Is there anything worse than using one of your annual leave days for when you are sick? For most of us, that is exactly what we have to do. If we have a flu or an infection we take a day or two off to recuperate.
Why is it that mental health is so different? Mental health
symptoms are often thought of as a weakness, and people may say to get over it or move on.
Most people would be very reluctant to take a day off for their mental health. But if you don’t address mental-health issues, they will consume all other areas of your life. When the mind is healthy, so is the body.
Taking a mental-health day can improve energy, motivation, mood and one’s ability to manage stress
. And time off might actually increase overall productivity.
Sometimes it’s just as important to take a mental health day as it is a sick day. A day off solely dedicated to giving your psychological and emotional health some attention, to break away from the draining stress of everyday life. Because stress can, over time, lead to major health problems if not properly dealt with.
Unfortunately, however, most will ignore it, not realising (or wanting to admit) how desperately you need a mental-health day until it’s too late. In fact, mental illness is a lot more common than you think:
Approximately 18.5 per cent of the Irish population was recorded as having a mental health disorder in 2016, with only a shocking 40% seeking help.
While one day might not solve heavy underlying problems that lead to burnout, a mental health day can provide a much-needed break to pause, regroup, and come back with greater levels of energy and a fresh, less-stressed perspective.
Signs you should take a mental health day:
- You feel exhausted but just can’t sleep
- You more anxious than usual
- You’re finding it difficult to focus
- You are feeling low
- You are feeling irritable
- You can’t shake a cold/flu
- You feel as if you’re in slow motion
- You feel disconnected
If you have recognised that you need to take a mental health break, great! Here’s how to get the most out of it!
1. Take a Day
Ideally, if you can schedule a day off ahead of time, ensuring that you've taken steps to rearrange your workload or find a replacement for the day, this is the best way to do it, so you're not feeling stressed about taking the day off to begin with. However, if you wake up in the morning and just feel that you can't face the stress of the day, this may be a good time to take a mental health day and make the most of it.
2. Decide What You Need Most
Sometimes this one is easy to see- if you're exhausted, your body will be screaming that it needs to rest; if you feel you can't face another day of hard work, you may just need to have some fun. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed, you may not be as in tune with your needs.
Take a minute and really look inward, would you benefit the most from some physical exercise? Or from making a few changes that will relieve stress in the future? Some time with a loved one? Or just a change of scenery? As different stressors require different responses, different types of mental health days fill unique needs.
3. Find Ongoing Resources for Stress Relief
To ensure that you keep stress levels low and don't wake up one morning in dire need of an "emergency mental health day," keep stress management in the forefront of your mind.
4. Keep Working On It
When you find what works for you, stick with it. Keep note of what your resources are so you can refer back when you are not feeling great. This could be anything from meditating, yoga, walking, journaling, music, the gym etc. When you find what really works for you stick with it. Even on the good days, make sure you are still doing the work.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.