Getting caught up in the day-to-day routine called life happens to all of us. We exert ourselves to meet deadlines and struggle to stay awake through meetings. We suffer from lack of sleep and strive to balance a social life on top of work. After a while, it all adds up to one big stress bomb that has us thinking “I need a vacation.”
Giving your brain (and your body) a break from reality is possible without jet-setting across the country or taking multiple days off. It’s called taking a mental health day, and too many people don’t take them seriously.
Research shows that in 2017 alone, Americans forfeited 212 million vacation days, which is the equivalent of $62.2 billion in lost benefits. If unused time off wasn’t enough to convince you, additional research has shown that workplace stress can lead to depression, anxiety, burnout, and more serious health problems.
Why not take a day for yourself – even if it’s just one weekend day — to ease your mind, better your physical health and come back revitalized? Here are five tips to help you plan a great mental health day.
Assess Your Needs
Maybe you’re exhausted and need to sleep in and lay in bed until noon. Or perhaps you don’t want to think about absolutely anything and veg in front of the TV all day in your pajamas. Maybe you know a good, hard workout will help clear your mind and make your body feel better after a stressful time at work has kept you sedentary and led to missed workouts.
Before your mental health day even starts, take some time to reflect on what your body and mind need, and plan to do things that will help you feel relaxed and stress-free. We recommend doing at least some light exercise (like taking a walk or stretching), as increased blood flow will release endorphins and help you feel better.
Have a Little Fun
Whether it’s something simple like reading a book or more extreme like checking off bucket-list items like going skydiving, it’s important to do something that makes you smile. Try to think about the things you enjoy – or don’t get to enjoy enough – and do them. These can be things like journaling, taking a cooking class, checking out that new store you’ve been eyeing, or picking up an old hobby like painting.
Stay Away from Social Media and Emails
This one is crucial, and it might be the hardest one on this list to achieve. Whether you planned your mental health day weeks in advance or decided you needed this day when you woke up, just remember that this is only one day.
If this is a last-minute mental health day, let your boss know you are taking a personal day and put away the phone. Checking emails and worrying about work defeats the purpose of clearing your mind and easing stresses.
Also, steer clear of social media for the day. You don’t need to read your cousin’s wife’s sister’s Facebook rant or see that person from high school’s Instagram post about their kid’s soccer game.
Savor a Delicious Meal
When was the last time you actually sat down and savored a meal? Most days mean grabbing a to-go sandwich or hurrying through lunch to get back to work. Take some time to really taste and enjoy your food. Whether you cook, call in, or finally go to that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, take your time while eating and enjoy the food and the moment. You’ll want to feel full, but not stuffed.
End the Day with Gratitude
Between work stress and trying to have a social life, we can easily lose sight of our blessings and focus on all of the negatives in life. Remember to appreciate this mental health day, as so many people don’t take the time to have them. Be thankful for your job, family, friends, home, car, health, and everything you have. Making a list helps you realize all of your blessings and can help you get back to work the next day feeling grateful.