Are you afraid to call off work when you feel emotionally ill? You’re not the only person who struggles with this, and that’s OK. To manage your mental health, it can help to take a mental health day from work, school or other responsibilities you face each day. Mental health days are spent focusing on improving your mental health and can have a positive personal and professional impact as you deal with anxiety, depression, burnout or exhaustion. 

A mental health day is limited time away from your usual responsibilities with the goal of recharging and doing things you enjoy to start feeling your best before resuming your normal routine. Although you may not be in the office or classroom, it’s important to completely disconnect from daily tasks, such as checking email; answering calls from a client, teacher or boss; or any other duty you would do at work or school.

While a mental health day may be an effective way to help you feel better while in a busy and stressful stretch, it’s important to seek treatment through mental health services, such as counseling, crisis services and substance use support, if you consistently have signs and symptoms of mental illness.

What are 5 signs you need a mental health day?

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition in a given year. Understanding the warning signs of needing a mental health day may help you, a friend or relative feel better, both mentally and physically.  There are many signs of physical burnout like headaches, exhaustion or sickness, but many clues also come from your emotional state. The American Psychiatric Association lists the following as signs and symptoms of mental illness:

  • Irritability and a quick temper.
  • Withdrawal from things that used to be fun and meaningful.
  • Increased sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch.
  • Feeling disconnected from both work and others.
  • Lack of motivation, concentration or memory.

Benefits of taking a mental health day

Taking a break from normal responsibilities can allow you to feel better emotionally and be more productive when you go back to work or school. While your reason for taking a mental health day may differ from others, it’s no secret you can all reap many benefits.

  • Reduce feelings of burnout by focusing on you and doing something you enjoy while not stressing about work, caregiving or other commitments.
  • Prevent a mental health crisis by setting healthy boundaries and communicating what you need to feel better.
  • Increase productivity after stepping away from responsibilities as a break will allow you to clear your head and think clearer to be more efficient upon returning.
  • Improve physical health as chronic stress can lead to issues with sleep, digestive health, heart health and more. A mental health day can help you manage these and focus on getting your health on track.
  • Improve your sense of connection with others and reduce loneliness by spending time with a friend or loved one.

How to spend a mental health day?

When deciding to take a mental health day, avoid drifting through the day by having a plan of what you want to accomplish or at least put in effort to have an intentionally low-stress and relaxing day. Do activities you enjoy and practice self-care. Here are a few examples of how you can spend your mental health day:

  • Unplug from social media, email and other devices.
  • Review goals.
  • Get outdoors.
  • Run errands.
  • Meet a friend for lunch.
  • Go hiking.
  • Read a book.
  • Sleep in.
  • Work on an art project.

How can I promote and support mental health?

When getting back to your normal routine of work, school or caregiving, there are many ways you can promote good mental health. You may already be practicing some of these methods, but try these tips from Mental Health America (MHA) to boost your brain health and feel your best each day:

  • Start your day with coffee. The consumption of coffee is linked to lower rates of depression. If you are unable to drink coffee, give green tea a try for the same benefits.
  • Try meal prepping or picking out clothes for the week to save you time and create a sense of control.
  • Practice forgiveness. Experts believe people who forgive have better mental health and report being more satisfied with their lives. Carrying a grudge can weigh heavily on you.
  • Be grateful. Send a thank you note to someone or just write it for yourself. Written expressions of gratitude are linked to increased happiness.
  • When in doubt, write it out. Writing about experiences that upset you can reduce the symptoms of depression.

A single day away from work, school or other responsibilities is not a cure-all for anxiety, depression or other mental health symptoms, but it’s a good way to take a break and recharge when you need it. HICS is here to provide tips for good mental health and mental health support to all members of the community. We serve individuals from all backgrounds in Audubon, Dallas and Guthrie counties. Reach out at