We all need time to ourselves, or rest, recharge, and disconnect. Living in a society where we are always on the go, with stressors of daily life both at home and work, we often forget that while we can do a lot of things, we can't do everything, especially if we aren't taking care of both our physical, and mental health. When we get the flu or any other illness, we stay home and take care of our physical health, but often we neglect our mental health to the point of burn out. It can be hard to know exactly when we need to give our brain a break, and if you are like many people I know, you are stock piling your paid time off incase you actually get sick or take a vacation. Here's a secret- you can always accrue more time, but only if you take care of yourself mind, body, and soul, so that you can show up to work. In allowing ourselves mental health days, we are allowing ourselves to recharge and increase our energy, refresh or recharge our motivation, increase a more positive mood and mindset, and help increase our ability to manage stress. Time off might can actually increase overall productivity in the work place rather than decrease it as it helps us recharge in a different way. Much like we would never let our cell phones get to the point of dead battery, we need to do the same with our health, which means recharging.
You might be in need of a mental health day if you are finding yourself feeling more stressed or anxious than usual. You may find your body throwing you subtle hints, feeling more fatigued, irritable, change in appetite or cravings. You may find yourself with a short fuse, snapping quickly and easily, which may not be your normal. We can all get snippy, testy, and respond without thinking when we aren't in a good headspace. A day away from people, work, stress, responsibilities, can help recharge and get us back in our happy, un-snippy, snapping, mood. If you are mentally overworked your body may respond with exhaustion, making it harder to function at full capacity, meaning you are not performing at your highest ability at home, school, or work. You may feel as though you need to sleep constantly, or find that you are struggling to sleep, as tired as you feel. Sleep is powerful, sometimes all we need is to allow ourselves to sleep in, or take an uninterrupted nap to feel refreshed. Without healthy sleep hygiene our physical and mental health undoubtedly suffer. Perhaps you fell off your nightly routine, try to get back with it and stick to it.
At this point you likely feel disconnected, maybe suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out), but are potentially still pushing yourself to commit to everything. If you find yourself disconnecting from others, isolating, being overly emotional about insignificant things, this is another bone your body is throwing at you, saying it needs a break. You may find yourself constantly getting sick, sniffles, colds, flu, every virus that is going around seems to land in your body. If you are seeing your doctor more than your friends or office, it's a pretty strong sign that your brain is in need of a break just as much as your body. You may try all the over the counter medicines, the holistic approaches, but you will end up feeling like you are living in slow motion, or that you are stuck reliving Groundhog's Day. This may lead you to consuming more caffeine than usual, which eventually makes you feel more tired and sluggish over time. Instead of increasing caffeine, try drinking more water to avoid dehydration.
Another sign that maybe it's time for a mental health day, is that you are unable to focus on any one thing in your life. Work, home, school, social life, they are scrambled like the eggs you may get at your favorite diner. It's safe to say we have all had that feeling before, and scrambled brain is no where near as satisfying as scrambled eggs. Taking a day off from the chaos that is inevitably your life can help you refocus, reorganize, prioritize, and get back to a centered, focused you. Perhaps try adding some meditation, yoga, or another mindfulness practice into your mental health day. You might simply be feeling low and not know why. Burnout, fatigue, stress, relationship drama, social life drama, or perhaps workplace drama may leave you feeling like you are being pulled in every direction while on a merry-go-round. Try activities like watching a comedy, reading, spending time with those supports who life you up rather than dragging you down with them. Perhaps you draw or paint, play music or sing, whatever fuels you and makes you feel better, do that.
A successful mental health day can help you relax, recenter, refocus, recharge, and destress. Figure out what it is you need the most. A day in bed, with your favorite snacks, dog, and a good book. A road trip to the coast or the mountains, a day at the spa, take a yoga class, meditate, take yourself out for a nice meal, or any other activity that you brings you joy and helps destress and declutter your mind. However you choose to spend your day off, make sure you are doing it for yourself, wholeheartedly, taking time for yourself truly means taking time for you. Let go of the thoughts of what you need to get done, "should" be doing, or the pile of work that might be waiting for you upon your return to the office. If needed, disconnect from technology, social media, and anything that keeps you attached to those things that might also be burning you out. Remember that it's okay to practice self-care, self-love, and to respect yourself. Putting yourself first is not selfish, it's necessary to be able to give 100% in all aspects of your life. If you don't maintain your car, charge your phone, water your plants, then they don't run, perform, or grow well. The likelihood is you wouldn't let that happen and that you maintain your vehicle, charge your phone, and make sure your plants get enough water and sunlight. We are all basically houseplants, we need water, sunlight, and fuel to keep on growing and going. However you spend your mental health day, do it for you, and be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can, but you can't run on empty.