The burden of responsibility people face at work these days leads to chronic stress and anxiety. As a result, you may experience a significant drop of productivity. This is when a mental health day comes to the rescue. It’s a day free of work to give your mind, body, and spirit what they are craving most.
The topic of mental health day is burning hot this summer. It’s been recently covered in the articles by Forbes, Telegraph, The Huffington Post and other top media resources. These posts convince us it's OK to take a day off not only when you are feeling sick physically, but also when you are on the verge of mental exhaustion.
When it's a good idea to take a mental health day?
I used to work with a colleague who confessed once that every morning he hopes he gets into a car accident so he doesn’t have to go to work. If you feeling the same way, you definitely need a mental health day.
Same goes to if you consistently feel anxious or nervous and can’t concentrate at work. If you have ongoing mental health issues that you need to care for, you should take a sick leave without feeling guilty.
Once you’ve decided you need a day off to take care of your mental state, make sure your absence won’t be disastrous to your team at work.
I’ve read a bunch of articles on why and when you should take a mental health day. However, there isn’t much information on the net what you should actually be doing during this day to get yourself fully refreshed.
The following tips are based on the personal experience (yes, I’ve taken a day off work right before writing this post), talking to people who’ve taken a day off due to mental health issues and an in-depth analysis of various studies on physiological health.
Things to do during your mental health day off:
1. Become an excessive sleeper for a day.
If you are like 35% of U.S. adults who suffer from sleep deprivation or worse, insomnia, you have a first-hand experience on how the lack of sleep lowers your productivity at work. Therefore, put the shades down, turn off the alarm and catch up on your lost sleep.
2. Stop the notification distraction.
An innocent ping on your phone may significantly increase the level of stress and frustration. The study by American Psychological Association shows that constant phone checkers have a 20% higher stress level compared to those who don’t look at their device every minute. A day without a phone can seriously reduce the level of anxiety. However, if you suffer from nomophobia (the fear or being without your phone), the least you can do for your stressed-out mind is to turn the notifications off.
3. Do something different.
Did you know that the neural pathways in the brain begin to solidify by age 25? Unfortunately, as we get older, our brain tends to lose flexibility and plasticity which explains why we can’t learn as fast as kids any more. Luckily, with a little effort, we can challenge ourselves. Doing new things, visiting new places and obtaining new habits makes our brain work in a different mode, creating new neural pathways. That’s exactly the reason why people feel younger when they travel.
Do something you wouldn’t normally do during your working day or even a weekend. Start with simple things like sleeping in another room in your house and taking the stairs rather than an elevator. Here’s a list with 50 ideas on doing something new that could help you out.
4. Read a good book.
Not a book you need to read for work. Forget all the “How to be a great boss” or “100 ways to boost productivity” editions and choose something that brings you real joy either it’s some kind of gutter press, nerdy stuff or a chick flick book. If you have no idea what to read, here’s a selection of great books from Katherine Brooks that are meant to deal with your anxiety.
5. Get outdoors.
We are all the children of nature. Fresh air, green trees, sunshine and raindrops is where we really belong, not the stuffy office. Getting outside and enjoying the nature helps you remind yourself who you truly are and who you want to be. Fresh air will do you good – it improves your blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, cleans your lungs, gives you more energy and makes you a happier person.
6. Try a new workout routine.
You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Well, it’s hard to underestimate the power of physical activity and its impact on your mental health. While the need for regular exercises goes without saying, the mental health day off is a great time to try something new. It would be great to do a different type of workout than your normally do.
7. Treat yourself with a good, healthy meal.
While temptation to lock in your room with a bucket of ice cream might be staring you in the face, unhealthy foods won’t give your mental health a break unless you are on a strict diet. You will feel far more refreshed if you go with a healthy yet tasty cuisine. Don’t eat anything you don’t like or enjoy though. Here is a list of products that improve mental health to help you decide on the menu.
8. Get into water.
Either it’s a hot tub in the winter or a dive into a refreshing pool in the summer, any type of water activities is great when it comes to stress and anxiety relief. If you choose to go to the beach or the pool, don’t get too much sun. When we spent a day out at the baking sun with my friend during our day off, we started to get jealous of our colleagues working at the chilly office at that time.
Moreover, drinking enough water is essential for releasing stress. The thing is, even a small degree of dehydration can increase the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. Therefore, make sure to drink enough water and keep the stress away.
9. Meet up with your friends or spend a day alone.
It depends on the type of person you are and the work you do whether you ache for communication or can’t stand it. I personally know a sales manager who dreams of spending a day alone in a complete silence. At the same time some of my software development friends crave for a company and communication. Whatever you are missing – go for it during your mental health day.
10. It’s time to go for extreme things.
If everything else doesn’t work, this will definitely clear your brain. Think what’s extreme for you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be skydiving (in case you are dreading it like I do). Maybe it’s dying your hair purple or going caving overnight. As long as it gives you shivers of excitement, go for it.
Taking a day off doesn’t guarantee you a mental makeover. The good news is it totally depends on you. Take an advantage of this day making it special and unforgettable. Fill it with positive emotions, plenty of sleep, new exciting things and places. Stop all the distractions and set yourself to a complete refresh.
Companies may seriously benefit from introducing mental health days off to their employees. In the long run, the overall work efficiency will only go up. Your body and mind will be definitely thankful for recharging the batteries. If you follow these tips, you should notice an incredible boost of productivity the following day.
What about you? Have you already taken a mental health day? Please share your experience in the comments below.