What are Mental Health Days and Why You Should Take Them

September 1, 2019

Photo: Emma Simpson on Unsplash


It is scarily easy to put our mental health on the back burner. We often make excuses and give precedence to other things on our to-do list. A busy social life alone can distract from taking proper care of ourselves. Even when we appear to “have it all together,” we must listen to our bodies and what they are saying. Putting off caring for ourselves can leave us having to play catch-up or take what many people call a “mental health day.” Personally, I define a mental health day as a 24-hour long deep breath. It means spending the entire day focused on yourself, doing things that make you happy, all whilst pampering from head-to-toe. Taking a long hot shower, getting your nails done, or getting that haircut you’ve been putting off are some simple ways to make you feel your best on a day off. This modern world has introduced a million different reasons to feel stressed on a daily basis. The next time you’re overwhelmed with life, consider pressing the pause button.


Ideally, a mental health day would be planned for, however, this is not always the case. Sometimes, we wake up in a bout of anxiety or depression and stress weighs us down like a ton of bricks. I find that honesty is usually praised so don’t be afraid to tell your employer you need time to restart. While a lot of stigma still surrounds mental health, more and more people are understanding the mind-body connection and how crucial mental health is to overall health. So, if you can, planning ahead is always better, but a last-minute situation does not mean you can’t call in sick.


One driving factor towards taking a mental health day could be sleep-related. Sleep is so important for the body to function its best. According to Harvard Health, there is a huge overlap between sleep disorders and psychiatric problems, especially depression. A very common sleep disorder is insomnia which is the inability to easily fall and stay asleep. An ongoing sleep problem can have serious detriments to your mental health. Talk to your doctor if you feel as though your sleep patterns are affecting your health and utilize your next mental health day to catch some Z's. 


During an especially hectic week, it can become routine to either skip meals or end up at the McDonald’s drive-through. This in turn can impact exercise habits or vice-versa. A mental health day is the perfect excuse to put on that dusty apron and try out a new recipe. Cooking for one can be fun if you make it! Play some relaxing music and unwind a little. Do not underestimate how your diet and exercise impact your overall well-being. Exercise has been linked to lowering levels of depression, anxiety, and reducing overall stress. A mental health day is the perfect time to get back on track. If you’ve fallen out of healthy habits, start slow and easy. For example, during your mental health day, take a nice nature walk and soak up some sun. My favorite way to exercise without sweating too much is yoga. There’s so many free YouTube video tutorials for every skill level. Anything that releases some endorphins is guaranteed to help you feel better.


To sum it all up, a mental health day is a day about you. It is the freedom to say, “I need a break” and focus on getting yourself back on track. Just as you have responsibilities in the real world, you hold equal responsibility to yourself. No one is perfect. No one can keep it together all of the time. When necessary, take that mental health day. Your future self will greatly appreciate it.


Kimberly (22) is a recent graduate from Penn State University with a BA in Film/Video and French minor. Her favorite film is Catch Me if You Can, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. In 5 years, you can find her exploring the south of France. She can’t start her day without cuddling her rabbit, Maud. You’ll never catch her without coffee or tea. Advice she wishes she had 5 years ago is to not live trying to please others. Success to her is anything that is productive towards achieving your goals. One thing people don’t know about Kim is that she was a dancer for 14 years. Kim steps up for self-love and mental health awareness. 


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