Mental Health Days: When They’re Needed and How to Take One Effectively

Discussions around mental health are coming to the forefront and as a result, more people recognize the need for the occasional mental health day. In fact, over 46% of Americans received services for mental health in 2020. 


The grind and hustle culture have made many feel that there is never a legitimate reason to take a breather and not be working. So let’s take a look at how to recognize some of the signs that we need to take a mental health day and how to take one when the time comes. 

What is a Mental Health Day?

A mental health day is similar to how you’d take a sick day for the common cold.Just like you’d rest your body to recover, a mental health day rests your mind and emotional state.

Recent statistics show 53% of employers have added COVID-19 stressors to their mental health programs. Mental health and physical health are more strongly linked than many would like to believe. 


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How to Know You Need a Mental Health Day

Sadly, many people today are out of tune with how they feel and what they need.

Your body is constantly communicating to you what it needs to thrive. If you notice anything that may seem as simple as not being “quite right” with your current state of being, it’s worth taking a step back to reevaluate. 

Below are some signs you would benefit from the reset of a mental health day:


You’re Struggling to Concentrate

Concentrating means focusing on a task for a lengthy period without becoming distracted. If you zone out regularly or feel foggy, you could benefit from taking a day off and recharging.


You’ve Lost Interest in Your Hobbies

You might love to paint, dance, cook, hike, or play video games, but has it felt like you just can’t muster the energy or effort for any of these? Loss of interest in hobbies can have several causes among them including chronic stress or overwork.


You’re Constantly Getting Sick

The toll that exhaustion and overwork can weaken your immune system and manifest as a cold that won’t go away. So if you’re constantly getting sick, take steps towards self-care like eating healthy, exercising, and taking a mental health day or more. 


Your Mood Fluctuates a Lot

If you’re reacting poorly to things, irritable, and feel like you’re not yourself, it’s probably time for a mental health day. If you have anxiety or depression, you may feel overly anxious or more down than usual. You’ll thank yourself for taking a step back rather than grinding it out. 

Of course, mood swings don’t always mean you’re reaching a breaking point. These moments can come from a poor night’s sleep or from hormonal changes during your period. Keep a mindfulness journal and tally your symptoms every day. If you notice mood swings several times per week, it’s possible your mental health overall is getting worse.


Your Work is Feeling Overwhelming

Struggling to finish your usual workload could be a sign you need a break. For example, taking 6 hours to finish work that you’d normally get done in 3 hours might mean that you’d benefit from taking a day to clear your head. 


You’re Starting to Rely on Substances

If you rely on alcohol or snacks to get through the week, it’s more than possible you’ve developed an unhealthy coping method for your stressors. 

You might not even be relying on the substances that are considered problematic. Pounding coffee or energy drinks every morning are more socially acceptable but can be just as clear of a sign that you need a break.  


You Feel Isolated

A feeling that you’re alone and nobody knows what you’re going through is one of the telltale signs that you would benefit from a mental health day sooner rather than later. 

There are online forums, Zoom groups, and telehealth services ready to hear you out and offer a sympathetic ear.


[Related: 13 Work-Life Balance Tips for Productive Days and Restful Nights]


How to Take a Mental Health Day

Mental health days at least by this name are a relatively new part of our vocabulary so you might not feel familiar with how to take one. Here are a few approaches. 


Schedule it Using Your Paid or Unpaid Time Off

The average American left 4.6 vacation days unused in 2021. If you have a full-time job with paid or unpaid time off, use these days for mental health. 


Call in Sick

You’re not lying or exaggerating when you call in sick for your mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not one and the same. A mental health day shouldn’t stress you out more. So if you aren’t comfortable saying your day off is for mental health, then you don’t have to. Instead, simply say you’re not feeling well or that you might be coming down with something. Employers are allowed to ask certain questions about what you’re going through and when you’ll return to work


Take One on Your Weekend

We can often overpack our days off with personal and social tasks. If you’re experiencing one or more of the telltale signs above, consider clearing your schedule and taking a raincheck on plans so that you can have a mental health day. 


What Should I Do on My Mental Health Day?

Your mental health days need to target the source of your issues. Filling your mental health days with several chores, a side gig, or tending to other people defeats the purpose.

We’re not saying you have to do nothing at all, of course. Everyone’s mental health day will look a little different. The key is to do relaxing, fulfilling, and low-key activities to give your mind a rest.


Keep the Focus on You

Humans are social and we often enjoy the company of other people. However, your mental health days are a little different. The company of others can often spiral into listening to your friends vent about work or helping family with errands. Try to keep the focus on yourself even if it means spending the day alone. 


Create a Self-Care Regimen

Self-care looks different for everyone. Fill your mental health day with low-key activities that make you cheerful, relaxed, and pleasantly occupied.

This could include:

  • Reading a new novel
  • Doing yoga
  • Playing video games
  • Cleaning the kitchen
  • Taking a nap
  • Walking the dog
  • Zoning out to music


Set Up a Therapy Session

A mental health day as the name suggests could be an excellent time to schedule a therapy session. If you don’t have a therapist, finding a compatible one means taking into account your insurance (or lack thereof), budget, and schedule. 


[Related: 10 Mental Hacks to Help Build a Weight Loss Mindset]


Things to Avoid on a Mental Health Day

We have some recommendations on what not to do, as well. Remember not to fall into bad habits on your day off!

Doomscrolling on Social Media

Are you constantly worrying about the state of the world on your day off? Alternatively, are you looking on Instagram and dwelling on how great other people’s lives look? Turn off your phone and step away from the PC. 


Stressful People

You don’t have to live at everyone’s beck and call 24/7. If you have stressful people in your life making constant demands, set boundaries and protect your peace.


Bad Habits Like Smoking, Drinking, and Overeating

This day off might seem like a great time to indulge but a bunch of junk food or alcohol is just a coping mechanism that will deteriorate your health and make things worse. 



Like eating a healthy diet and getting exercise, you need to constantly tend to your mind to stay healthy.

If you’re zoning out constantly, losing interest in your hobbies, or struggling to keep your workload, you need a break. Model your self-care regimen around your needs and your peace, regardless of what your employers or family think. Consider reaching out to a therapist for a few sessions.


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have immediate concerns about your health, please seek the help of your physician. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

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