Everyone experiences stress differently and has different triggers for it. Sometimes it’s a build-up of little things here and there. Sometimes the littlest stressor can cause the floodgates to open and overflow into your finances, professional productivity, physical health, family, and/or social life.
Similarly, the conversation surrounding mental health has experienced this same overflow, with 2020 putting the topic of mental health front and center. It’s understood everyone needs a break now and then and these mental health days are necessary to relieve stress, increase employee satisfaction and prevent burnout.
Although achieving a healthy work-life balance and effective stress management routine is more complex than simply increasing your available PTO, taking time off periodically can provide a much-needed regroup, so you can return to your workload with a fresh perspective.
Here are 9 tips to get the most out of your mental health day:
1. Make your weekend a 3-day weekend
Weekends serve as a great way to destress; however many people use this time to catch up on the things they couldn’t do throughout the week. If you need another day to decompress, take it! Plan to relax and reset.
Plan ahead and take a Friday or Monday to yourself. Take a nap. Read a book. Evaluate what your stress triggers are. Do absolutely nothing. Everyone recharges differently, so take that extra day to recharge, destress and return to work refreshed.
Exercise is one of the best tools humans have to combat stress and bolster mental health; attend a yoga class, take a walk, play a sport with a friend, go for a bike ride, etc. Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and other neurochemicals that relieve mental anguish.
A clear perspective can come to us in a variety of ways; exercise can assist you in finding that fresh, calmer set of eyes.
3. Go Outside
Being in nature has been proven to assist with destressing and finding mental clarity. Listening to the birds, exposure to sunlight and just enjoying your surroundings can help put your mind at ease. Simply put: fresh air is good for the body and soul.
4. Turn off your phone
So much of how we engage with the world is through a screen. By extension, this also means that screens are the source of a lot of the stressors in our lives. Don’t check your email. Don’t sign into social. Unlink your softphone from your cell.
The whole point of a mental health day is to disconnect from your stressors. Checking work emails, replying to phone calls, and constantly refreshing your social feed will not assist you in this goal.
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5. Do the things that make you happy
We all have different activities that we enjoy doing. Use your mental health day to catch up on a hobby. If you love museums, go. If you're a reader, pick up your favorite book and start reading. If you like TV and film, put on your favorites. If you have a favorite local food spot, grab a meal. The whole point is to do things that are good for you. Take a hot shower or bath and listen to your favorite music. Take care of you.
6. Eat Well
What we put in our bodies impacts how we handle stress as well. Not only do a lot of us stress eat, but the things we eat when we do this aren’t always the healthiest choices. Use your day off to do some meal prep with healthy food options. Reset your body and your appetite.
Stress can impact your sleep for the worse. Use your mental health day to catch some Zs and rest. Sleep is a time when your body repairs both physically and mentally, so it’s important to take the time to unwind.
Mental health days are a great way to press pause, but they alone should not be used as a long-term solution to help manage your stress. Use your day off to take time and reflect on how you can ease your stressors long-term.
Find ways to calm yourself when feeling overwhelmed. Taking a break, taking walk, or just listening to your favorite music for a moment can serve as a quick reset when the day gets tough. At the end of the day, you have to find ways to make a plan that works for you.
9. Take a staycation
If one day isn’t going to allow you enough time to reset and recharge, take a staycation! Eat well, exercise and disconnect. Burning the candle at both ends doesn’t do you, your loved ones, or your employer any favors.
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The Bottom Line
Taking time off is easy enough, but fully executing on your mental health day is a lot easier said than done. However, when you are able to fully reap the benefits of a mental health day, the payoff is great.
Putting yourself first and taking time to recharge regularly is a great way to avoid burnout and boost your overall wellness and productivity while at work.
Your mental health is part of your overall health. Do your best and make it a priority.