If you work, odds are you've heard at least one of your colleagues talking about taking a mental health day. So, what does that mean? Is it the same as a vacation or sick day? And how do you know if it's something you should be doing, as well?
Vivian Pinner, a licensed mental health counselor with Baptist Behavioral Health, explained, "Mental health days are really about checking in on your own mental wellness. The goal of taking time off is not to get out of work, it's to heal your body and mind to allow you to come back to a place that's more relaxed, positive, healthy and balanced."
We've all had those times when there's too much going on in life and you just need a break. Pinner provided a personal example: "Last fall, I was moving, selling a house, redecorating, and then I also had my job and everything else," she recalled. "I got to the place where I was so physically exhausted that I just needed a day to myself to re-center and balance. So, I worked with my office and found a time that fit about 10 days later. I pretty much stayed in my pajamas all day, and afterward, I felt a lot better."
A successful exhale
Pinner said there's no "right" or "wrong" when it comes to what someone does on a mental health day; however, the first step to having a beneficial day is to prepare for it.
"It's best to plan these special days as a part of your life. We know how much it helps our mental health to look forward to an event, moment, trip or time with friends. Just anticipating the vacation is almost as therapeutic as actually going. The same can be said for anticipating this day off," she said.
As for what will be the most relaxing? Pinner said, "Anything that brings joy to your life. You may just want to watch Netflix all day in your pajamas. Or, you might like venturing outside in nature, getting a massage, taking a long walk with your dog, or getting together with friends for lunch. It could also be volunteering – giving of yourself can be restorative."
Though it seems counterintuitive, some people might enjoy taking care of a growing to-do list.
"We've all had one of those days where we feel like we don't have it all together," Pinner said. "It may be around a holiday or after time away from home: we need to go to the grocery store, clean the house, do the laundry, and other things. If you take a day and get it all done, you might say, 'I feel so much better.' It depends on what your needs are at that moment."
Avoid the angst
Pinner recommended staying away from anything that involves too much planning or over-indulgence (alcohol, eating, thinking negative thoughts), and not taking the day on a whim.
"Waking up and saying, 'I don't feel like going in; I need a mental health day,' shouldn't be the goal. You've got to be intentional about taking the time to restore yourself. If you're waking up every day in a crisis mode, there's a bigger issue," she said. "You should consider taking steps to help manage anxiety and stress, and plan ahead for a mental health day."
It's OK to take the day
"We're learning more and more about the mind-body connection," said Pinner. "When our mind is stressed, worried, depressed or grieving, our body doesn't function well, and vice versa. To be the best person you can be, the mind and body need to be in sync."
A mental health day can go a long way to finding that balance. "It's OK to take care of yourself!" said Pinner.
Baptist Health has compiled a list of self-care resources like websites, apps, and therapy options, which can be found here. If you're experiencing anxiety or stress and want to speak with someone, the caring mental health professionals at Baptist Behavioral Health provide professional counseling, psychological and psychiatric services for all ages. Call 904.376.3800 for more information or to schedule an appointment.