I love mental health days or even mental health hours. My definition of a Mental Health Day is taking time off from your regular intense life and shirking every bit of responsibility for that period of time. These mental health days are a conduit to finding your core being.
When I attended these three colleges, in chronological order, Manhattan School of Music, St. John’s College, and The Jewish Theological Seminary, I would take self-imposed mental health days. I would take one day every month and just play video games, watch inane television shows, and perhaps eat an entire box of Oreo cookies (dipping each one separately in a tall glass of milk, opening them up, eating the filling, and then redipping them in the milk). Life can be intense and sometimes you may feel like you’re drowning in your studies or choice of work. For me, taking the morning off occasionally, allows me to slow down my life and reconnect with the most important aspects of my life. What are my short-term or long-term goals? If you’re always living in the present, you can’t lift up your head and plan for the future.
Mental health days are on my mind now because of two recent events. First, a few weeks ago, I spent four days at home with the flu. Notice that I didn’t say “four unfortunate days.” Although I hated that I was ill and spending my days with congestion, fever and fatigue, I had a glorious time with my children. We’d all wake up at noon, have some light fare, and then meet in front of the video game console and play video games until we were again hungry. We had marathon watching sessions of our favorite shows. The other event is happening tomorrow, Christmas Day. Chazzano Coffee Roasters has been so deliciously busy during the weeks before Christmas. I am looking forward to my next mental health day, Christmas. We’ll do some of my favorite activities- sitting in bed and watching television, playing video games, playing board games, and just being lazy.
A few decades ago, high end restaurants would often serve a sorbet in between courses. These mental health days are like that-a “mental sorbet.” I often spend my mental health day in activities that are not edifying and sometimes are so incredibly dumb that it is as if I have cleared my mind of all intelligent thoughts. Often a television show is my mental sorbet, the more outlandish, the better. Watching something like Flavor Flav (Flavor of Love) and the Jersey Shore are my favorite vehicles for mind cleansing. I have personally watched every single episode of both of these shows. Every worry in my mind and every serious problem is wiped away with each minute that I watch. I am always searching for new sources of “mental sorbet.” It clears my mind and allows me to write better and to laugh more.
One of the greatest and most painful parts about being an observant Jew is the many holidays that fill the year. For four holidays, Passover (Spring), Shavuot (Summer), Rosh Hashanah (Fall), and Sukkot (later Fall), I am required to take at least 2 days in a row off from work. Chazzano Coffee Roasters is closed for 12 days for these four holidays. I love the Jewish holidays because they force me to take mental health days, to re-evaluate everything that I’m doing in my life. They also force me to create a balance in my relationships with my family. The greatest mental health day is built in to my Jewish observance- the Jewish Sabbath. Every Friday night at sundown, our business lives end completely. We do no manner of business whatsoever from Friday night to Saturday night. We are forced to spend time praying at our local synagogue, eating three meals with our family, and studying. We are limited in our travels because observant Jews are not allowed to drive or ride in a car. The Jewish Sabbath is a wonderful mental health day. Even my tasting palate is wiped clean. After one day of not roasting coffee and not stepping into my shop, I am able to appreciate the various notes of the coffee with greater skill.
Everyone needs to be selfish occasionally. Not often, just occasionally. You need to ask yourself, “what will make me, and only me, happy right now?” I have a long list of things to do that are selfish- spend a few hours writing, playing video games (with my children), catching up on “Orange is the New Black”, or going out to lunch by myself. We all spend our days trying to balance our personal, professional, and family lives. We’re often draining our creative batteries trying to fulfill our responsibilities to our family, employees, business friends, and community organizations. Take time to be selfish with a mental health day. Do stupid, non-destructive, activities that help clean up the foggy tasks that inundate you with busy work.
If you’re a business owner, hire responsible employees with good character that help you create wealth for you and for themselves. If you hire the best people, you can sometimes sleep later and more importantly, take vacations. If you work for someone else, take time off or use your day off as a mental health day. The nonsensical and trite saying, a watched pot never boils, reminds me that if you’re constantly working on your life, on your plan, it will never boil. Take a step back and stop planning. Just relax. You’ll find the answers in the quiet times.
Frank is the owner of Chazzano Coffee Roasters and founder of God and Coffee Consulting. His first book, “God Cries and An Angel Loses its Wings,” is available online and at Chazzano Cafe. The above excerpt is from his soon to be published book, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”