According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anxiety and depressive disorders cost more than a trillion dollars globally in lost productivity each year. Even though there is a growing movement to destigmatize mental health issues in the workplace, especially in light of the devastating effects of the pandemic, many employers still do not support mental health concerns as a legitimate reason to miss a day of work.
“Everyone has to deal with varying levels of stress. This can be particularly difficult to manage if you also have symptoms of depression or anxiety,” says Dr. Elizabeth Scott, a wellness coach, author, health educator, award-winning blogger, and speaker, writing in verywellmind.com. “When you feel like your stress levels have reached their peak, it might be time to take a quick break to reset. Sometimes taking a mental health day — a day off that’s specifically geared toward stress relief and burnout prevention — is the best thing you can do for yourself.”
Scott says that a mental health day can provide a much-needed break “to pause, regroup, and come back with greater levels of energy and a fresh, less-stressed perspective.”
Whatever stressors you face, Scott offers a number of tips on verywellmind.com that can help you take a mental health day and make the most of it.
Take a Day
Once you have decided to take a mental health day, the question then becomes “when and how?”
The best way to avoid feeling stressed about taking a day off is to schedule a day off ahead of time, ensuring that you’ve taken steps to rearrange your workload or find a replacement for the day. However, if you wake up in the morning and just feel that you can’t face the stress of the day, this may be a good time to take a mental health day and make the most of it.
The decision of when to take a mental health day really depends on your personal situation. If your employer is supportive and you are comfortable sharing your reasons, feel free to plan a mental health day out in advance. If you don’t want to divulge your reasons for taking a day or if your employer is less understanding, don’t feel obligated to share.
- Call in sick
- Plan to use some of your time off
- Schedule your mental health day for a day you already have off
Weekends work well, too. While a “traditional” mental health day generally includes taking a day off from work, it’s not necessary to call in sick to take a day to focus on stress relief.
What to Expect
Knowing what you can expect to get out of a mental health day is important. It’s important to remember that it isn’t a day to hide from your problems.
An effective mental health day can help you:
- Get a handle on your emotions
- Reset your perspective
- Take a step back to evaluate
Problems can seem harder to deal with when they seem close, overwhelming, and inescapable. Taking a mental break from work and spending some time on self-care can sometimes give you the mini-break you need to head back into things with a clear head.
Decide What You Need Most
Sometimes this one is a no-brainer — if you’re exhausted, your body will be screaming that it needs to rest. Of, if you feel you can’t face another day of hard work, you may just need to have some fun. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may not be as aware of your needs.
Take a minute and really reflect: Would you benefit the most from some tension relief? Or from making a few changes that will relieve stress in the future? Some time with a loved one? Or just a change of scenery? As different stressors require different responses, different types of mental health days fill unique needs.
If You Need to Relax
Taking a mental health day often means taking time out to relax. That can mean watching TV in pajamas for hours, or puttering around the house and doing nothing. As long as this isn’t an everyday thing, that’s fine. Some activities can take a little front-end effort and feel immensely relaxing once they’re completed.
Some things you can try include:
- Attending a yoga class
- Getting a massage
- Swimming at the gym
- Taking a walk in nature
The key is to spend time doing an activity that you find relaxing, whether it’s taking a hike, exploring a museum, or just spending some time immersed in a good book.
Things to Avoid:
- Avoid needy friends and family.
- Smoking, drinking or using other substances
- Overeating unhealthy foods
- Wallowing in negative emotions
- Spending all day reading posts on social media
There are plenty of ways to spend your day, whether you decide to catch up on some much-needed sleep, indulge in a hobby you love, or hang out with a friend. Spend your day on activities that boost your physical and mental wellness.
If You Need Some Fun
If you really need a change of scenery and a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” kind of mental health day, be sure you make the most of it. Plan at least one fun event — either something you normally love to do and don’t do often enough or something you’ve always wanted to try. Take a good friend along, if possible, to really make the day memorable.
If nothing grabs your attention, try to engage in activities that provide just the right type of challenge: Hobbies, games, and the like.
If You Need to Make Some Changes
If the stressors seem to pile up and you’re looking for a way to slow down and stop the “noise,” you may want to take a day to restructure things. You may not be able to eliminate all of your ongoing stressors in a day, but you might be able to make a significant reduction in a few areas, which may, in turn, create a lasting impact on your stress levels.
You can start to eliminate stress by:
- Creating a list of things that drain your energy
- Cutting out some of your larger stressors
- Taking a look at your priorities
- Working on increasing job satisfaction
Don’t expect to be able to take on all of this in a single day. If you want to use your mental health day to make real changes in your life, use it as a chance to evaluate, plan, and get ready to work on those changes.
If You Need a Longer Break
If you’re concerned that your overall stress levels need more than just a mental health day, consider taking a staycation or vacation. You may also consider whether you’re headed toward burnout.
Online resources can also help, and you may want to also bring up your concerns with your doctor, or talk to a mental health professional. There are many steps that can be taken to help.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.
You can also reach out to the mental health professionals at Interim Inc. Contact Interim staff at the OMNI Resource Center by email at email@example.com, or by phone at (831) 800-7530.
Look for ways to keep stress levels low and so that you don’t wake up one morning in dire need of an “emergency mental health day.” A mental health day can be useful on occasion, but you should also strive to make your mental health a priority every day.