Self Care

Signs You Need a Mental Health Day + How to Take One

Because taking time for YOU is more than ok.

By: Nicole Lippman-Barile Ph.D., N.T.P.

The last year has taught us a lot, including the importance of prioritizing mental health. It’s also taught us that self-care is more important than ever before, and experts couldn’t agree more, which brings up an important topic — mental health days. Last year marked the start of big shifts in working environments, and many of us are still working from home. While it comes with its perks, it can be difficult to establish that work-life balance and burnout is on the rise.

One way to pause, take care of yourself, and recharge is with a mental health day. Ahead, more about the benefits of a mental health day, signs it may be time to take one, and some effective ways to spend your time off that will leave you feeling recharged.  

RELATED: 21 Ways to Beat Burnout When Taking Time Off is Difficult 

But First: Know That It’s Ok to Take Time Off For YOU 

It’s important to know that it’s ok to take a day to take care of yourself. Taking care of your mental health is something you can do on a daily basis but sometimes you need to take a full day off from work and other responsibilities in order to give yourself the care that you need. It’s important to acknowledge that for some, it can be challenging to express the need to take a mental health day to an employer, as there may not be support in place for this necessary request. I want you to know that it is only appropriate and completely fair to request the day off when your mental health is suffering. In fact, it is necessary. You need to take care of your mental health in order to be healthy and effective in anything that you do. 

What is a Mental Health Day?

A mental health day is a day specifically dedicated to addressing your psychological and emotional needs. It’s not that one day off is going to solve everything, but taking one day can sometimes make a significant difference with regards to your overall mood and improving levels of stress and overwhelm. What is important is being able to acknowledge and be aware that you need to take a mental health day. 

Signs You Need a Mental Health Day

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that indicate when you need to take a mental health day. Some of these include the following: 

Feelings of increased stress and overwhelm, interference and impairment with daily functioning including work, school, and other responsibilities, feelings of burnout, irritability and increased frustration, low-stress tolerance, disruption of sleep or other activities of daily living, as well as feelings of depression, and fatigue. 

Other signs may include feeling disconnected or dispassionate about your work and/or other interests and hobbies. It’s important to take inventory of any changes you are experiencing that are different from your typical baseline behaviors and feelings. This will help give you an idea that something may be off, indicating a need to take care of your mental health.

The Benefits of a Mental Health Day

There are innumerable benefits to taking a mental health day. Some of these may include feeling less stress and anxiety, feeling more connected to yourself and your values, feeling more energized and rejuvenated, feeling less irritable and more joyful, as well as being able to be more productive as it relates to work and other responsibilities. 

Stepping back from your responsibilities temporarily can allow you to see things more rationally and objectively, allowing you to feel more in control and effectively problem solve issues at hand. 

How to Talk to Your Boss About Taking a Mental Health Day

While there is more of a movement to help destigmatize mental health, some employers may not support mental health concerns as a valid reason to take off of work. If this is the case, you can call in sick or request a vacation day. If your employer is someone who is more attuned to psychological and emotional needs, and if you feel comfortable, you can simply request a mental health day. It is up to your discretion if you want to provide any sort of reason. Personally, I don’t think you need to. Requesting a mental health day assumes that you need time for yourself due to stress and other potential negative factors. 

It’s not your job to convince someone why you need one — you only have to do the requesting.

A recent World Health Organization-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Not surprisingly, it turns out companies who invest in mental health for their employees actually end up saving money in the long term.

Effective Ways to Take a Mental Health Day

Many times, taking a mental health day means you need rest and relaxation. There are a few ways to achieve this as well as engaging in activities that will help you feel less fatigued and more energized.

#1 Get Outside

Spending time outdoors and in nature is an excellent way to help you feel more relaxed and less stressed. Research further supports spending time in some kind of green space to achieve these mental health benefits. For example, one study showed that walking for 90 minutes in a natural setting experienced lower levels of rumination and reduced activity in a brain region associated with risk for mental illness. 

Mental health benefits can also be achieved simply by viewing pictures of nature. One study demonstrated that those who watched videos with a diverse mix of flora and fauna had reported better mood and lower anxiety. 

#2 Unplug

You might already notice that the less time you spend on your phone, scrolling through social media, or even on your computer, the better overall mood you may have. Research supports this as well. One study reports that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction of anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep problems, and FOMO. 

The same study further concluded that simply being more mindful about your social media consumption can have beneficial effects on your mood.

The night before your day off, consider logging out of your social media and email accounts, so when you wake up, you’re less likely to start scrolling. This can help set the tone for a lower tech day on your designated mental health day. 

#3 Engage in Your Hobbies

Spending time engaging in your hobbies and activities you truly enjoy helps you feel less stressed and more energized. It helps you experience positive feelings and allows you to be present to the enjoyable task at hand.

#4 Find Time For Calm 

No matter how you choose to spend your mental health day, consider setting aside some time to find some calm. This could mean doing a 10 minute morning meditation, an evening yoga flow, or a combination of both. 

At the very least, taking a few minutes to just deep breathe is another wonderful way to promote an overall sense of calm. 

Find What Works For You

What is most important about taking a mental health day is being able to find what works for you in terms of what helps you destress and feel rejuvenated again. Be mindful of the things that energize you and help you feel calm. Those are the things you want to practice on a regular basis to help you manage feelings of stress and anxiety. Prioritize taking care of your mental health and make sure to take days off when you need.