If you have a cold, the flu or some other physical ailment, what do you do? You stay home, curl up in bed, and maybe go see a doctor. Sadly, when it comes to mental ailments, taking a day to take care of your mental health isn’t seen the same way; even though mental health contributes to your overall health.
How do you know you should take a mental health day? For me, it’s when I begin to feel overwhelmed or when I feel my own mental illness start to get out of hand. It’s important for everyone to treat their mental health with the same seriousness as they do their physical health, and mental health days should be treated the same as sick days.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your mental health day, when you finally decide to take one.
1) Let your boss/professor know
If your mental health day falls on a day where you would usually be in class or at work, let your boss or professor know that you’ll be out that day. I don’t advise lying or making up a far-fetched excuse, but if you don’t feel comfortable telling them that you’re actually taking a mental health day, just say that you’re feeling under the weather and that it would be in your best interests to miss class or take the day off.
2) Catch some Z’s/Take a nap
There’s an endless list of benefits to sleep. Personally, I take a nap almost every day just because I’m on the go from the moment I wake up to the moment I get back home, and it can be pretty exhausting. Not only does It help you maintain a healthy heart, but it keeps off unwanted weight, strengthens your immune system, helps your focus, and best of all helps your mood.
For naps, twenty to thirty minutes is recommended to help with alertness and not interfere with nighttime sleep. Wherever you decide to rest make sure you’re in a comfortable, quiet place with minimal light.
3) Eat a good breakfast
What better way is there to start your mental health day than with food? But not just any food. It’s the most important meal of the day. Sugary breakfast foods will only bog you down further, so try some healthier alternatives: anything with whole grains, a sugar-free cereal and milk combination, breakfast smoothie or, my personal favorite, a bowl of fruit, which in my opinion, is the least appreciated of all breakfast foods.
4) Turn off your phone ( at least for a little while)
As hard as it may seem, it will be so worth it in the end. Excessive use of social media networks has actually been linked to depression and anxiety. Turning my phone, or at least my notifications off, for me, is like turning the rest of the world off. I’m helping myself out by removing unwanted distractions so no outside influences penetrate my self-care bubble.
5) Get comfy
People talk about wishing that they could spend all day in their pajamas, and and a mental health day gives you that option! Pull out your warmest pair of pajama pants, your softest t-shirt, and your coziest sweatshirt or cardigan and just revel in the comfort.
When I’m dressed comfortably I automatically start to feel better because in my mind, since I’m not in the clothes that I wear to class, I’m removing myself from that stressor and don’t have to deal with it.
6) Write down what you’re feeling
I cannot emphasize the importance and benefits of journaling. There’s just something about putting your thoughts to paper that eases overwhelming feelings. You don’t even have to have an actual journal; just get some paper, a pen, and just write out your current stream of consciousness.
When I do this and look back on the things I’m thinking and feeling in that moment, I’m able to pick it apart and find the root of my problem or where things began to get out of control. It helps you see the small factors within the bigger picture.
7) Call someone you love
We all have that one person that we can depend on, no matter what, to pick up the phone when you call. For me, it’s my grandmother. Any time of the day or night, she picks up the phone on the first ring.
Sometimes all it takes to make things better is talking to someone that loves and cares about you. They can offer up some valuable advice, but sometimes just listening is enough.
8) Pamper yourself
One of my favorite songs has a line that goes “Get in the shower if it all goes wrong,” and it’s so true. Have you ever noticed how when you’re in the shower or a bath, you forget where you are and just relax into the water?
As cliche as it sounds, get a bath bomb and let the stress, sadness, or anxiety wash away and down the drain. Do a face mask, paint your nails a fun color, maybe take some time to shampoo and condition your hair while you’re at it; just do something for yourself.
All it takes is slowing down and paying a little extra attention to yourself for a little while for you to get back on the right track, and a mental health day is the perfect way to do this. There are other ways to practice self-care and even self-love. Once we start to manage all aspects of our health, mental and physical, we can live life to the fullest.