Words by Caitriona Potter
If you are starting to feel down, worn out, or fearful, a mental health day might be in order. Mental health days are a way to take a break from everyday life, so that we can rest and return to our routine when we are well again. We all go through stressful periods at work, in our families, or in our personal lives which can leave us feeling despondent. Hopefully, we can expect to bounce back from these situations relatively unscathed, and with a newfound appreciation for the good things in life. However, ongoing stress may be harder to shake off whilst also attending to our responsibilities each day. Mental health days are not glamorous, but they are beneficial in staving off stress. They are also not a long-term solution; they are simply an opportunity to slow down, surrender, and sit with your feelings, in the knowledge that you are safe in doing so. Long term solutions to a mental health crisis involve professional support. Here are 4 signs you need to take a mental health day.
- You are feeling disinterested, detached, and disconnected from things that used to bring joy.
This is a sign that your body has left the calm, playful state which engages and relates to your environment, and has entered fight or flight, which only perceives danger and threat. Your body is trying to save energy to fight off stress. This is why you may also feel easily startled, irritated, or jumpy. You may need a day to completely slow down and give your body a chance to let go of the heavy energy it’s been carrying.
- You have more aches and pains, headaches, or flu symptoms.
Chronic stress can manifest in the body through a variety of symptoms, from a dull ache to a pervasive illness. It is beneficial to view a mental health day as a day for recovery in this case. Stay in bed, signal to your body that it is time to rest and spend your time doing whatever you enjoy. Whether that’s reading a book, watching your favorite tv shows or movies, or listening to music. Surrender to your needs, and do not feel guilty for it.
- You are struggling to sleep.
Our bodies need to feel safe, physically and emotionally, for deep rest to occur. If you are worried or stressed, that safety will not be present, and your body will struggle to surrender to sleep. This can become a vicious cycle, as sleep is paramount to wellbeing and mental health. On your mental health day, practice reaffirming to yourself that you are safe in your environment, taking deep breaths, and tuning in to the sensations in your body. This will open up the opportunity for relaxation and emotional regulation to occur. When we don’t tune in to our bodies, our minds can run in negative loops, and it becomes more difficult to switch off.
- You dread going into work or college.
If your daily routine is tiresome drudgery, it is time to take a day away from the office or lecture halls. You may have been running on low energy for a long time, and your body is asking for a break. The world will continue if you take a day away from work, but it will be a better place when you return, well rested again.