How to Take a Mental Health Day
What is a mental health day, and why are they important? You might have heard people talking – sometimes joking – about mental health days, but they’re a valuable way of taking care of your overall health. If you woke up with a migraine, a heavy cold or any other physical illness, you wouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day. Mental health problems shouldn’t be any different. Not only can taking the time and space to recover help you feel better, it’s also likely to make you a better employee, partner, parent, friend and all-round healthy human being.
Brain breaks and why they’re important
Most of us live in a world where we need to be constantly connected. We pride ourselves on working long hours, being available for everything and taking very little time for ourselves. But this really isn’t healthy and often results in a feeling of being burnt out.
Burnout is an emotional state characterised by feelings of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It’s caused by work overload or the inability to meet the demands needed to maintain a balance between work and other aspects of your life, including family, relationships and hobbies. It’s also linked to decreased motivation and productivity. As a result, burnout can lead to mistakes at work, or even thoughts of quitting your job.
Your emotions become increasingly repressed and at risk of exploding if they are not released healthily. This emotional instability, on top of the stress from work and life, creates significant mental pressure and sets you on a path to feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and generally poor mental health.
The solution can be as simple as taking regular breaks from technology, work and life in general. These ‘brain breaks’ can be as simple as going for a walk or stretching your body. It could mean taking a shower or reading a book for half an hour. Sometimes, however, you need a little bit more. Often, the best brain breaks happen when we take a mental health day.
What is a mental health day?
Mental health days aren’t just for people who have mental health problems. They’re important for anyone who feels stressed or overwhelmed by their situation or the demands in their life.
A mental health day can be seen in many ways, and its definition is different for everyone. To an employer, a mental health day is viewed as a sick or personal day. Over the past few years, more companies have started offering mental health days as a form of paid leave, realising the value to their employees and their business. But, even if you’re not in paid employment, you can still take a mental health day, and it’s just as relevant to your overall wellbeing.
Take the time to focus on yourself for an entire day, and aim to release at least some of the tension and overwhelm you’re experiencing. The form this takes can and will be different for everyone. You probably know the things which help you relax, but keep reading for a few suggestions on other activities to try.
The benefits of a mental health day
There are many benefits to taking a mental health day. It can provide clarity, re-energise you, and help you to gather and straighten your thoughts. If you’re drifting into unhealthy habits or behaviours, it can provide renewed perspective and allow you to get back on track. Taking the time to prioritise your mental health can also increase productivity, improve creativity and result in better decision-making skills.
Mental health days can reduce your chance of becoming ill by lowering your risk of infection, and will also allow your body to recover from illness more quickly. It’s also worth listening to your body’s physical cues, and learning to recognise the early symptoms of burnout. These can include poor sleep, changes in appetite, low mood, and a general sense of exhaustion. Once you spot the signs, take a mental health day, and aim to prevent the burnout before it arrives.
How to take a mental health day
First, it’s important to schedule your mental health day. Decide on a time that will work best for you and your family situation. If you have children, try to find a babysitter or family member who can take care of them so you’re free to fully relax and focus on yourself.
Next, decide how you’re going to spend the day. Make a plan, but keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to cram too much in. The idea is not to swap life-overwhelm for mental-health-day-overwhelm.
While it may be hard, focus on yourself for the entire day. Choose activities that are pleasurable or meaningful to you, and which you know will benefit your sense of equilibrium. Resting is great, but if you know physical activities, such as working out or going for a long walk, tend to energise you, they can be just as beneficial. A balance of two or three different types of activity across the day is ideal.
Best activities for your mental health day
Here are a few activities that can help you release tension and focus on your mental health. Choose from any of these or get inspired by them and try something different. Do what works for you, not what works for everyone else. Listen to your mind and your body.
:: Reconnect with nature, by gardening or going for a walk
:: Try a guided medication or some deep breathing exercises
:: Get creative – write something, paint, or try a new skill, like pottery
:: Arrange a coffee date or a phone chat with a friend
:: Exercise – go to the gym or try a new workout at home
:: Take a nap or book a massage
:: Watch a film or TV show that makes you laugh
:: Read a book – paper rather than e-reader if you’re aiming for a tech-free day
:: Bake something delicious
:: Get musical – play, listen or dance to your favourite tunes
:: Practise yoga or mindfulness
:: Do a jigsaw puzzle or build some Lego
:: Have a long bath or a hot shower with your favourite scented products
Mental health days are vital for our success and happiness in life. Schedule one soon, plan how you’ll spend it, and enjoy some of the amazing benefits.