Happy spring, everyone! As the academic year is finishing up, I wanted to share some of my tips for mental health days with you. This year is the first time I’ve taken mental health days, and I’ve definitely learned from my mistakes. Here are my tips!
“When do I take a mental health day?” My answer is this: Is taking a day off from work/school going to stress you out more? Will you fall behind and only become more stressed? Sometimes, I found that taking a day off from school prevented me from enjoying my day because all I could think about was the homework that I’d have to catch up on. Don’t do this! Only take a mental health day when necessary, or else you’ll only get worse!
Signs that you should take a mental health day:
- You keep getting sick. Mental and physical health are very closely connected, and poor mental health can make you more susceptible to contracting illnesses, which only decreases your productivity and can make you more miserable. Just take a day off to recover! This will help you improve both mentally and physically.
- You just can’t focus. If there’s something on your mind that’s distracting you, or even if you can’t identify what’s keeping you from focusing, it would probably be better to address that issue than to try to do work and not do it effectively.
- You need to make an appointment with a therapist. If your issue is bad enough that you need a psychologist/psychiatrist and you can only meet with them during work hours, then it’s probably worth it. Many of the best therapists have very tight schedules and only have a few spots open for new patients, but getting a spot with an amazing doctor could really help you in the future.
What DOES help your mental health:
- Spending time with loved ones. Of course, if the issue stems from an argument/conflict with a specific person, then don’t spend time with that person. Surround yourself with people who will support you and make you feel better.
- Get active! Exercise, even if it’s just taking a stroll or some light swimming, will make you feel better. Physical activity produces endorphins, which boost your mood. Exercise also helps prevent depressive or anxious episodes, so it’s good to get your blood flowing no matter how you’re feeling!
- Indulge in food that tastes really darn good, and appreciate every bite! Just recognizing that you have access to delicious food can boost your mood and contributes to a general sense of gratitude.
- Reading a good book! My book recommendations are The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú; Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (the book that Love, Simon was based on); What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera; The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez; and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
What does NOT help your mental health:
- Sitting in bed, watching videos on your computer all day. That is not going to benefit you in any way. Isolating yourself from others and spending all day in your bedroom is only going to make you feel lonely and in need of another mental health day. This cycle will most likely continue for a while.
- Eating, and eating, and eating. This is disordered eating. You’ll most likely only stress about it later. This type of behavior can even turn into a full-fledged eating disorder if it becomes a habit.
- Starving yourself. Although you may not feel hungry, it’s important to nourish your body and mind. Loss of appetite is a symptom of depression and anxiety (among other psychological disorders), but this will only make the problem worse. My psychiatrist describes depression as basically holes in your brain, and lack of food will only make your problem worse. People with anorexia and/or bulimia tend to do more poorly on IQ tests than when they do when they are healthy.
In conclusion, do whatever makes you happy. My ideal mental health day would be getting enough sleep, going to Soul Cycle, going out to eat with my mom, reading a good book, cooking dinner, and going to bed early!
What would your ideal mental health day be?