These days, I’m all about relaxation. I drink chamomile tea and take supplements. I buy the fuzziest socks and prescribe episodes of The Great British Bake-Off like it’s an anti-depressant. I curl up at night with Animal Crossing, because nothing is more soothing than gifting fruit to a pink hamster who calls you Cheekers.
All the phone calls, appointments, paperwork, bills, and responsibilities of adult life have left me wanting to ignore all means of contact and hide in a soft, cushy cave somewhere. That’s why, when presented with surplus paid holiday time at work, I decided to grant myself a 10-day staycation to coincide with the end of my most recent grad school semester. This is the closest I will ever be to the pure, unadulterated freedom of childhood summer vacation.
When I told my boyfriend that I didn’t want to leave the house for ten days, he thought I was kidding. (Spoiler alert: I wasn’t kidding.) Much like Tom Hanks in The ‘Burbs, I needed time to recharge, wear a terrycloth robe, and uncover the demonic plots of the neighbors. Here, laid before you, is everything I learned over my mental health vacation, complete with advice of what to expect, should you decide to have your own hermit holiday.
Step 1: Rest.
Seriously. Sleep until you are actually bored of sleeping. Snuggle deep into those covers while your partner is getting ready for work in the morning. It’s important to get this out of the way early, because you will want to seize each leisurely day with a rested mind and body. Have all your best pajamas washed and ready, because you will be living in plush, braless comfort all week.
Step 2: Clean literally everything.
This will happen naturally. You will wake up on the first day of your vacation full of possibility. As you look around you, wondering what you should do first, you will suddenly realize just how dirty your house is. Like, really filthy. Like, how do you live here and not notice this stuff? I did not plan to make cleaning my bathtub the first activity of my vacation, but that’s certainly what happened. I blessed my freshly cleaned bathtub with a Lush bath bomb and bubble bar combo shortly thereafter.
Step 3: Make room for fun.
It is really easy for me to focus on the negative and ungracefully unleash all my exhaustion and stress the second I get home. I also skip out on things that might be fun because I am tired, or I actively ruin things that could be fun because I’m grumpy. This week, I tried to focus on being more kind and more fun, for the sake of myself and everyone around me. I told my boyfriend to come home in a good mood, because I had a super fun evening planned. This involved finishing decorating our tiny pink tree, ordering Chinese takeout, and watching David Attenborough documentaries and laughing at old episodes of Supermarket Sweep in our pajamas. This was all simple, but it is still one of the most fun evenings I’ve had in a while.
Step 4: Be a little extra.
This means different things to everyone, but it’s all about being actively kind to yourself. I bent my rule about not leaving the house early in my break and drove to the grocery store to get some of the good fresh salsa and chips for lunch. While I was there, I loaded up on fresh fruit and fancy nuts and splurged a little on the pre-seeded pomegranate. Because I’m ridiculous, I often like to fantasize about being one of those fancy, put-together housewives in Lifetime movies from the 80s. With this mood in mind, I wore matching pajamas and ate my pomegranate seeds from a cocktail glass when I got home. Any food is really improved by a cocktail glass, and it is a nice distraction from the fact that nothing else in your kitchen is clean.
Step 5: Disconnect.
Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram is a daily routine for me. However, the longer I was home, the less time I spent catching up on social media. I put down my phone in favor of reading about some really bleak Swedish vampires. I started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which is just fantastic. I picked up my Nintendo DS and journeyed with Kirby, collecting all the sun stones and swallowing my enemies like a fat, pink champion. I found that I posted about myself far less frequently than usual. It has always been a part of me to want to document my life with some form of technology, and it’s a hard thing to separate my mind from sometimes. If something happens and you don’t post it on Instagram, did it ever really happen? The answer is YES. And it’s was fabulous.
Step 6: Do your best.
It was a real bummer to realize that I struggle pretty hard with depression no matter how ideal my circumstances are. A lot of the time, I have to stop and think about the best actions to take care of my brain. This means stepping away from the cat wine. It’s really easy to say “fuck it,” day-drink cheap Riesling, stay in bed, and eat takeout for dinner. It’s harder to think of alternatives when your mind is feeling muddy, but I did my best. I tried to move my body, because it’s good for my brain. I recently discovered dream pop, a music genre I never knew existed, so I put on a good playlist and danced around my house as a way to exercise. I didn’t beat myself up about not exercising every day, and I celebrated the days when I did. When the meal delivery instructions were staring at me, giving me tasks that felt overwhelming, I invented a new recipe with the ingredients in the bag instead of throwing the whole thing back in the fridge in defeat. I had a glass of cat wine (#notsponsored, but Moselland, are you out there?) but did not drink the whole bottle.
Step 7: Remember who you are.
…Simba. Really, though. If there is nothing that you are required to do, what is it that you care about? I really love art films, and when I was younger, I actually dreamed of making my own movie. I always used to keep up with all the current indie films, and I watched the Independent Spirit Awards every year. I’ve lost a little part of that enthusiasm as I’ve gotten older, and it makes me sad. This week, I made a big long list all the movies I want to be aware of, and I started in with Darren Arronofsky’s Mother! I’ve also found myself in a place in life where I “don’t have time” to make art, so I made a point to change that. It was great to wake up and decide, “I think I’ll draw today.” I settled myself in with some Unsolved Mysteries on the tv and just drew whatever I felt like in my sketchbook. Not only was it incredibly relaxing, but it was nice to remind myself that I do have artistic skills.
Step 8: Try not to buy everything.
I have a bit of a shopping problem. I shop to make myself feel better when I’m sad. I shop to soothe when I’m stressed. I shop to celebrate when I’m happy. I shop to reward myself. The list goes on and on. I can’t say that I didn’t buy things over vacation. In fact, I may have coerced my boyfriend into agreeing to split the cost of a major appliance, because I’m sick of my towels still being wet after three hours in the dryer. That aside, I tried not to be frivolous and only bought useful things. You know, like snail patches.
Step 9: Leave the house.
Ok, so Jaws was kind of your scene, but you never liked Star Wars? Nonetheless, when your boyfriend asks you to go see The Last Jedi at the end of the week, go with him. Put on some leggings, eat a mediocre and overpriced burger at the theatre bar, and consume a jalapeno margarita amongst the Christmas hubbub. Try not to fall asleep. You’re in this for C-3PO, the best and most obviously gay droid, and you get to stare at Adam Driver’s face for a good portion of the movie. Silver linings.
Here’s the thing, though. Despite how much I wanted to hide away from the stresses of life this week, they found me anyway. I got a flat tire. My boyfriend got a flat tire, and then he got food poisoning. I received upsetting news from family. I still had to pay bills.
You can run, but you really can’t hide. However, taking the time to limit distractions and actively care for yourself can give you the strength to not crumble when life comes, inevitably as it does, hurtling toward you.