When our physical body gets sick, the obvious thing to do is to rest to help ourselves feel better. But when our minds need rest, we all tend to push ourselves to the limit, forgetting our minds need a break, too. In this blog post, I will share 5 signs you need to take a mental health day.
Growing up in a dysfunctional family can significantly impact your mental health. Carrying a heavy load by dealing with the dysfunction can mess with your head. You may feel like you can never catch a break or feel worthy of taking time for yourself to recharge. If this sounds like you, I am here to remind you that giving yourself a break is okay. This post will go over 5 signs that are easy to spot, indicating you should step back and give yourself the gift of a mental health day.
Think of the signs as a gentle nudge from your mind to pause and prioritize your mental health. So, whether you are new to taking a mental health day or just need an extra push, keep reading to give yourself a much-needed break.
What is a Mental Health Day?
First and foremost, let's talk about what a mental health day really means. A mental health day is a day that is dedicated to taking care of your mental well-being. Just like you take sick days when you are physically unwell, a mental health day is focused on recharging our minds. Whether you feel overwhelmed, burnout, or just need a break, a mental health day is a proactive choice to bring balance back into your life.
Taking a mental health day is an opportunity to do things that make it easier to cope with your life challenges, like resting, seeking support, reflecting, relaxing, or simply doing things that bring you joy by taking a break from your regular activities. It usually lasts one day, but it can be longer if you need more time to feel better emotionally. The individual needs and time may vary, but the goal is the same, which is to take a break so you can mentally feel better.
Why Are Mental Health Days Important?
Mental health days are incredibly important for those raised in a dysfunctional family. Growing up in a dysfunctional family comes with many challenges, and the constant stress can affect your mental health over time.
Firstly, taking a mental health day (or hour) can help you take a break from these stressors. Even if you cannot take a full day, consider how to incorporate rest.
Secondly, you may have learned maladaptive coping methods like unhealthy patterns and behaviors growing up in a dysfunctional family. You can use a mental health day to foster self-awareness, including getting in touch with your emotions, identifying and journaling about your triggers, and learning healthier ways to manage your emotional response.
Finally, mental health days can be used to seek therapy to cope with your experiences and prevent long-term mental health issues. When you continue not prioritizing your mental health, you may be at a higher risk for developing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Benefits of Taking a Mental Health Day?
There are so many benefits of taking a mental health day especially for those who were raised in a dysfunctional family. Here are a few benefits for taking a mental health day:
1) Self-Compassion: It is not uncommon for cycle breakers to carry feelings of unworthiness or guilt. Extending self-compassion to yourself can remind you that you are not responsible for your family's dysfunction and are worthy of taking a break.
2) Relaxation: Relaxing can be challenging when other people constantly surround you, and may have to prioritize their needs. When you take a mental health day, you can connect with your thoughts and emotional needs for much-needed alone time. This is also a time to do things you enjoy the most, like reading, sitting in silence, or going out in nature.
3) Self-Awareness: A dysfunctional family often lacks open communication and healthy emotional expression, leading to a lack of self-awareness, especially around your own feelings, thoughts, and needs. When you continue to suppress your emotions, it hinders your self-growth. Whether you are working on recognizing recurring patterns that stem from your upbringing in a dysfunctional family or clarifying your values and priorities, taking a mental health day can be a great starting point for your self-growth and healing journey.
5 Signs You Need to Take a Mental Health Day
How do you know when to take off mental health day? Here are 5 signs you need to take a mental health day:
1) You are constantly overwhelmed by the stress of your family dynamics
Let's be honest: when your family is at the core of your life and a consistent source of stress, it can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. It can be stressful to deal with family dynamics persistently, and having a day to prioritize self-care to address the stress can be an important reason to take a mental health day.
There are several reasons you feel overwhelmed when dealing with family stressors. For starters, when there are frequent, ongoing conflicts or disagreements in the house, you may feel like you have to walk on eggshells around family members because of the lack of healthy communication.
This can leave you feeling emotionally drained and constantly worrying about the unresolved issues in your family, making it harder to focus on your own goals. There is a desire for family members to get along, and it can be really stressful when that isn't the reality of your situation. You may feel helpless when you feel like you can't fix the problems within your family and make everyone get along.
Another reason for feeling overwhelmed can be family expectations. When you feel like you are constantly trying to live up to your family's expectations (career, life choices, etc.), balancing a life you desire with what your family expects of you can be stressful. The lack of support and understanding amongst family members can leave you feeling misunderstood and worried about openly expressing your thoughts and emotions, creating frustration.
When you are working on balancing your life, balancing the family dynamics that are causing stress can be incredibly overwhelming. It can feel like juggling many things and being pulled in different directions. It can be very challenging to be in the middle of your family stressors and trying to mediate, making you feel like you are constantly responsible for keeping the peace in the family.
When you are feeling constantly overwhelmed by the stress of your family dynamics, it's one of the 5 signs you need to take a mental health day.
1) What are some specific triggers that are stressing you out?
2) How has the stress been impacting your daily functioning?
3) Have you been neglecting basic self-care? (eating well, exercising, sleep, etc.)
4) Have you communicated your needs and boundaries to your family? If that isn't an option, consider your needs and access your support system.
2) There is a significant decline in your productivity at work or school
Imagine you wake up in the morning, and your house is filled with tension between family members, yelling, or chaos, and now you have to go to work or school. When you live in an environment where you are constantly dealing with uncertainty or instability coupled with the demands of your workload, it makes sense why you are feeling stressed out.
This stress, however, can spill over into other areas of your life like work, school, social relationships, etc., impacting your ability to stay focused or be productive. You find yourself worrying about things happening at home instead of being able to focus on the task at hand and being productive.
When you notice a significant decline in your productivity, it can be challenging to stay present, making taking a break essential to recharge your emotional and mental well-being. This decline may be the second of the 5 signs you need to take a mental health day.
Some signs of decline in productivity include missing deadlines, making frequent mistakes, difficulty concentrating, isolation from colleagues, friends, or peers, procrastination, anxiety, forgetfulness, loss of interest in activities, increased conflicts, increased sick days, feeling disconnected, etc.
When you notice a trend in the decline, it may be time for a mental health day.
1) Where have you noticed the most significant decline in productivity?
2) Have there been any negative consequences because of your declined productivity or a lack of focus?
3) Have you been neglecting essential self-care? (work-life balance, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc.)
4) Do you feel comfortable communicating your situation to your supervisor or teacher?
5) Can you delegate any tasks/responsibilities or ask for help?
3) Increase in physical symptoms
If you pay close attention to your physical body, it has its way of telling you that something isn't right. When people feel stressed out or anxious, they may experience physical manifestations of that stress or anxiety, indicating the need for healthy coping.
Increase in physical symptoms is the third sign of the 5 signs you need to take a mental health day.
When you are frequently dealing with the stressors at home like conflict, tension, or arguments, your body may react by feeling tense and stressed. Physical symptoms may include stomach problems, increased heart rate, fatigue, sleep disturbances, weak immune system, headache, muscle tension, appetite changes, shallow breathing, etc.
You may find it hard to relax and feel constantly on the edge. It can be emotionally draining to deal with family issues, and the emotional exhaustion can make you feel physically tired, leading to a lack of energy and focus to engage in your daily tasks. If these stressors and worries impact your sleep, making it difficult to stay or fall asleep, it can further worsen that fatigue, making you feel even more tired
Taking a mental health day allows you to slow down, rest, and recharge. You can engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
1) What are some physical symptoms you are experiencing? When did they start, and how often are you experiencing them?
2) What is triggering these physical symptoms?
3) Is your mood connected to how your body physically feels?
4) What coping strategies have you tried to manage your symptoms?
5)What is your essential self-care plan? (work-life balance, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc.)
4) You feel emotionally drained and disconnected
Let's imagine another scenario. You live in a house that is always chaotic, where people are arguing, and there is unpredictability, yelling, passive-aggressive communication, guilt-tripping, and not feeling safe or supported. You feel like your energy is drained, constantly exhausted, and you can't catch a break.
Living in an environment like that may make you feel disconnected and/or emotionally drained, impacting your mental well-being over time.
This can manifest in various ways, including feeling physically and emotionally drained despite getting a whole night's sleep, lack of focus and productivity, isolative behaviors, losing interest in hobbies, lack of motivation, increased irritability, feeling detached, lack of empathy, maladaptive ways of coping like using substances, food, or alcohol, hopelessness, physical symptoms, etc.
When you take a mental health day, you give yourself a break from this challenging environment. Whether you physically leave your house to focus on your feelings or take a day to regain some of the emotional energy by resting, the goal is to take care of your mental health by prioritizing what YOU need.
Emotional exhaustion or disconnection is the fourth of of the 5 signs you need to take a mental health day.
1) What are your needs? Are you neglecting your needs to prioritize the needs of your dysfunctional family?
2) What specific situations within your family trigger your emotions of disconnection and emotional exhaustion?
3) What has your essential self-care routine looked like in this past week?
4) Have you reached out to your support system to share your feelings?
5) How can a mental health day help you?
5) You are isolating and/ or withdrawing
The last and final sign of the 5 signs you need to take a mental health day is isolation and withdrawal. Isolating and withdrawals are forms of coping and a strong indicator you should take a mental health day. When you start to distance yourself from others, spend a lot of alone time, and skip events you used to enjoy, it can be a sign that you are feeling emotionally drained and need a break. You may also notice a need for more concentration, neglecting essential tasks, or pulling away from day-to-day responsibilities.
When things at home are not going well, it is natural to have the urge to hide out to deal with your emotions. It becomes more important if expressing feelings is not encouraged in your house. Isolating and withdrawal can feel like a temporary relief from the chaos and tension present in your family- it's a survival strategy.
While it can provide temporary relief, it is often short-lived and can increase mental health concerns. Also, while alone time is not problematic, there needs to be a balance. Alone time is an excellent way to self-reflect and enjoy your company. However, isolation and withdrawal become a problem when you use it as a coping mechanism to escape, isolate, or avoid your daily life, and there are clear negative consequences.
Taking a mental health day allows you to pause, rest, and reset to find healthier ways of coping with the dysfunction.
1) How am I feeling lately, and is that impacting my daily functioning?
2) Why are you isolating or withdrawing? How does that further impact your mood?
3) Are you staying in connection with your support system?
4) What coping strategies have you tried to cope with your emotions?
Other Common Signs You Need a Mental Health Day
What justifies a mental health day? Here are some other common signs you need a mental health day:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulty managing daily life responsibilities
- Increased anxiety or panic attacks
- Brain fog
- You are getting sick easily and frequently
- You are always exhausted
- Everything feels overwhelming
- Mood changes
- Appetite changes
- Increase in engagement in unhealthy habits
- Your loved ones share concerns
- Persistent feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
RELATED POST: What are the 10 common warning signs of a mental health crisis? (NAMI)
How To Take a Mental Health Day?
If you wonder, "Can I take a mental health day?" the short answer is yes. You are allowed to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. Here are some steps to consider when taking a mental health day:
1) Recognize the need for a mental health day
The first step is to identify your need for a mental health day. You will need to tune into your emotional state and physical body to do this. When you become aware of how you feel and what happens because of those feelings, you will understand the need to take a mental health day.
Asking yourself the reflection questions can be a good start to recognize your needs. I know I would benefit from a mental health day when I frequently zone out or start neglecting self-care. It's like a domino effect; staying in tune with my feelings is a great way to understand my needs.
2) Try to plan ahead
Once you have recognized the need for a mental health day, think about how you can start planning for it and when to take a mental health day. Having a plan can ensure you can make any necessary arrangements for work, school, or any additional commitments. Think of it as making a to-do list to prepare to take full advantage of your mental health day.
For instance, taking a mental health day off work by letting your supervisor know if you feel comfortable and set up an out-of-office message for work-related communication. How to ask to take a mental health day:
1) Take a sick day
2) Use your PTO (taking a personal day for mental health)
3) Talk to your supervisor if you feel comfortable and they are supportive
4) Use your day off, like weekends or another day during the week you have off for your mental health day.
If you are taking a mental health day from school (college), consider:
1) Look at your syllabus that is provided at the beginning of your semester to see how many days you can miss in your class. This information is generally under the attendance policy, along with details on whether there are any provisions for making up work due to absences. If you can't find that information on your syllabus, feel free to contact your professor for clarification.
Also, pay attention to important dates on the syllabus, like tests or when group project work is due. This will allow you to plan your mental health day when less important things are happening in your classes, and you aren't worried about missing deadlines or important information.
2) Connect with your peers. Let them know you are going to be out of class for that specific week and to let you know if you miss anything important.
Finally, consider your environment when planning to take a mental health day. If you have family members at the house, think about how to make the most of your day. Remember, this day is about YOU. You may decide to spend the day outside the house, choose a day when no one is home, or simply create a safe space within the house to prioritize your mental health.
You do not have to wait until you are burnout or in a state of distress to take a mental health day. Taking a mental heath day can also be preventive measure to prioritize your mental health.
3) Set a goal for your mental health day
Taking a mental health day is an intentional act. You want to think about what you want to achieve and what you will do with your time to rest, recharge, and reset. Assuming you have already clarified the why behind the mental health day, start by asking yourself these follow-up questions:
1) How do I want to feel after my mental health day?
2) What activities do I want to prioritize to help foster my mental health?
3) What boundaries do I need to set with myself for this day? (for example, not responding to work emails, doom scrolling, etc.)
How to not feel guilty for taking a mental health day? Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of other areas of your life. You have to prioritize self-care to take a break and let your mind relax to feel better.
WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY
OCTOBER 10TH, 2023
Here are over 25 ideas on how to to spend your mental health day:
1) Sleep in
2) Journal about your thoughts and goals
3) Take a nature walk
4) Take a yoga class
5) Engage in a guided meditation
6) Schedule your therapy appointment
7)Escape into a great book
8) Paint or draw
9) Eat a healthy, balanced meal
10) Disconnect from all technology
11) Volunteer your time
12) Spend time gardening
13) Digital declutter
14) Clean up your space
15) Watch a feel-good movie (movie marathon)
16) Try a new recipe
17) Watch the sunset or sunrise
18) Finish a puzzle
19) Explore a new hobby
20) Go for a bike ride
21) Create a vision board
22) Go to your local library
23) Organize your finances
24) Take care of your to-do list
25) Connect with your support system
Reflect on Your Mental Health Day
Reflecting on your mental health day is important to check how you feel, what more you need, and what you can do next time.
Take some time to think about the intention you set for your mental health day, including chosen activities and how you felt while engaging in them to reflect on your day.
1) What helped you feel better?
2) What was challenging for you? (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors)
3) What can you do differently next time?
Long-Term Strategies To Take Care of Your Mental Health
Think of your mental health as a garden. You will need to provide ongoing care and nurturing. Taking one mental health day is not a one-day fix. It's a start to think about long-term strategies to manage your mental health.
This is especially true if you are currently living in a dysfunctional family. Maintaining your mental health and engaging in healthy coping can be challenging but important.
Here are some simple strategies to continue fostering your mental health:
1) Check in with yourself more regularly
You want to be proactive about your mental health as much as possible. A regular check-in can look like daily journaling or simply asking yourself, "How am I feeling today?"
2) Stick to a daily routine
Balance your mind with a routine. This includes a regular sleep schedule, nutrient-dense meals, engaging in movement, etc.
Your brain thrives on predictability when you live in an unpredictable and chaotic environment.
3) Prioritize movement
Exercise does wonders for your mental health and is my favorite coping exercise. It helps create space between your thoughts, improves emotion regulation, and reminds you that you can do hard things.
4) Engage in stress management
Dealing with stress in a dysfunctional family can be challenging but not impossible. You can't control your family's behavior, but you can choose your reaction. Engaging in healthy stress management is one of them.
You can start by engaging in self-care, setting boundaries, going to therapy, connecting with your support system, and planning for your future.
5) Connect with safe people
Identify your support system and maintain regular contact. These are people you feel safe with and can provide you with empathy, understanding, and a sense of belonging. They may or may not be your family members.
6) Engage in healthy coping
It can be hard to cope in ways that aren't reactive when living in a dysfunctional family, but the goal is to foster your mental health for the long run, which includes healthy coping.
Healthy coping includes:
- Learning healthy emotion regulation skills.
- Learning to set boundaries.
- Communicating your needs.
- Engaging in self-care.
- Focus on what you can control.
- Engaging in therapy.
7) Set achievable goals
Setting achievable goals is important as you create a more positive future for yourself and your mental health. Take some time to think about your current family dynamics and what you are dealing with to understand the root cause of the issue. This will allow you to narrow down what you can control and be honest about what is achievable given your current circumstances.
The goal is small, manageable goals for your mental health.
8) Continue regular therapy
Engaging in regular therapy while living in a dysfunctional family is incredibly important. It provides a safe space to talk about your feelings and learn healthy ways to deal with stress.
Remember, the goal is not to change your family members. You don't control their behaviors. The goal is to focus on your mental well-being, and therapy, when accessible, is a valuable tool to do that.
9) Balance doing and being
Doing means "to do," and being means "to be." Adding this as a part of your long-term strategy is important and my favorite way of balance.
You engage in activities you need to do, like work, go to school, help out at the house, etc., and you engage in the act of being by prioritizing self-care, relaxation, and being present at the moment.
Taking a mental health day is like taking a vacation for your mind. It is important to pause your routine to give yourself a break. If you related to any of the signs provided, you might benefit from taking a mental health day. 5 signs you need to take a mental health day provide a starting point to think and reflect on your mental well-being.
To recap, to plan for your mental health day:
- Pick a day for your mental health day
- Let people know in advance to problem-solve around any responsibilities
- Set a goal for your mental health day. Think about what you want to accomplish or how you want to feel after.
- Plan activities or ideas to prioritize rest and decide what you want to do on your mental health day.
- Reflect on your day and think about long-term strategies.
How did you spend your mental health day?