Taking the time to focus on your mental health is an essential tool in today’s stressful and high-pressure world. A mental health day can be a valuable asset in keeping you feeling your best — but only if you use these days to their fullest potential.

There’s no right or wrong way to care for your mental health, and everyone’s needs are different, but a few simple guidelines can help you ensure your mental health day is restorative and enjoyable. To help make the most of your mental health day, try these key tips.

What is a Mental Health Day?

The term “mental health day” is a relatively new concept in today’s culture. It typically refers to taking a break from the everyday stressors and challenges of daily living to focus on restorative self-care tasks and your own mental and emotional health.

The fact that the term “mental health day” has so rapidly become rooted in the public consciousness suggests both that mental health stressors are more prevalent than ever, and that more people are beginning to understand the impact and importance of their own mental health.

This falls in line with reports from the American Psychological Association suggesting that demand for mental health treatment has increased dramatically in recent years, with no signs of slowing. Many people labeled the current state of mental health as a crisis or epidemic to explain the scale and pervasiveness of these challenges.

The good news is that most mental health challenges can be treated, relieved, and prevented through a few simple strategies. Mental health days fall into the prevention camp by ensuring that people take the time necessary to care for themselves to avoid the development of serious mental health conditions.

Why Taking Mental Health Days is Important

A mental health day is a tool in your belt to help prevent common mental health challenges from spiraling out of control. Take stress, for example; stress is a common experience that isn’t inherently negative. But if you feel intense stress every day, it becomes known as chronic stress, which increases your risk of developing a number of mental health conditions.

A mental health day cannot remove the stressors you face, but it can give you a break from them. It gives you time to engage in restorative and relaxing practices that tilt your stress back to more manageable levels, preventing you from showing signs of a mental health disorder.

8 Tips to Make the Most of Your Mental Health Day

There are eight simple tips and strategies you can follow to make the most of your mental health day. Since no two people have the same needs, these strategies should be thought of as guidelines, rather than requirements. Only you know what is right for your needs, and what provides you with the relief you seek.

1. Set Intentions

Start by setting intentions for your day. These can serve as a guiding light in how you spend your time and energy on your mental health day — and help you to avoid the things that only end up adding more stress or strain.

Intentions for a mental health day may take several forms but could include:

  • Today, I won’t take on any more work
  • Today, I am going to focus on relaxation
  • Today, I am going to focus on my physical health
  • I’m dedicating today to learning something new
  • I’m prioritizing my own needs over the needs of others today

Finding the intention that aligns with your goals is a personal endeavor. Ask yourself what you need from the day to feel restored and make that your personal intention.

2. Set and Keep Boundaries

Related to setting intentions is setting boundaries. This can often be difficult for people who are eager to please others or have a difficult time saying “no,” but it can be a pivotal component of making your mental health day stay focused on your needs.

Setting boundaries can take several forms. You might start before your mental health day even begins, by telling your colleagues, friends, or family members that you won’t be available on a particular day. But often, requests come in regardless of whether you’ve sanctioned your day in advance.

When this happens, it’s vital to recognize the importance and sanctity of a mental health day. Learn to say no — it’s the essential tool of healthy boundary-keeping. The requests and demands of others can typically be put on hold for a single day, allowing you to take the time and rest you need to feel rejuvenated.

3. Engage in Self-Care

Self-care tasks take many shapes and forms, but all have a single unifying element. A self-care task is any activity that leaves you restored and rejuvenated, and which you feel happy and grateful for having done.

Examples of self-care activities include:

  • Practicing yoga
  • Meditating
  • Going on a walk
  • Pursuing a creative hobby
  • Getting a massage
  • Taking a bath
  • Reading a book

Self-care not only feels good, but also leaves you feeling better. This is an important distinction that people often miss. Falling into a YouTube rabbit hole or binge-watching a new show may feel good in the moment, but people typically don’t feel better about themselves afterward.

Find the self-care practices that work for you and make time for them in your mental health day.

4. Spend Time With Loved Ones

Humans are inherently social creatures, and spending time with friends and loved ones can be one of the most important things you do to keep your mental health in top shape.

A mental health day typically includes a break from work, from the day-to-day tasks of everyday life, and from the demands that constantly press down on you. What better way to take a break than spending time with the people you care about most?

A mental health day is the perfect time to take your spouse or partner on a romantic date. You can connect with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or to take your children out to the park. Whatever activity feels good and restorative that you haven’t had the time to do during the week is ideal for a mental health day.

5. Take a Technology Break

Modern technology is an incredible tool to keep us connected to others, to improve our productivity, and to bring entertainment into our everyday lives. But as countless people have realized, it can also lead to mindless scrolling, comparing yourself to others, or getting wrapped up in a negative news cycle that only brings anxiety and stress.

To truly prioritize your mental health and well-being, consider turning off your phone, taking a break from social media, and experiencing what it’s like to truly disconnect. This gives you the space to truly feel present and enjoy your mental health day without being constantly distracted by technology.

6. Prioritize Your Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of both your physical and mental health. Countless academic studies have linked poor sleep quality to increased risk of mental health challenges, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor focus
  • Increased risk-taking behavior
  • Impaired emotional regulation

Every adult needs about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Yet despite this near-universal recommendation, countless adults in the United States get far below the recommended amount of sleep.

If you are one of the millions who didn’t sleep enough during the week, prioritize getting a good night’s rest on your mental health day. Go to bed early, turn off the alarm, and get the restorative rest that is so essential to maintaining a healthy emotional and physical state.

7. Get Outside

Recent scientific investigations have repeatedly linked nature with positive mental health benefits. Getting outside not only decreases feelings of anxiety and anger, but it has also been linked to reduced rates of depression and improved attention and concentration.

Further, spending time outdoors can help restore a healthy sleep schedule. Exposure to sunlight triggers hormones in your body that help align your circadian rhythm, allowing you to fall asleep faster and easier.

This makes an outdoor activity a perfect excursion for a mental health day. There are dozens of different options for getting outside and enjoying the outdoors, including:

  • Going for a scenic hike
  • Taking your bike for a ride
  • Driving to a picnic spot
  • Going camping
  • Rock climbing
  • Skiing
  • Geocaching

Any one of these activities can make a great mental health day even better.

8. Get Moving

Physical exercise can effectively relieve tension, improve your physical health, and give you a natural mood boost. For many people, this means getting into the gym, going for a run, or attending a group exercise class to burn off some sweat and find stress relief.

But if you’re not the gym-going type — or simply feel like exercise is more work than fun — you can get all the same mental health benefits by simply incorporating more movement into your day. This could mean taking a walk around your neighborhood, strolling around an outdoor mall, or engaging in light and restorative exercise routines.

Exercise doesn’t have to mean sweating it out on a bicycle or lifting heavy weights. Simply getting yourself moving can be a powerful tool for your physical and mental health, particularly if you work in an office or other setting where you spend most of your time sitting down.

When a Mental Health Day Isn’t Enough

Mental health days are a preventative strategy to help you avoid the buildup of chronic stress or symptoms that could ultimately lead to a formal diagnosis of a mental health disorder. But this strategy alone may not be enough to tackle your mental health concerns.

If you’ve found that your symptoms are interfering with your everyday life and that a mental health day isn’t the cure you hoped it would be, then you may need more intensive treatment to feel better. Thankfully, there are several options for getting a diagnosis and finding relief.

At Plus by APN, our team offers a wide variety of psychiatry and neurotech services that provide evidence-based results for people dealing with symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and so much more. This includes exciting new treatment options such as:

By combining these innovative treatment options into our holistic mental health treatment program, our clients have more options than ever before to conquer their mental health challenges and learn to thrive in recovery.

Even if you’ve tried mental health treatment before without success, these new approaches can provide hope, relief, and recovery.

Take Steps to Protect Your Mental Health Today

Your mental health is important. By making the most of your mental health days and seeking treatment when those days aren’t enough, you can effectively protect your mental health and improve your quality of life.

To get started with treatment at Plus by APN, reach out to our team by calling 424.644.6486, using the live chat function on our website, or filling out our confidential online contact form.