have known most of you for most of my life. I am thankful that we have maintained a relationship for so long. We have had many wonderful memories together and I know will yet have many more. You are great examples of kindness, loyalty and love, of being a true friend. There are times that we may not see or hear from each other for a while, but when we get together again that hardly seems to be a problem. Each of you have had your own trials and struggles of which you have had the strength to overcome and for some of you, you’re still struggling. I know that you can succeed, that there is a great strength within you.

Roommates and Friends in College:

You have been strong examples of women focused on the Lord. Your belief and conviction have strengthened my own. Your ability to succeed in life and in school helped me to succeed as well. I loved our in depth conversations about life. You always had such beautiful perspectives and a great understanding of what was truly important. You are educated and faithful. You are a great example of seeking for truth and being able to find it. I have seen the light of Christ shine through you.

Women from My Mission:

With some of you I struggled, but those times turned out to be some of the greatest growth experiences on my mission and I learned so much from you. With others, you were my tender mercies from the Lord. From all of you, I saw the diversity of women within our church. I saw beautiful examples of faith. I saw how each one of you could impact and influence countless others for good. You strengthened me and gave me greater insight. You had a powerful influence on me and on those around you. I saw people’s lives change for good because of your willingness to serve others. And each one of you changed my life for good.

Role Models and Mentors:

You helped me in those times that my roles in life were changing. Whether it be moving into adulthood, being a newlywed and wife, or being a new mother. You helped me, through your example, see traits that I desired to develop within myself. In some cases, I leaned on your example as I fulfilled the different responsibilities given to me. I would have been lost without you. In times of my greatest trials, you were there to provide strength. You, and your families, will always have a special place in my heart.

The Youth I Lead and Former Seminary Students:

It amazes me what you young women have gone through and the kind of temptations and struggles you come across each day. You have a great strength within you, more strength than you may realize. I have learned so much from you as I have tried to teach you. Thank you for your sincere questions and your willingness to understand. Thank you for your example of love for others.

My Sister:

You have always been there for me. I remember how you would always stand up for me when our brothers would pick on me. No one wanted to mess with you, not even as they towered over you. I remember the love you showed when I had the miscarriage. I will never forget the concern that you had for me during that time. You have a great capacity to love. I’ve seen it time and time again in your willingness to help others, no matter how well you know them. You may not let many people see you on a deeper level, but those who you do let in you love fiercely and will do everything in your power to protect them. You are a beautiful mother to Henry and Sam. I don't think you realize the positive influence that you are in their lives. I see it so often in the photos and Facebook posts and when we get together. I am so thankful that you found them, they were meant to be your children.

My Sisters-in-law:

You readily accepted me into your families and have always shown love. Thank you for all the love and support that you have shown me and also for all your support and concern in our difficulties. I know that you will continue to be wonderful examples to me and to my daughters.

My Mother-in-Law:

You are one of the most loving people I know. You do so much for us and for others. You always look for ways that you can help others. You emulate the Savior in all that you do. You are the perfect Nana for Lil Bug and Lil Sunshine. Thank you for your willingness to help with them whenever it is needed. In my opinion, one of your greatest accomplishments is your family. Each one of your kids is amazing, especially Jordan. They are all successful in life and have a sound understanding of truth. I feel privileged to be a part of your family. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law.

And the woman who has influenced my life more than any other. My Mom:

Mom, you mean so much to me and I can better understand all that you have done for me now that I have a daughters of my own. I understand more the love that you have for me and for my brothers and sister. I have come to see how a Mother’s love is pure love. I understand more the anxiety and worry, the concern that you have for each of us. I am thankful for all your selflessness through the years. You have taught me how to stand up for those I love and how to fight for what I know is right. You have taught me the importance of finding out for myself the truth. You are the greatest example that I have of inner strength as you raised a very unique family and overcame trial after trial, difficulty after difficulty. I am thankful that Lil Bug and Lil Sunshine have such a loving and devoted grandma. I love seeing the look in your eyes whenever you see them. You once told me that the most important traits of a mother is her trust in the Lord and ability to listen to Him. You have shown that throughout my life.

Strength, love, courage, comfort, and a great influence to do good. Those are the traits that I think of when I think of women. I know that there are many other women that have blessed and influenced my life in many ways, some which I may not even realize. To you, I want to say thank you as well.

Embrace yourself as a woman. Embrace the traits that make yourself so uniquely you. Embrace the strength within yourself that is the essence of being a woman.

The Beauty of an Alto: The Harmony of the Introvert Extrovert Relationship

I love listening to music. I get lost in it. In fact I get so lost in it that I have to turn off the music when I am around others just so I can have a conversation with them. I love the way it weaves in and out of my soul. I love the way I can get lost in a song and the way it affects the way I feel (Seriously, have you ever tried watching Lord of the Rings on mute? Way too much traveling shown for it to affect me the way it does. It’s the music). I love the way thoughts and images, memories as well, fly around in my head. Creativity soaring as I hear a strain of music. And I love how each part comes together to create one beautiful masterpiece.

I was listening to some beautiful music in church one day when my thoughts began to flow as I listened to the sopranos sing. It was beautiful. They sang the melody but when the altos began singing along, splitting the music from unison to add harmony, I was completely mesmerized.
I contemplated the beauty of these two parts singing together, seeing a connection between what I was hearing and the introvert/extrovert relationship. Just as the different parts in a song can create beautiful music, these two personality traits can create a truly remarkable masterpiece.
I’ll focus on the soprano first. The sopranos, in most cases, sing the melody. The melody is the part that gets stuck in your head. You’ll find yourself singing it days later. If you’ve listened to Disney’s Moana’s song, “You’re Welcome,” you probably know what I mean.

The melody is the part that stands out. The center stage.

So, since in most, but not all cases, the sopranos sing the melody, I see the soprano part as the extrovert personality. Extroverts are those who embrace interaction with others. They seem at ease with conversation and thrive on being with others and in groups, they are the ones that usually stand out.

I want to point out that listening to a soprano is beautiful. There is a real talent in someone who can sing that part, both natural talent as well as refined. In similarity, the strengths of the extrovert are beautiful as well, both natural and refined too.

Extroverts are often applauded and praised for their ability to be at ease in a crowd, at ease around others. They are comfortable with conversing. There is a beauty in it and also a need. If no one ever interacted or made their thoughts known, where would we be? If we all just sat back and watched there would be a lot more missed opportunities. And a lot less getting done. There would be a lot less connection and progress.

I love my extrovert friends, I love the way they help me to feel more comfortable in a group setting. When I find myself in a new group situation, it is usually the extrovert that reaches out to talk to me and helps me to feel more comfortable being around people I don’t know. They bring me in, until I feel comfortable enough to reach out to others myself.

Introverts when dedicated and passionate enough about something can act like extroverts in order to accomplish what needs to be done. Yet, it is difficult. With the soprano part in music, it can often be outside of my vocal range. It’s difficult for me to sing the high notes, sometimes it’s just a matter of having confidence in my vocal ability at other times I physically cannot hit those high notes, my voice being more suited for the alto part. When in the right setting, such as when I am feeling comfortable or when I feel I need to be an example to another, I can act like an extrovert. But, it is difficult to do so and even harder when I’m not in the right setting.

In this musical comparison, I see introverts as altos. There is a beauty to them that is not as noticeable as their soprano counterparts. It’s an underlying beauty.

As with most relationships it takes time and a continued effort to build a relationship, even more so with a relationship with an introvert. Yet, when the connection is made, it is a deep connection. The underlying beauty is found.

When an alto joins the soprano part it adds a depth that was not there before. This isn’t to say that extroverts are shallow. I’ve known extroverts who are quite profound with their thinking and also really care about others. But, introverts take more time to think and ponder. They have a rich inner thought process and the ability to really think things through. If they are able to organize their thoughts in a way that makes sense to others they benefit others in a unique way. When an introvert speaks, having been given sufficient time to think, there is a lot of meaning behind it. But, sometimes it can be hard to really know for an introvert to really know that what they are saying makes sense to someone else because they have made connections in their mind that they have not expressed in the discussion.

The introvert’s deep introspection also keeps them from acting right away. In many ways this can be good as they cautiously look at different situations to see if they are worth pursuing.

The funny thing about me having the vocal range of an alto is that it is easier for me to pick up the melody, while an alto usually sings the harmony part. Likewise, it can be harder to notice an introvert than an extrovert. It is also harder to get know them, to hear them. We are not the type of people to open up to others easily, to share all of our thoughts. It takes time and a continued effort on both sides.

Introverts and extroverts are different. This is a beautiful blessing. If we were all the same, we would not have progressed to where we are at in this world today. We would not have all the technology that we do or all the different perspectives that uplift and inspire others. If Ghandi or Mother Theresa were the same as all the others, would they have had such an impact on so many others’ lives? The differences are beautiful. The soprano part and the alto part are both beautiful in their own way, and the same is true for extroverts and introverts. We need to understand that beauty as a society and embrace each other for who we are.

As I listen to music, and the song is played or sang in unison, it is beautiful. But, when it splits into harmonies, it can take my breath away as all the parts of the music move apart from each other but in a way that still works, that still creates a striking masterpiece.

Together introverts and extroverts can work together simultaneously on similar ideas and systems, but when they use their individual strengths, their differences, together in a harmonic way, they combine to create a something different altogether that would not have been possible without each other. Each are beautiful on their own, and at times alone is needed, but together is something truly remarkable. Let’s strive to create a masterpiece together.

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