When we think of what it means to be “in good health”, what often comes to mind is our physical health (AKA how fit we are and how well we’re eating). While these are of course both important factors in maintaining our health, sometimes we forget that our mental health is equally important. If you’ve been feeling like your mental state could use some attention (i.e. you’ve been feeling taxed, stressed, low, or just not yourself lately), taking a mental health day can help you bring your overall health and well-being back into balance.
What is a Mental Health Day?
A mental health day is a special day dedicated solely to taking care of your mental and emotional well-being. It’s a time to reset, recharge, and focus on you.
With one in five Americans struggling with mental health issues, dedicating a day (or several!) to prioritizing your mental well-being can offer many benefits and support your journey toward optimal health. In this article, we’ll explore how to know if you need a mental health day, how to ask for one, and four ways to get the most out of your day.
How to Know if You Need a Mental Health Day
As a general rule of thumb, if you’re thinking of taking a mental health day, odds are you need one. Here are a few signs that taking a break could be a good idea:
- You’re feeling burnt out
- You’re experiencing high levels of stress
- You’re constantly tired and can’t seem to shake it
- You’re often irritable, short-tempered, or easily set off
- You’re feeling overextended and having a hard time focusing
If any of these sound like you, taking a mental health day can be an effective step toward getting back to your best self. Here are some ideas for making the most of yours.
4 Ways to Get the Most out of a Mental Health Day
- Get Active
Making time for exercise or physical activity can do a world of good for your mental health. Moving your body helps reduce stress, boost your self-esteem, and even stave off issues like cognitive decline and depression (2). On a mental health day, being active can look like:
- Going for a run
- Practicing yoga
- Taking a walk in the park
- Playing sports with friends and family
- Trying out a new YouTube workout
Aim for at least 30 minutes of movement to support your mental health in the most meaningful way.
- Lower Your Stress Levels
Stress is a normal part of daily life. We all experience stress in one form or another. The key is finding healthy ways to manage it. On a mental health day, managing your stress levels can look like:
- Reading a good book
- Watching a new movie
- Meditating for a few minutes
- Having an at-home spa day
- Listening to your favorite music
- Coloring or doing something creative
If you can find ways to relax yourself during high-stress moments, you’re on the right track to supporting your mental health.
- Eat Mindfully
Food can play a big role in supporting your mental health. It’s as simple as this: food affects the way you feel. Foods like salmon, almonds, spinach, and green tea release the neurotransmitter serotonin (AKA the feel good hormone). Serotonin can help boost your mood and even help curb the effects of depression.
For many, cooking can be a relaxing and therapeutic process. Cooking a meal you enjoy on your mental health day can help you focus, unwind, and treat your body to something delicious and nutritious. Not a fan of cooking? Take yourself on a date to your favorite local restaurant and enjoy a mindful meal.
Mindful eating is a great way to support your mental wellbeing. Chewing slowly (15-30 chews per bite), focusing on the flavor and texture of each bite, and leaving distractions aside can help you appreciate your food that much more and dip into a blissful state of gratitude.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night. On your mental health day, consider putting some extra emphasis on good sleeping habits, by:
- Turning off your phone 30 minutes before bed
- Hitting the hay earlier than usual, and cozying up in bed with a nice cup of sleep-inducing tea like chamomile, lavender, or mint
- Dimming the lights as you wind down and listening to calming music or sleep sounds to help you enter a relaxed state of mind
Setting yourself up for a peaceful slumber will help your mind decompress and alleviate any mental tension you’ve been feeling.
How to Take a Mental Health Day
When deciding to take your mental health day, think about what day would be the most beneficial for you and your needs. If you prefer, can you reserve a weekend day for your day of personal TLC. Cancel plans that conflict with your mental health day. If you have an obligation that can be moved in order to give yourself a few more hours of rest and relaxation, consider doing that.
If you share a home with a partner, explain to them that you need to take some time to yourself. If you have children, request that your partner take the kids out for the day. That way you can enjoy some much needed personal time.
If you need to take a mental health day from work, you can take time off—no questions asked. Or if you feel comfortable doing so, you can share specifics with your manager around needing to take a mental health day. Once your request for time off has been approved, you can start making a plan for how you want to spend your day and what activities will most help you to refuel.
Make Your Mental Health a Priority
It’s not always easy to ask for what you need, but taking the time to prioritize your mental well-being benefits you and everyone else around you. You deserve to take the time you need to rest, relax, and show up as your best self! And remember: there’s no right or wrong way to do a mental health day. It’s all about customizing the day to you and your needs. Listen to what your body is telling you it needs, and then do that.
Learn More about Maintaining Better Mental Health with HCI
If you’re interested in learning more ways to improve your mental health and help others do the same, consider becoming a Health and Life Coach! Learn more how our six-month dual Health and Life Coach certificate program can give you the tools to thrive in all areas of your life and prepare you for a rewarding career helping others feel their best!