Your mental health is as critical as your physical health, some may even argue it is more critical depending on the situation, so why are we not taking mental health days? If you have a stomach bug or a migraine you probably aren’t thinking twice about calling into work. Yet, when we feel stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, or burnt-out we keep on trucking, keep pushing through.
The thing is when we do that, when we keep pushing through our mental health struggles instead of taking the time to relieve them, we only compound what we are feeling, ultimately bringing us down more. The better your mental health, the better you can function overall—you have more energy, increased focus, more calm, better mood, and more motivation. You are a better parent, spouse, caretaker, employee, etc. You must first take care of yourself before you can fully take care of the other things in your life.
How do you know it is time to give your brain a break? What are some signs you could benefit from a mental health day?
1.) Your sleep habits are out of whack. If you are exhausted and unable to sleep or feel like you want to sleep all the time, that is a sign that your brain is not feeling too great. Mental exhaustion caused by overworking or emotional stress can lead to physical exhaustion. Couple that with anxious feelings that are keeping you awake at night and good quality sleep might feel unattainable. Taking a rest day to reset—turn off the phone and computer, enjoy an afternoon out with friends and family, or binge-watch Netflix— can make a huge difference.
2.) You are experiencing more anxiety than usual. If you are prone to anxiety and are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you are probably feeling even more anxious than usual. Anxiety can show up as racing thoughts, a quickening heartbeat, panic attacks, restlessness, etc. It can also cause physical symptoms like a tightening in your chest, stomach pains, or shortness of breath. If you are feeling an increase in these symptoms, first of all, see a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions and then rest. Your brain is telling you it needs a break, listen to it.
3.) You are struggling to focus. You know you have a lot of work to get done but you can’t seem to focus for long enough to get it done well. You find that your mind is wandering in all different directions. Where is the clarity? Where is the control? The feeling of things being out of control can be a big indicator that you need a day to reset. Maybe that means taking a “you” day to catch up on things around the house or to spend time with those close to you. Spending time with loved ones when you are feeling mentally stressed can help to put things into perspective—what really matters? What is the real goal of this life?
4.) You feel down. We all go through times where we feel like we are in a slump. You might be feeling sad and unmotivated and might not be able to pinpoint exactly why you are feeling this way. This is a sign that your brain needs a break from whatever it has been doing. Maybe it is managing drama or a mounting workload, maybe it is stress at home. Whatever it is, spending a day doing something that you really enjoy can help to bring you out and lift you up.
5.) You have a short fuse. If it doesn’t take much to set you on an angry rant, then you are stressed. You need a break. You need time to breathe, decompress, unplug and reset.
6.) You frequently get sick. Stress has a huge impact on your overall immune response. If you are prone to getting sick often that probably means you are too stressed. Your brain needs to be taken care of. It is the command center of your body and when it is overworked (too many tabs open) then it wants to shut down.
7.) You feel a disconnect from others. If you are overworking yourself, you probably aren’t being present when you are with those you love and you are likely withdrawing from others. Who has time to go to dinner with girlfriends when you have deadlines to meet? Those outings and interactions with your loved ones are so important, though. They give you a healthy distraction, social interaction, and if you are lucky a good laugh or a meaningful conversation.
October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month and the number one thing you can do for yourself and others is to care for your own mental health. Learn to recognize the signs that you need a break and allow yourself that gift. It will pay off in the end.
If you are struggling to get out of a slump, deal with stress, anxiety, or other mental health struggles, consider seeking the help of licensed mental health professional. A counselor or therapist can help to put things in perspective and give you healthy coping tools so you can feel your best.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
At Move Forward, our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to get started to feeling better. You can get the tailored help you need right now. We are here.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.