Mental Health Break: Taking Time for Yourself

Summary: I went on a mini-writing retreat with a goal of writing X amount of words, but instead realized what I really needed was a mental health break.

How It Began

I recently took a mini solo vacation up the coast to Malahide. It’s stunning, but I’m very biased when it comes to the coast of Ireland. I find the beach is my happy place, beautiful, quaint, and relaxing.

View from my hotel room

My vision was to spend one day relaxing, walking the beach, visiting the small shops, and watching some trashy TV. Then, I would spend the following two days writing as many words as possible.

Monday, I got off to a late start. Usually, I like to leave as soon as the kids are off to school. This time around I had a few volunteer commitments in the morning. By the time I headed out, it was almost 1 PM. And when I finally settled in my hotel room, it was nearly 3 PM. I still needed to go to the shops for food and snacks.

After the long morning and traveling, a slight headache began building in my temples. I drank water, ate some dinner, and took a short nap, hoping that would solve things. Silly me, those things never work; minor headaches always become migraines. Long story short, I spend the next 24 hours with a full-on migraine.

Finally, at 12 on Tuesday, I managed to get out of bed and out of the hotel. I needed a good coffee and food in my belly. I strolled along the bay with my purchases enjoying the fresh salty sea air.

Stroll along the bay

Time to Write

Now I was ready to write. I headed back to the hotel, set up my writing station, and…. nothing. I had nothing. So many ideas in my head but no idea where to start. Luckily, I brought a book, Master Lists for Writers, by Bryn Donovan. Let me do some character profiles, I’ve never done that before, and it sounded fun to randomly jot down personality traits for each character.

Once that was finished, it was time to start writing, but first…. several distractions. Now that I’ve procrastinated as long as possible let’s jump in. I wrote four paragraphs and then stared out the window. My motivation was low, and my concentration was all over the place.

Then, I had an epiphany. The last few months have been stressful and hectic, more so than usual. I realized at that moment the reason I couldn’t concentrate or focus was because I was physically and mentally exhausted. I needed to give myself a break, a full-on break from everything. No writing, no marketing, no drafting, no nothing. I needed to take a moment for myself, refocus, and re-energize.

The Lesson: Give Yourself a Break

The lesson here is that I often push myself so hard, especially when it comes to self-publishing. It’s a full-time job. It’s a struggle for many indie authors especially those who already have full-time jobs. Whether it’s working for a company or being a stay-at-home- parent, these are both full-time commitments. We all need to know it’s okay to take a break every now and again. We need it. We need a chance to replenish and relax; otherwise, we end up burnt out, unmotivated, depressed and lashing out at everyone.

My horrible headache fiasco turned out to be my saving grace. I was stopped in my tracks; all the plans I had so carefully crafted in my mind were tossed out the window. My brain needed a minute. I have no deadlines, no one to answer to but myself. In the end, I choose me. I turned a writing retreat into a mental health retreat.

Instead of cranking out thousands of words, I watched Netflix. Instead of crafting perfect pairings and plot lines, I leisurely shopped. Instead of stressful marketing, I dined solo.

Pizza, salad, cocktail, and soda. Dining at my own pace.

Now, I’m back home. My kids missed me and smothered me in hugs and kisses. My husband missed me and was grateful to give back the homemaker role. I feel ready to jump back into writing, refreshed and renewed.

How It Ended

Even with a few mishaps along the way, my Mom break turned out to be a fantastic adventure and a very relaxing time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to take these much-needed breaks. I’m thankful to my supportive husband, who encourages these breaks. I’m thankful to my amazing kids for helping dad out and understanding how important these breaks are for me.

I have a weekend full of visitors and adventures, but I’m ready to start fresh next week with writing. I still have a goal of 80K words in 30-days, and I’m confident I’m in the right headspace to reach that goal.

A Few More Pictures:

My husband makes me breakfast always forming my eggs into a heart. The morning I left the heart was broken.
The Grand Hotel in Malahide
Sunset from the hotel room, lovely.

Easy Homemade Eggnog Recipe (Kid-friendly)

Short Summary: It’s nearly impossible to find Eggnog in Ireland (without costing a fortune), so I make my own. This easy homemade eggnog recipe is kid-friendly and tastes great. I’m posting this recipe for my fellow Americans abroad, and for those who want to try making their own.

Recipe first, followed by some words. Feel free to “Print Recipe Here” to download a printer-friendly copy without all the words and pictures. Enjoy 🙂

Homemade Eggnog Recipe: Print recipe

  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: a sprinkle of Mixed spice*
  • Optional: 2 Tbsp each of bourbon and rum


  • In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk or electric mixer until they become lighter in color.

  • Add in the sugar ¼ cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk/Beat until fluffy. Set to the side.

  • In a saucepan, combine milk, cloves, and cinnamon. Slowly heat on medium until the mixture steams, but do not let it boil.

  • Remove the saucepan from heat. Add the hot milk mixture into the eggs, ½ cup at a time, whisking constantly. Once most of the mixture is added and mixed well, dump it all back into the saucepan.

  • Cook the eggnog on medium heat, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture reaches 160F or until it thickens and coats the back of the wooden spoon. Do not let the mixture boil, or it will curdle.

  • Remove from heat.
  • Measure out the heavy cream, add in vanilla and nutmeg. Pour this into the egg nog and stir until well mixed.

  • Done, you can drink this hot or let it chill for a few hours. Make sure to shake well before drinking.

  • *If adding alcohol, wait until its chilled for about an hour, add the alcohol and then chill again.

Prep time: about 20 mins.
Chill time: at least an hour.
Yield: Makes 1 quart (serves 4-6 people)


Holidays in the States, for me, center around great food and drinks. However, living in a foreign country, all those tasty treats are no longer at my fingertips.

On the plus side, I’ve kicked up my baking and cooking game. Instead of boxes or mixes, almost everything I make is from scratch. Sounds complicated, right? I used to think so, but I actually enjoy the process. I know every ingredient in a recipe and most things I already have on hand.

The hardest part is finding the ingredients. Some things, such as Crisco vegetable fat, are difficult to find in Ireland; or simply aren’t available. There is also the struggle of different names; bicarbonate of soda, anyone? That’s the name for baking soda here.

I’m posting this homemade Eggnog recipe because I know many ex-pats in Europe miss having some around the holiday season. This is an American holiday classic, although, like candy corn, some people love it, and others hate it. I tried a few eggnog recipes and after making several tweaks, this is my go-to recipe. My kids enjoy this special treat, and I love adding it to my coffee. You can even make it more “adult” and add in bourbon, rum, or really any alcohol you choose.

Keep in mind, this will probably not taste as thick and creamy as the store-bought brands in the States, but it’s a great alternative to those craving an eggnog fix.

Enjoy, share, and comment on what you think of this recipe.