We all have those days when we feel burned out, tired, and at our wit’s end. If it’s during the workday, we might try to power through the feeling of overwhelm and burnout. We try to focus and to be productive but soon, we’ll be distracting ourselves with YouTube and TikTok videos. But trying to power through isn’t always the best thing to do. Sometimes, the smart thing to do at 2 pm in the afternoon is to take a mental health break.
When I’m having one of those days, when it’s clear that I’m just pushing paper around and getting little done, there are a few ways that I routinely take a mental health break.
These are my top five!
You’ve probably heard the phrase, dance like nobody’s watching. Well, let’s just say I really take this advice to heart. With a couple of glasses of wine (because one glass won’t do) and a 2-hour playlist, I just go for it. Unless the house is burning down or my neighbors complain about the noise, I will work up a sweat dancing to hip-hop or EDM ignoring all dings and phone notifications completely. I really do get lost in the music. When I’m done doing this, I feel nice and tingly, and sometimes euphoric.
2. Shopping at Home Goods
I usually go to Home Goods on a mission — to pick up new bedding or something in kitchenware or storage that I need. But when I need to use Home Goods as my escape, I have time to visit our sections of the store and spend a leisurely 3 hours checking out things I don’t need. On these trips, a stash of healthy snacks will make it home with me where I return feeling irie.
3. Altadena Public Library
This is one of the most special libraries I’ve ever seen, much less been to. Situated in an area of San Gabriel Valley, California, that feels like it was kissed by God, this library is one of my favorite ways to take a mental health break. Picture floor-to-ceiling glass walls with an expansive view of the outside, a periodicals section that carries Dwell and The Oprah Magazine, and comfy reading areas decorated with mid-century furniture.
That’s what I typically get up to when I go for a mental health break. But the library has so many other great services. They carry an impressive list of recently released and new DVDs and have a great media section where you might find a free class in Video Editing. In the photo above, you’re looking at an area of the library where you can play chess by sitting across from someone else who is playing. They even have a sewing machine you can use! This library is the sophisticated adult community center that always helps me reclaim my zen.
4. Park Life
On any given day, you can find people from all socioeconomic backgrounds having lunch in Bryant Park (NYC) and pigeons scrounging for their fallen crumbs. I don’t know how they do it but the park services folks manage to keep Bryant Park almost spotless so it’s always nice to eat lunch there. When I used to work in the tall green building facing the park (see photo above), this was one of my favorite ways to clear my head at 2:00 pm. I would take at least an hour to enjoy the park-life that’s steps from me. If you were to come across me on one of these afternoons, you might mistake me for a Times Square tourist.
5. The Internet
I’m not alone in using the internet during the workday to escape, however, how I use the internet might be a little different than most. I use it to find cheap airfares to Mexico or to plan a vacation; I might even plan vacations that I know I won’t take.
For anything we struggle with or wellness actions we routinely need to take, I highly recommend knowing what works for you and veering on the side of healthy. Self-soothing can be healthy, fun, and invigorating. I hope that this list shows that you can reset and take care of yourself in healthy not-too-boring ways.
Christine is a Mindfulness trainer and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation, routines, systems and personalization.