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Why Mental Health Days are Critical and Necessary – Love, Science

Vector illustration of mental health concept with brain, flowers, helping hand

On October 10, 1992, an important tradition became a part of the fabric of America’s collective consciousness.

The World Federation of Mental Health began celebrating Mental Health Day.

In the past nearly 30 years since Mental Health Day was launched, much has changed.

In 1996, a law was passed forcing insurance companies to include provisions for mental health.

In 2007, the U.K. launched their “Time to Change” campaign, working to educate employers on how to best care for and support their employees’ mental health.

In 2011, the very first International Self-Care Day was observed, highlighting the importance of refilling your cup before attempting to pour from it.

And in the past few years, words and phrases like “mindfulness,” “emotional awareness,” and “self-care” have seeped into the international lexicon. 

But if you’re working retail, in the service industry, construction, or in the corporate sector, you may still feel residual shame or guilt over taking a mental health day. Like maybe you don’t deserve it. Or it’s silly. Or your boss will think you can’t handle your workload and won’t consider you for a promotion.

We’re going to break all of that down today.

First, let’s take a look at some important figures…

The Math of Mental Health Day

A quarter of the global population is reported to live with mental illness. Remember, that number is only representative of those who have sought help for mental illness. The real number is likely to be much higher, considering how many people live without access to assistance for chemical imbalances in the brain.

Not only that, but mental health problems rank among the most common causes of diseases and disabilities worldwide. 

This is because your mental health affects your entire well-being, including your physical health.

Disregarding your mental health has detrimental effects on your ability to not only function individually, but participate in society. 

So even if you have a hard time getting behind the idea that it’s vital to take care of yourself, believe this: your ability to contribute to the world greatly lessens when you aren’t at your best mentally and emotionally.

How to Take a Mental Health Day

If you have an employer who’s unsympathetic to the benefits of a mental health day, don’t feel the need to justify yourself or over-qualify your time-off request.

Simply say you aren’t well enough to work. 

If you do have an employer who understands its importance, say you need a mental health day.

If taking off work isn’t a possibility for you, schedule mandatory self-care time on your day off.

Now, many people have difficulty distinguishing self-care from self-soothing. The first step in deciding to take a mental health day is determining what kind of attention you need.

Are you irritable? Exhausted? Experiencing brain fog? Disassociating? Drained? You may need self-soothing rather than self-care.

Are you stressed? Overwhelmed? Drowning in responsibilities? Tense and reclusive? Sounds like you need self-care.

In fact, if the very thought of managing your life in the space of a day off makes you more stressed out, you might benefit from a crash course in time mastery

Here are some basic tips for how to arrange your mental health day so that you actually feel replenished at the end of the day:

  1. Wake up according to your circadian rhythm. Part of being a cog in the capitalist machine means that your body lives on someone else’s time. Allow yourself the exact amount of sleep that you need.
  2. Prioritize your day based on most pressing needs vs. least. If you have overdue bills, arrange those in a neat pile. If you have personal projects you haven’t worked on, make sure that you give yourself a half hour to work on each. If you’re running low on household necessities, schedule a shopping trip for later in the day. Try to arrange everything necessary into the first part of the day, so that you can relax in the second. 
  3. Make sure you eat well and mindfully. Part of the source of our general discomfort is the haste and thoughtlessness with which we eat. Fast food robs us of nutritional opportunities, and wolfing down food during a thirty minute lunch break strains our digestive systems. Take time during your mental health day to remedy this.
  4. RELAX. Take care of the business that’s causing you stress, and then spend the rest of the day resting without judging yourself. Binge your favorite show if that’s what you want to do. Spend some time reading a book that won’t further your career. Stretch aimlessly and formlessly on the ground without a time limit.

Take time for yourself.

The world will continue to spin without you for a day, or two days, or even three.

And remember, if you don’t make time for your body, eventually your body will force you to make time.

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