Minding My Mental Health: A Holly Jolly Hiatus

The last few days of school leading up to winter break were always full of anticipation. Classes were wrapping up, holiday parties commenced, and a whole month of nothing but joy laid ahead. Holiday breaks were the epitome of childhood happiness. It really felt like the most wonderful time of the year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, I relished the time spent at my family home, celebrating with inordinate amounts of food. While the food was all well and good, seeing family was fine, and decorating brought a smile to my face, none of these were the reason I felt such great anticipation. The real reason…I needed a break. It wasn’t until I grew up and started my adult life that I realized how much holiday breaks meant for my mental health.

I transitioned from a whole month off for just winter break to 10 total days off for federal holidays each year. Extended breaks were always used to recharge and focus back on my mental health. No matter how much stress school was causing, I could push through because it would be over soon. If I started getting overwhelmed, I could look at the calendar and say, “Okay, just wait 11 more days, just 11 more days until break.” I could make it. Breaks were then spent binge-watching TV and catching up on sleep. By the end of my holly-jolly-hiatus I was ready to get back to school, work, and whatever else took up my time. Looking ahead to ‘adult’ life, having just one day off for Christmas is disappointing at best.

The generally accepted idea is that weekends are used for recuperating, relaxing, and getting back into a healthy mindset for work on Monday. While weekends do serve a supportive role in maintaining mental health, they just don’t seem to cut it. I imagine that many others feel the same way. A three day weekend once in a blue moon doesn’t really help much either. I’ve found it very difficult to work day in and day out waiting for a break that will never come. Extended holidays served as my motivation as a child. They guided me towards an end to the stress. Now, it just seems endless, monotonous. I look out at the weeks that lie ahead of me and see day after day of work. This feeling is even stronger when the winter holidays roll around. It just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

But of course, there are a lot of people who work weekends, holidays, or both. Now that, that scares me. It just seems impossible. Growing up in a  farming community, everyone worked endless hours. There were no breaks unless it rained. These people were strong, hardworking, and dedicated. All things that I was not…because I needed a break. I fostered so much guilt for a long time for being lazy. In reality, I just struggle with my mental health and need more time to recuperate. At work, my coworkers seem to be fine with only getting ten days off a year while I feel like I am drowning. So, what’s my solution? Well, I don’t really have one. But, addressing the guilt about being ‘lazy’ is big in helping me feel more in control of the relaxation time I do have. I try to make the most of my weekends; leaving responsibilities for the weekdays so I can spend the entire two days watching TV. I don’t have to feel guilty about how I spend my time, especially if I need that time for my mental health.

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