Sometimes, we hit a wall. Periods of depression, anxiety, or overstimulation can feel like they’ll never end. These challenging times can cause us to lose interest in things we love, to doubt ourselves, or to put our own self care on the back burner. There is no shame in experiencing a shutdown due to depression, anxiety, or burnout. Whether you’re a full-time mum, working a traditional job, or a business owner, or anyone in between, mental health issues are valid and real. As someone who has experienced this type of shutdown, I wanted to write down some things I do to help reset and restore on a mental health day.
A Break is 100% Necessary
Before we talk about what to do on a mental health day, let’s talk about the day itself. You need a break. Yes, you. You need, deserve, and should take a break. There’s no master checklist that says, “If you’ve completed this number of tasks, you deserve a break.” If you feel overwhelmed, you deserve a break.
Taking a mental health day is about separating yourself from the things that cause you stress and focusing on the things that will make you feel better. If your job is a major source of dread, take a day off. If housework is piling up to the point that it’s causing you anxiety, stay at a hotel for a day. This is all about releasing you from that anxiety and dread and putting you in a place where you can more healthily address your day-to-day tasks.
Need sleep? Take a full day to stay in bed. Need quiet? Put on your noise-cancelling headphones and enjoy the solitude. Need exercise? Plan a big bike ride or a run. Your mental health day is for you.
PTO: Prepare the Others
Since a mental health day is just for you, it’s important that you don’t spend the whole day defending your break to others around you. Before taking a mental health day, you’ll want to prepare other people in your life for your upcoming absence. If you’re nervous about letting your colleagues or family know that you’re taking a day off, here are some talking points you can use:
- “I’ve noticed myself feeling depressed lately, and I want to make sure I take care of myself before those feelings get worse. I’m taking a mental health day to give myself the space and clarity I need to feel better.”
- “This break is really important to me. It will help me feel more like myself and help me reset my mental health.”
- “I need a break, and I wanted to give you a heads up about some ways you can support me.”
- Some things you could suggest are: “avoid sending me emails or messages”, “help me secure care for the children or animals”, or “take care of all meals for you and the kids”.
Remember, you’re not asking for a break. This is especially true at work. You’re due your PTO or time off, and you’re free to take it! You’re just helping others understand what you need to feel more connected to yourself.
Sleep is Key
In a period of depression, it’s very common to feel like you’re tired all day but aren’t able to sleep when your head hits the pillow. This lack of sleep can make depression and anxiety feel even worse. If you’re taking a mental health day, don’t put a limit on your sleep. No alarms, no morning plans, just wake up when you wake up.
There’s no guilt or shame on a mental health day. If you wake up at noon only to take a nap an hour and a half later, that’s okay. Your body is probably craving that true, deep sleep and you’re giving yourself exactly what you need.
I tend to have a task-oriented mindset. I like to go from one task to the next, and that keeps me moving and motivated. However, this can be really detrimental when I’m trying to give myself a break. I have difficulty not turning my mind into an endless to-do list, even on a day off. One way I’ve tried to address this on my own mental health days is by completing what I call “peace tasks”. These are “to-dos” that help me rest. Some of my favorite “peace tasks” are:
These are things that I can do on my mental health days that fill my need for a checklist, but help me restore and reset myself. To make your own list of peace tasks, think about things that you would love to do if you had more time to yourself. These are often the things that we loved before we took on extra responsibilities, and they can really help you reconnect with yourself.
It’s never too late to take care of yourself. If you’ve been experiencing depression and anxiety, you might have let your own self care sit on the back burner. Avoiding basic hygiene tasks is a very common symptom of depression. If you see yourself falling into this pattern, it’s definitely time for a break. Some of the simple self care tasks you can do on a mental health day are: taking a long shower or bath, giving yourself a manicure or pedicure, getting a haircut, or exfoliating.
The Most Important Reminder
If you don’t feel completely restored after one mental health day, you aren’t a failure and you didn’t do the mental health day “wrong”. Depression and anxiety are real health conditions, and if you find the thought of doing anything (including taking a break) overwhelming, you need to talk to a healthcare professional. Investing in therapy or psychiatric care is the best personal investment you can make. If you’re experiencing frequent feelings of shutdown or empty batteries, reaching out to a therapist is crucial. There’s no shame in reaching out for help. It takes strength to recognize when you need help and to ask for what you need!
You deserve to take the time you need to reset, recover, and restore. Taking a mental health day can be an important way to help relieve stress or feelings of shutdown.
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