How to Take a Mental Health Day

The pandemic, the world at large, the economy, and problems at home and work are enough to make anyone’s stress levels skyrocket. You might feel overwhelmed by daily tasks or exhausted from performing your expected roles as a parent, employee, family member, or friend. If you suffer from a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, it can feel even worse. 

Taking a quick break to reset your mental wellbeing – aka a Mental Health Day – is a great way to reset, recharge, and refuel your body and mind from stress and burnout. Mental health days, which is when you typically take a day off from the workplace or school and minimize or outsource any other responsibilities or commitments, are great ways to help stress relief, help people relax, and help to prevent further burnout. 

Do You Need a Mental Health Day?

If any of the following apply to you, it might be time to take a mental health day:

  • You are unmotivated and/or unfocused at work

  • You are irritable and angry, often snapping at people or expressing a quick temper

  • You constantly feel anxious

  • You feel more depressed than usual

  • You are totally and completely overwhelmed with life

  • You’re exhausted, particularly after finishing a huge project

  • You’re having trouble sleeping

  • You’re less productive than you normally are

  • You’re suffering from chronic physical pain, such as headaches, tension in your back, or issues with your gut health

  • You’re cynical about your work, your family and friends, or your future

  • You feel anxiety or have a need to work outside of business hours

  • You’re withdrawn or feel detached from your friends and loved ones

  • Your typical hobbies no longer bring you joy

  • You are always, ALWAYS stressed out

If some of these symptoms or feelings seem common in your everyday life, consider visiting either an in-person or online therapist for further relief and treatment.

Planning Your Mental Health Day

Once you realize you’re in need of a mental health day, try your best to take a personal day off by scheduling it in advance. Everyone’s situation is different – some companies go so far as to offer a workplace mental health day or unlimited PTO for such an occasion as this one, while other businesses would never dare dream of allowing their employees to take necessary days off. Sadly, many workplaces don’t support mental health issues as legitimate reasons to miss work, despite recent efforts to destigmatize mental health issues. 

Take time off work and speak to your boss about having your workload covered for the day. Some people feel they need to make up excuses, or they might not want to explain to their boss that they’re in need of a mental health day. So if you don’t want to divulge your reasons for taking the day off, by all means, make up an excuse. Don’t feel obligated to share your mental health status with work. And if you’re in an employment situation that feels impossible to call out of, or everything one particular morning is simply feeling like too much, it might be a good time to simply call in and take a sick leave.

If you’re a student or the parent of a student who needs a mental health day, you’re allowed to take a sick day. Recent policies have been supportive of allowing students to take time off for mental or behavioral health, but if you need more time or your school needs a doctor’s note, speak with a guidance counselor or administrator at the school and explain what’s going on. Mental health professionals like therapists might be able to provide notes that verify the need for a day (or several days) off.

For those who are totally burnt out and in need of some fun, plan out that fun! Try to schedule at least one fun event, like something you don’t do often (e.g. concert with one of your favorite musicians) or something you have always wanted to try doing (e.g. riding in a hot air balloon). If you can make it happen, bring a friend along and make it memorable! 

Setting Mental Health Day Expectations

A mental health day is simply a day like any other; it won’t fix or remedy all your problems. Setting clear expectations for yourself is important, given that an effective mental health day can help destress, reset perspective, or process emotions. The mini-break won’t resolve everything, but it can give you a moment to rest and relax. 

Think about what you enjoy doing and spend some time providing yourself with self-care. If you are constantly exhausted, it’s completely fine to spend a mental health day resting. If you’re feeling burnt out from work, think of what you can do for yourself that’s fun. Reflect on what would benefit you the most.  

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a few ideas for resting and relaxing on your mental health day include:

  • Going to a yoga class or taking a swim

  • A trip to the beach, mountains, woods, or other natural areas 

  • Get a massage

  • Exploring a museum

  • Going to the movies

  • Working on a hobby like gardening or knitting

  • Reading a great book

  • Taking a hike or visiting a local park

  • Going to a local spa for treatments

  • Playing video games

  • Getting yourself a sweet treat

  • Watching TV in your pajamas all day

  • Taking naps

  • Hang out with a friend

  • Doing absolutely nothing

For lots of people, stress relief comes in the form of things you want to avoid, like:

  • Drinking heavily

  • Abusing substances

  • Overeating or overindulging in unhealthy foods

  • Wallowing in self-pity

  • Ruminating on mistakes

  • Scrolling all day long or refreshing social media every hour

  • Sitting in negative emotions all day

Remember, a mental health day is about recharging, relaxing, and so on – doom scrolling is neither relaxing nor fun. The same goes for the massive hangover you’ll have the next day when you return to work. Focus on activities that let you unwind and nourish your physical and mental health. 

Learning From Your Mental Health Day

You might find yourself processing through big emotions when you finally have time away from work and daily life. Perhaps you realize that there is a specific person, place, or thing that’s contributing to your stress in a major way. When you can, after you’ve recharged, think of ways you can change your circumstances to make a lasting impact on your stress. 

What can you do to eliminate stress? What’s draining your energy? Is the way you interact with co-workers, or is it a co-worker that’s driving you nuts? You might find your mental health day means that you now know you need to look for a new job. Maybe you realize you need more child care help, or that you need to communicate your needs with your spouse so you don’t feel overwhelmed at home. Whatever comes up for you, you won’t be able to change it in a day, so use the day and the days after as an opportunity to evaluate and plan to work on changing these disruptors.

Different stressors need different responses, and everyone has different stressors they’re reacting to in their lives. In other words, there is no wrong way to do a mental health day. It’s whatever will help you reset and feel rejuvenated so you can return to your daily routine. 

And if you’re feeling something bigger than just needing a day off, consider a staycation, or a vacation if time and resources allow for it. If your mental health day doesn’t make you feel any better, consider whether you need more time off, or if you need to seek the care of a mental health professional to address ongoing issues in your life, whether it be cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or other methods of mental health treatment. Read up on the differences between psychodynamic therapy and CBT before deciding if one will be beneficial to your mental health. For more therapeutic resources, contact us today for any needs you may have relating to your mental health.