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Taking a Mental Health Day - How to Give Yourself a Break

Taking a mental health day is one way to cope with the stresses life throws our way.

By using this valuable tool, we can recover from - and even stay ahead of - burning out. Taking care of our mental health isn’t a luxury, it is just as important as taking care of our physical health.

Read on to learn more!

What Does Taking a Mental Health Day Mean?

Child on Swing with teddy bear

Taking a mental health day is like taking a sick day for your mind. It’s a day to unplug, relax, and rejuvenate.

Many people call this “self-care,” and it is an excellent way to get things back on track when you are feeling burnt out or overwhelmed.

Now more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves, the mind as well as the body.

If taking a mental health day is new to you, it might feel anywhere from luxurious to guilt-inducing and weird.

Really, when have we ever prioritized relaxing and savoring in NOT being “productive”?

I know for me, it was a steep learning curve that took a lot of practice to get the hang of, but there are a lot of benefits for taking time for ourselves - and time spent making your life better IS productive and worthwhile.

Ideally, we can use mental health days proactively to stay ahead of feelings of stress and overwhelm, but it’s ok to work up to this when prioritizing these days is new.

Why It's Okay to Not Be Invincible

Two boys with backpacks outside

It was a hard pill to swallow, but it turns out I’m not a robot. Who knew?

Getting to this knowledge kind of sucked, but I was finally able to embrace it when I realized that I want to fill my circle with regular old normal human beings.

Then I decided it was time to let myself be one, too.

This means taking stock and recognizing what triggers my anxiety and stress.

As an introvert, too many plans in a week and too much “people-ing” leaves me feeling jumpy and drained.

I also learned that getting too little rest drags me down to the point that I’m not being the best friend, partner, parent - PERSON - that I want to be.

I try to remember that we all have things that make us feel like we’re sinking, and I try to be as gentle with myself as I would be with someone else when I realize I’m not feeling my best.

If someone I loved said, “I’m feeling really rotten and I’m not handling things as well as I would like, I think I need to take some time to regroup,” I would lovingly make way for them to take that time.

Now, the trick is, to do the same for ourselves.

Signs You Need To Start Taking a Mental Health Day

Boy on hammock

For me, I know that it’s time to start taking a mental health day when I start being especially short-tempered with my kids and partner when I can’t seem to focus on my work, and any time I have significant sleep changes (either not getting enough sleep or suddenly wanting or needing much more sleep than usual).

Other things to watch out for are no longer wanting to do the things you usually enjoy, feeling burned out or anxious, getting sick often, or otherwise just feeling not like yourself.

In a perfect world, we would be staying ahead of these feelings entirely by regularly taking time out for ourselves before we need to, but it is never too late to start.

If you are feeling like you’re at the end of your rope, now is a great time to start prioritizing some mental health self-care.

What To Do On a Mental Health Day

Filing nails

First of all, if you work, you may need to secure a day off from your employer.

This can be tricky, and certainly harder to do when you’re in the thick of a personal mental health struggle, so thinking ahead and seeing what your employer’s stance is on sick vs personal days will help you be prepared.

Don’t feel obligated to tell your employer why you need time off.

There are laws in place to protect you, and you should never feel pressured to divulge the details of your need to take time away from work.

Also, if you are in a relationship, a quick heads up to your partner about your plans can go a long way in understanding what’s going on and in supporting you, especially if your mental health day involves leaning on them to help with household and sustainable parenting responsibilities.

As to how to spend your day?

Well, the sky’s the limit.

Maybe permit yourself to set aside the household chores for the day, perhaps spend some time outside, have coffee with a friend, or spend the day reading just for pleasure.

Take some time to think about what rejuvenates you; what brings you joy.

If you are a parent, looking back on the things that you enjoyed before kids might give you clues about how you might enjoy spending your mental health day.

Many find unplugging from social media helps give their minds a reset, but only you can say what helps you feel like your best self.

Try to avoid overindulging in anything that is unhealthy for your body on your mental health day, and don’t spend the day dwelling on negative feelings or comparing yourself to others (remember everyone’s Instagram account is their highlight reel anyway).

The key here is to do things that make you feel better, not worse!

Today might be a good day to list out the things you want to let go of and to permit yourself to release them.

I often spend some part of my mental health days dreaming of the future and setting intentions, if that sounds good to you, it might be worth trying.

You don’t need any fancy equipment, just a pen, and some paper, and you can write down what you’re grateful for, what you’re letting go of, and what you are hoping for as you move forward.

If you can, scheduling mental health days before needing them can help you stay ahead of the stress life brings, and, bonus(!), it gives you something to look forward to.

I plan to spend one evening a month alone with a nice cup of tea and my journal, and I schedule longer stretches of things I enjoy a few times a year.

I also listen to my body and if I have an exceptionally awful night of sleep or endure a stressful event, I try to lay low and refill my cup as needed in real-time, as soon as I possibly can arrange it.

When All Else Fails - Talk to Someone

Brother and Sister with Teddy Bear

Everyone feels stressed out and overwhelmed sometimes.

Especially right now, many of us feel more burned out than usual (I’m looking at you, pandemic).

It’s never a bad idea to bring up concerns with your doctor, ob/midwife, or therapist.

I think everyone can benefit from sitting down with a therapist to take stock of how things are going!

But if you ever feel more than a little blue, or feel stressed out and anxious for longer than a few days and taking a mental health day doesn’t help, or if you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or wishing you “weren’t here” anymore, it’s time to reach out to your doctor.

Thanks to technology, therapy is more accessible than ever before, and even if you don’t have insurance, you might be surprised by how affordable it can be.

There is never any shame in seeking help.

Taking care of your mind and mental wellbeing is every bit as important as taking care of your physical health.

Conclusion: Taking a Mental Health Day

Blanket Book and Coffee Cup

Times are tough, and many of us are feeling the stress.

It’s ok, we are all only human after all!

Regularly taking a mental health day can help you cope with feeling overwhelmed and worn down, ideally taking time out before things become too much.

Mental health days can be anything that you find rejuvenating and help restore you to feeling like your normal self.

Sometimes, life gets in the way and a mental health day isn’t enough, so always reach out to a medical professional if taking time to yourself doesn’t help get you back on track.

Taking care of your mental health is important, and you are so worth it. It can be all too difficult to make time for yourself, more so to make time to see your doctor or therapist.

All of that takes time, energy, and the means to do so. If you’re struggling to make it out of the house for some much-needed mental clarity and space - consider doing what you can at home.

Curl up to your favorite book in your blanket and your favorite warm beverage.

Find a large blanket just for YOU and your mental health day today!