How to Take a REAL Mental Health Day

( – Mental health days are becoming more accepted in the United States, but being permitted to ask for one and knowing how to take one are two different things. If you feel like you’re continuously exhausted, that little tasks are weighing you down, and that you’re not making a difference, you might be approaching burnout.

Burnout can lead to overwhelm, especially if you have ‘less important’ tasks on the back burner, building up until you can someday get to them. When you find it tough to complete the mundane tasks, and you know you just need a break, you might be approaching burnout.

When possible, it’s best to take a rest or a mental health day before burnout approaches. But in case you’re too late for that, be aware of these signs of burnout:

  • You get sick frequently
  • You’re feeling very low (sad, tired)
  • Food is more or less appealing than usual
  • You feel like you can’t do anything right
  • Loneliness is a more common feeling than usual
  • Feeling accomplished and proud happens less often
  • Procrastination is the name of the game
  • You’re moody, angry, or irritable

As you can imagine, burnout can lead to some long-term physical and mental health consequences if you don’t stop it in its tracks. Here’s what you can do.

Make the Most of Your Mental Health Day

Work-life balance has been a buzzword in the last few years — but it’s more than that. Most workers now consider it a need. With almost half of workers still carrying a paid time off (PTO) balance at the end of the year, it’s clear that many Americans aren’t taking the time away from work that they need. Here’s how to make sure you take time for yourself:

  • Schedule it in: Check out your work calendar. Do you know that Fridays are normally slower than other days of the week? Maybe you work in a finance role, and tax time is more hectic than others. You can plan your time off around these times to avoid a total crash, which usually follows a period of burnout. Work with your obligations instead of against them.
  • Recruit allies in your quest: Do you want to truly take a break from that work email? Make sure your friends and family members ensure you’re not opening that laptop. It’s okay to ask for help.
  • Take days to get things done, and also days to rest: Sometimes, we really need to take time off from work and other obligations to get certain things done, like paying bills, accepting big life changes, grieving, purchasing a new car, or heading to medical appointments. However, these things aren’t the same as resting. Make sure you also have time to rest.
  • Set boundaries with your coworkers: You can be a great example to your team by letting them know that you can’t be disturbed when you’re not around. If your team can’t function without you, something’s wrong — that isn’t healthy, nor how it’s supposed to be.

What Can You Do With a Mental Health Day?

If the point is to relax, consider making your day both planned and unplanned. Perhaps it’s important to plan a massage, but schedule it for mid-day in case you prefer to sleep in that morning. Think about scheduling time to consume media, but don’t think about what you’re going to read or watch until the time arrives. And when it comes time for dinner, spontaneity is on the menu. If cooking brings you joy — cook! If not, don’t feel guilty about takeout.

Taking a mental health day is a time to relax and reset. How will you spend your guilt-free time?

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