How to know you need a mental health day (and how to spend it)

No one on your team bats an eye when you email to tell them you’ve come down with a nasty stomach bug, but what about when it comes to mental health?

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If you’re a full-time employee with benefits, then you most likely have the ability to take sick days — you know, for your physical health. No one on your team bats an eye when you email to tell them you’ve come down with a nasty stomach bug or a head-pounding cold, but what about when it comes to your mental health? You may not have considered taking a sick day for your mental health, but we highly recommend it.

You don’t need to suffer from a psychological condition to take a mental health day. Sometimes you just need one for your sanity. If you’re finding yourself perpetually distracted, facing a creative block or just feeling burnt out, a day just for you could be exactly what the doctor ordered.


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Here are some signs that you could use a mental health day:

1. You’re dreading going into work

Unless this sort of thing is happening on the regular (in which case you should consider looking for a new job), having the occasional I-really-can’t-do-this-work-thing day is normal. Whatever the reason is that you’re not thrilled about showing up to the office, a single mental health day could be what you need to recharge your batteries and get back on track.

2. Your mindset is stunting your productivity

Some days, you wake up and you just know that you don’t have it in you to get your work done. Taking a day for yourself could amp back up your mental capacity and productivity.

3. You have a (rare) awful night’s sleep and you just can’t focus

Sleep is so important — we can’t stress that enough. While regular sleep deprivation is a bigger issue, the rare night when you get no shuteye can make you feel like you have nothing to give the world. You have two options in this situation: to be the “hero” and show up to work even though you know you won’t function well, or call a spade a spade and take the day to catch up. We suggest the latter, considering that even one night of sleep deprivation can significantly decrease your cognitive function.

4. You legitimately need a day to get your shit together

Whether you just suffered a fairly traumatic experience (like a messy breakup or the death of a pet) or you’re just behind on your taxes, taking a day to get your shit together is absolutely valid. Life is messy, and sometimes your personal life requires the same attention as your office life. Take a day, and give yourself a break.

How To Make The Most Of Your Day

There really is no “perfect” way to spend your mental health day, since your circumstances are unique to you. That said, be intuitive and spend your day doing things that will ease your stress and make you happy.

Some pointers? Make sure your day is productive — we know, watching Netflix in your pitch-black bedroom surrounded by blankets sounds amazing, but your brain benefits from stimulation. Take a walk around your neighborhood, clean your place or, if you need to get your shit together, spend the day doing just that.

And as we said, don’t forget to do something that calms your nerves and brings you a sense of joy. Read for an hour, take a long bath or blast your favorite playlist.

Regardless of why you’re taking a mental health day, make the most of it so that you’re back on your feet when it’s over. If one day simply isn’t enough, consider a longer vacation. And, if that won’t do the trick, it might be time to jump ship from your company or talk to your boss about your situation.

The bottom line: take care of yourself. Your health — physical and mental — is a priority. Plus, your mind deserves a break from time to time.

This article first appeared on Swirled.