To be honest, it should not be normal to feel yourself working in the ground and be chronically overwhelmed. But if you feel that way, you have to take a mental health day.
Mental Health Days help you feel grounded and energetic, maintain a healthy perspective on work and private life, manage burnout and feel refreshed – all keys to maintain overall health and your ability to the best way to get started, for the long term.
October 10 is World Day for Mental Health; view these stories that can help you support your mental health:
What exactly is a mental health day?
A mental health day is just a day off that is specifically and strategically focused on stress relief. Although a day off in itself cannot cure burnout, a mental health day can certainly give you a much needed (and well-deserved) break.
"By taking days of mental health, you value equal value between your mental and emotional well-being and your physical well-being," Talkspace therapist Amy Cirbus told CNET. "It is an acquired skill to be able to determine when you need a mental health day, but it's worth it."
Ideally, these days should be planned far enough in advance so that you can control your workload or get help to ensure that you do not stress about what a stress-free day should be. But that is not always possible, and it is completely OK to take a spontaneous mental health day if needed.
You can feel guilty about taking free time to look after your mental health, because the practice is not as common as taking a day of illness for physical illness. But when you are too stressed, you and your work suffer, which can lead to a lot of problems. If your work requires some form of manual labor, burning out can even lead to physical injury.
Oh, and days for mental health are not just for adults. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a child psychologist, told CNET that children, teenagers, and young adults need as many mental health days as working professionals.
"The majority [of adults] works more than 40 hours a week, and this work-always attitude has shifted to comparable expectations for teenagers and young adults," says Capanna-Hodge. "Academic demands have increased, and teenagers sleep less and less … Without adequate sleep, cognitive functioning decreases and stress increases."
It is crucial that children and teenagers learn how to take care of themselves with proper sleep, nutrition and stress management, so by the time they reach adulthood, they have established healthy habits and limits, Cappana-Hodge says.
Signs that you need a day for mental health
Stress, anxiety and burnout manifest themselves differently in everyone, but you have to watch out for some common symptoms. Signs you need to take a day of mental health include:
- Sleeplessness [night]
- Chronic daytime fatigue
- Excessive reliance on caffeine or other stimulants
- Excessive concentration problems
- Decreasing productivity
- Feelings of exhaustion
- Mood swings, especially irritability
- Feelings of resentment towards your work, workplace or colleague's
- Blurry lines between work and private life  Personalization of Work Frustrations
- Recurring Headaches, Colds, or Other Physical Disorders
Experiencing many of these symptoms at once, or even just one or two on a regular basis, is a good indicator that you need a mental health day , says Cirbus.
How should you spend a day of mental health?
Once you have secured the day off, it is important that you actually use this time to help yourself perform a reset. That will look different for everyone, but here are a few examples of effective things you can do on your mental health day:
- Sleep in and prepare a full breakfast that you would not normally eat on a workday.
- a massage.
- Take a nap.
- Connect with nature during a walk, on the beach or in whatever landscape you enjoy.
- Bake some goodies to enjoy alone or with friends.
- Paint or draw
- Read a book.
- Have lunch with a friend you haven't seen in a while.
- Call someone you miss.
- Complete messages that you have postponed.
You do not have to plan a full day of activities for your mental health day. In fact, less often is more. And you don't have to worry about Instagramworthy self-care. Not everyone will feel refreshed after a bubble bath with flowers, face mask and hot-stone massage – some people will feel at their best after a hard workout, a hearty meal and an episode of their favorite TV show. Moreover, it will take too much effort to embody self-care.
Just do things that make you feel relieved, refreshed and ready for the next day at work, even if that simply means you remove non-work-related items from your to-do list. Whatever you choose, Cirbus says a good rule of thumb is to stay away from social media and take your time into account.
"Connect with yourself or a great company in real life and be as present as you can every day," says Cirbus. "Ask yourself, what can you do that will make you feel at your best at the end of this day."
Read more: 5 life hacks to relieve anxiety
How often do you have to take days with mental health?
There is no gold standard for the frequency of days for mental health, says Cirbus. It all depends on the circumstances of the individual and the stress tolerance, and it can vary based on personal challenges that coincide with the intensity of your workload.
Some months you may not need a mental health day, while you may need more than one for other months. "On average, it can be good to plan at least one to two days of mental health per quarter," says Cirbus. "Scheduled days off create a routine of dedicated time to good self-care that helps maintain stability and durability over time."
The same applies to children, teenagers, and young adults, says Cappana-Hodge. If a student is more prone to stress or irritation, they would benefit from more frequent days for mental health, or longer psychological breaks. For example, taking two days off, or placing a mental health day on Friday so that it extends through the weekend would benefit those who need extra time to reset.
You should do your best to take a full day for mental health if you feel you need one, but if it doesn't feel manageable, you can help yourself reset by taking breaks all day long .
"In an ideal world, everyone should take the time to manage stress every day so that the nervous system can regulate itself," says Cappana-Hodge. "Even after 10 minutes of mediation or other silent activity, it helps regulate the nervous system, increase focus and build up rest in the brain and body."