Mental health is important, but often it goes neglected. There are many reasons for this, including the stigma that often comes with a mental health condition. During the holiday season, stress can take a toll on our mental health. Taking a break can be a healthy way to combat seasonal stress, depression, and burnout.
Taking a mental health day every so often as a form of mental health maintenance is an investment in yourself and your future. Here are 10 reasons to take a mental health day.
- Use your sick days -- that is what they are there for. Often, people don't use their allotted paid time off, or PTO, which includes a certain number of sick days. Taking a mental health day is a preventative health measure, and you shouldn't hesitate to use your sick days or vacation to cover that time. In fact, workers who routinely neglect to use their time off end up quitting in higher numbers, suffering from burnout, or expressing dissatisfaction with their job. It is in your best interest and your company's for you to take time for mental health days.
- You can't run a marathon every day. Just like with exercise, it actually hurts you if you continue to push yourself to the limit every day without taking time for recovery. Your mind is no different. Not taking time to power down from your work and social life is equivalent to running a marathon every day, and then wondering why you get injured. Mental health days are a form of recovery. This is how you should classify them in your mind, rather than a luxury.
- Reducing stress is an active process. When people think about reducing the stress in their lives, they think of dropping items from their to-do list or cutting out people who drain their energy. However, stress reduction for long-term coping involves an active role on your part. This includes things like taking time for mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, speaking with a therapist, exercising, and spending time in nature. Mental health days are a wonderful way to regularly schedule these activities or try them out for the first time.
- Your physical health is connected to your mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression do not just stay in your mind; they manifest physically. This is because mental health issues can alter your hormones and physiology, which impacts your body in a physical way. You may experience weight gain, fatigue, pain, or stiffness. Chronic, untreated mental health issues can contribute to heart disease, high cholesterol, or cancer. Your physical body requires a healthy mind, so it is important to take the time to invest in your mental health.
- Take time for reflection. There is a reason people call it "the rat race." We wake up, we work, we make dinner, we take care of family, we go to bed, and we do it all over again. It is rare that we get time for reflection or thinking. Therefore, mental health days can serve to fulfill this need. Through quiet thinking or journaling, you can consider whether you are happy, whether your career is satisfying, whether you should pick up a hobby, and so on. Taking mental health days for reflection can help you set short and long-term life goals, putting you on your true path. Often, people don't take the time to consider their personal goals; they are simply surviving.
- Finish the projects that have lingered. By taking time off, you can focus on the projects that have built up on your home to-do list and in your mind. This is a variation of a mental health day because by knocking out some of these long-held "to-dos" you are freeing the stress that can lay heavily in the back of your mind. These could be home improvement projects, neglected doctor's appointments, cleaning, or anything that has simply not gotten done and eats away at you.
- Create a stress-free area you control. Using a mental health day to create a Zen zone, or an area within your living space that you can designate as stress-free is an excellent way to invest in your mental health long-term. This area can be a small corner or an entire room, but it should be a space in which you have control to arrange and decorate. Take the time to select items that make you feel calm and happy. This is your physical manifestation of a healthy mind. Use this space on future mental health days to meditate or unwind. You can condition yourself to feel relaxed here.
- Do something fun. So much of our lives are about work, obligations, and to-do lists. Taking a mental health day to have some fun is a great way to relieve stress and refresh ourselves. Ask yourself what you have always wanted to do. Take a day to actually do it. This can be something simple like going to an art museum, or it can as adventurous as skydiving. It's up to you. Investing in your happiness is just as important as working hard in life.
- Take a joint mental health day. This can be a day you spend with your spouse, partner, relative, child, or friend. Our relationships play a huge part in supporting our mental health, so taking a day to bond and connect with people we love is an investment in our mental health. What you do together is up to you, but remember to disconnect from work and social media, and be present in the moment.
- Overhaul your kitchen food. Our minds are impacted by the food we eat. However, we can often get too busy to really plan healthy meals or consider the food we buy. Taking a mental health day to clean out our kitchens and restock them with healthy foods is a wonderful way to improve our minds. A small amount of time invested in meal planning or buying containers for chopped snacking vegetables can go a long way toward supporting a healthy mind.
Mental health requires work, and when it is neglected for too long, it can be difficult to get back to a healthy state. That is why taking mental health days every so often is key. Whether you think you need a mental health day or not, it's important to schedule them anyway.