Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mental Health Day

By Annette Dashofy

Several friends have commented lately about how calm I look considering the Pennwriters Conference (of which I am coordinator) is less than two months away. This usually makes me want to laugh. Then I consider the possibility that I should be an actor instead of a writer.

Some days the tension bubbles under the surface like a volcano about to blow its top. My current source of aggravation is people who do not respond to emails or return phone calls. Repeatedly. And I’m not just talking about the conference. At this very moment, there are three people I’ve been trying to get responses from. One of them has been avoiding me for more than three months. The other two have been dodging me only for a couple of weeks.

This makes me very annoyed. Do not make me come after you.

However, most of the time I’m coping quite well. Just the other day, I was exchanging emails with a friend (one who does actually reply to my messages) and we discussed methods of staying calm. Mine are: deep breathing, chocolate, yoga, chocolate, long walks, chocolate, and when all else fails, that bottle of Merlot in the fridge. And chocolate.

I’ve also started employing a weekly event I refer to as Mental Health Day. Now, I know lots of folks take these on occasion. But I’m talking about one every week. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday. During most MHDs, I don’t even turn on the computer. This makes for a very busy Monday, but that’s another story.

This past weekend, I took my MHD on Saturday and went to the track. Not to bet. Not to watch the races. But to renew my groom’s license and hang out in the barn with the horses and my friend, Jessi, a trainer at Mountaineer.

I first met Jessi and became a licensed groom when I was writing the veterinary mystery series set at a Thoroughbred racetrack. Research can be fun. Unfortunately, those manuscripts have yet to sell. So my time at the track is strictly fun these days. I brush horses. Sometimes I walk horses. Sometimes I help bathe horses. Always I dodge teeth.

Thoroughbreds bite.

Yes, to me this is fun. If I had to be there every morning even when it’s in the single digits in the dead of winter, like Jessi does, I’m sure it would no longer qualify for MHD status.

So what do you do for a Mental Health Day? And have you taken one recently? If not, WHY? Plan your escape NOW. We all need some time away, even if it’s not all that far away.

We also need chocolate.


Anonymous said...

In the summer, I go to one of the natural wonder spots that we have so many of in Western PA and walk. Usually part of that is sitting by a river. Sometimes I wade.

I also look for animal "messengers." I have a book called _Animal Speak_ that tells me what the animals mean then they appear in my life.

I haven't done it lately because it's not much fun unless it's warm. Sometimes in the winter I go cross-country skiing, but hard to find good snow for that around here.

Which leaves spring and fall without a lot of mental health days. (Sigh.)

And yes, Annette, I HATE it when people don't return my phone calls. And with email, you never quite know they even got it!

Annette said...

My winter Mental Health Days usually involve museums.

I'm happy to report that I did hear from a couple of the people I've been trying to reach. That leaves one. Unfortunately, it's the one who's been dodging me for months.

Jenna said...

Are you sure this person is still among the living?

Sorry, mystery writer coming out...

I have no such thing as a mental health day, because I have small kids. I get mental health hours once in a while, when they go to a friend's house to play. I figure, in twelve or thirteen years, when the little guy goes off to college, THEN I'll get my mental health back. Except then I'll probably worry about what trouble he's getting into that I'm not there to prevent...

When I need downtime, I read. Nothing like a good book, and living in someone else's world, for a few hours.

My word verification is 'divoura'. Sounds sinister, doesn't it? Who have you divouraed today...?

Dana King said...

My mental health days are often presented to me, when something I really want to do creates a choice: write or do this. I limit them to once a week, but I take them guilt-free when they come. Last night I went to my first high school lacrosse game. (The Sole Heir's boyfriend is on a team.) Sometimes it can be as simple as watching a movie or ballgame on TV, or reading. Or even taking a nap.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Just like a duck on the pond. Everthing seems nice and calm on the surface, but just beneath the water, it's little legs are going 100 miles per hour.

My mental health has been just fine. NO IT HASN'T YOU IDIOT!!!

Okay, maybe I'm allowing stress to creep in with the new job.

I kind of had a mental health evening last night. I talked to a class in their Master's of Criminal Justice. Most were actively in law enforcement and I had a great time, thus instant stress release.

I'm only 4 days away from 11 straight MHDs with my trip to paradise, otherwise known as the Hasaiian Islands looming.

Don't forget, on April 6th, I'll be leaving you in the capable hands of Jennie Bentley.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

If you're not familiar with the Hasaiian Islands, it's a small chain of islands located around the corner from Skull Island where they found that big-ass monkey in the 1950s.

Rumor has it that they are inhabited by tree dwelling cannibals, but that is purely speculation. I'll be fine.

Hint, notice the proximity of the "W" to the "S" on the keyboard.

Annette said...

Hi, Sill. Oh, sorry. I mean Will.
Have fun in whatever islands you're escaping to.

Jennie, I hope the person is still alive. I'll have to check her blog.

Dana, naps are wonderful escapes. Especially when they occur on an Hawaiian island.

Now, see what you've done, Will? You've got me dreaming of island vacations!

Patg said...

I've never coordinated or been chairperson of a con, but I have taken over positions that involved getting 'guests' to and from and 'installed'. I can sympathize on a huge scale.
While I was working, I was always shocked by the number of people who thanked me for calling back so quickly when returning a message. I guess what shocked me the most is the number of people who felt no obligation to return calls.
On the other hand I know people (and many of them young--not those oldsters who all technology scared) who hate the phone and do everything by email. I guess the decease is slipping there too.

Anonymous said...

I make music mixes - although I only have MHH (Mental Health Hours) not days.

Currently working on a clean Motown Mix.

Kathy Sweeney

RhondaL said...

I just re-committed to mine, which is similar to yours but calmer -- I'm a volunteer groom/handwalker/schmoozer with parents at a kids beginner lesson pony barn.

The ponies have had the winter off so they're a bit out of shape, so I start hand walking Thursday. And, of course, it's been cold, so they're fuzzy like yaks.