The problem is that too often people think that they itself first really make an effort must before they are allowed to take a break. Instead, we should think of downtime as a non-negotiable, normal part of our lives, not something to be earned or justified only when we’re at the end of our rope.
2. Determine structure
Paul Lavella, Licensed Consultant and Training and Development Specialist at Delphi Behavioral Health Group, explains that it’s important to plan ahead for Mental Health Day. If you proactively say, “Next Friday I’ll take a day off for mental health,” you’ll have more opportunities to plan the day with activities that actually help you relax.
If you feel fit enough to not just watch TV wrapped in a blanket (although that is absolutely justified), there are activities that can help you actively reduce stress.
In times of stress, we often tend to go into a passive mode to protect ourselves. This does not necessarily ensure our recovery, explains Lavella.
It may make more sense to try to actively influence mental well-being. That’s why he advises making a list of nice activities that you can fall back on on a mental health day (if you really have the energy for it). The important thing is not to fill the whole day with energetic activities – just that you plan to do something for a while that usually leaves you with a good feeling, such as reading a few pages of your latest book or going for a walk to go to your favorite cafe.
3. Literally “switch off”
According to Paul Lavella, far too many people take time off from work only to continue with it anyway. They check their email, leave their Slack notifications on, or just spend too much time thinking about their work. That is understandable. Because if you have a Mental Health Day, it’s likely that you’re in some way annoyed about work and/or have a lot to do.
It is nevertheless – or precisely because of this – important to really switch off. Of course, it is difficult to consciously switch off your thoughts carousel, but you can still take a few precautionary measures.
Lavella recommends avoiding screens as much as possible. Or at least on the work laptop, where the temptation is great to check your notifications between two episodes of your favorite series. It should also no longer be a secret that it’s not a good idea to set up your work e-mail from your personal devices. Anyone who has set this up can delete or at least mute the relevant applications for a Mental Health Day.
It can also help to enlighten a trusted colleague on the mental health plans and ask them to hold them accountable should they flash a green light in Teams chat see.
4. Don’t see recovery as a challenge
David Klow emphasizes that in contrast to days when you can consciously influence your mood positively, there are also days when you don’t have enough energy for self-care. And that’s okay too.