As you might pick up while reading this article (as I didn’t go to University and Matt struggles to spell it) this is user submitted content. We love getting feedback from you guys, especially such in depth info on a topic that really doesn’t get enough attention (in my opinion).
If you’re ever having a shitty day, and feel like its getting a bit too much, don’t bottle it up. Talk to a friend or family member or contact someone for support. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness, it is quite the opposite.
Should I take a mental health day?
If you ask anyone who claims to know me, they will tell you that I am a 100% advocate for taking a ‘mental health day’. Unfortunately, in this day and age, we live in a world submerged with stressors – primarily reinforced by the increasing pressure to work hard, inadequate emotional support in workplaces, the increasing influence of technology on mood… ALL in conjunction with an underwhelming education in workplaces and schools of the importance of how to cultivate mental health wellness. This can slowly chip away at us, and too often we can come home from a long day and feel exhausted, irritable, drained, helpless, lacking motivation and often leading to an emotional breakdown. Too often after a vexing week I’ve ended up bursting into tears because we’ve ran out of milk for my cereal, or because my sister’s borrowed a pair of jeans I normally wouldn’t even care about because I haven’t worn them since I was 14. This is a tell-tale sign… it’s time for a scheduled mental health day.
So…. Should I?
Well… if you bothered reading the first paragraph of this article, obviously the answer is yes. But firstly, let me start off by saying that in no way am I a qualified professional (despite being that ‘person’ everyone goes to for help) however, I am a current Psychology Honours student, I have experience mentoring disadvantaged teenagers, I have an accredited ASIST (applied suicide intervention skills training) certificate and I volunteer for Lifeline so I’d like to think I’m not a complete peanut when it comes to offering advice. I also live with a psychiatrist (my mother) and ever since I was little, she’s always stressed the importance of taking care of your mental health as much as your physical health. Her and I have shared many mental health days together, and here I am, living proof of a (most of the time) sane 21-year old, that it really is beneficial, essential and worth your while.
I suppose I should begin by emphasizing that mental health is centered around WELLNESS not ILLNESS. It encompasses feeling socially and emotionally fulfilled, and it has a HUGE effect on our thoughts, feelings, cognitive processes and how we function as human beings. Basically, being mentally healthy is essential for our well being. However, naturally because life isn’t perfect, so many factors such as continuous stress from work/studying, experiencing loss and grief of a family member, a relationship/friendship or a pet, or generally other shitty things that happen day-to-day can leave us feeling emotionally and mentally drained. Social media also doesn’t help – as we’re becoming increasingly obsessed with being glued to our phones and seeing what others are up to, and there is a pressure to look ‘perfect’ on our profiles paired with this preoccupation of gaining others approval through ‘likes’. We’re also contactable 24 hours a day because of our phones, so it’s no surprise that we can begin to feel overwhelmed and generally just done with life. Continuously ignoring this stress, depressive symptoms and anxiety is detrimental and can seriously affect our work performance, social relationships, and physical health.
However, for men in particular, admitting your mental health is deteriorating is difficult. There’s no sugarcoating it – men live in a society designed with expectations that they have to have it “together” and be “macho” all of the time. I’ve taken a huge amount of Lifeline calls from exasperated men who don’t feel like they can express their emotions and the difficulties they’re facing due to fear of being reprimanded, judged, called a “girl” or ridiculed by their blokey “take a spoon of cement and harden the fuck up” friends/family. This stigma is strong, has lasted a very long time, and can have dangerous consequences. And it infuriates me and many of my friends, colleagues and professionals that I work with in the mental health profession because EVERYONE is entitled to have emotions, feelings, feel shit from time to time, and have a day to recharge their batteries and recuperate from the daily stressors of life. Paired with this stigma, it can leave you feeling trapped, bottle everything inside, and in turn, make you feel much worse.
This is where a mental health day can really, really help. Initially, it may feel like a bit of a cop out because its not your typical “I’m sick and am covered in mucus” excuse, but recharging yourself, taking some time to reset, gain perspective and take a break from your everyday life stressors will leave you feeling refreshed and you will love yourself for it.
Things to DO on your mental health day:
- Go for a long scenic walk (for fellow Adelaidians I recommend the Hallett Cove Marino board walk – perfect scenery and you can get some #fitspo insta pics too, bonus!)
- Schedule your mental health day with other close friends and hang out in your fluffiest owned bathrobes and drink hot chocolate (personal thankyou to James for this idea by welcoming me into his house the other day with a mandatory ‘bathrobe’ dress code when I had a recent breakdown)
- Smash out a good leg session at the gym
- Scout DCE for some good quality recipes, and make a conscious effort to cook every meal you eat
- If you’re feeling particularly down, visit your local puppy store to get your puppy fix. Sometimes I pretend I’m thinking of buying one so they let you hold/play with them. (Side note: this can become an addiction, so if this does happen to you, you’ll need to create a roster of different puppy stores you go to and alternate otherwise they’ll recognise you as the over enthusiastic puppy creep who always window shops but never purchases and they’ll cotton on quickly. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way)
- I may be 21 but I’ve learned I’m a grandma at heart. Sometimes all you need is a freshly brewed cuppa and a good book. If you’re not a book lover, re watching the Harry Potter series in its entirety will substitute perfectly.
- Yoga is an excellent way to feel mentally and physically rejuvenated. I am an avid Bikram yogi and highly recommend giving it a go – otherwise enjoying some simple meditation will help tremendous amounts.
Things NOT TO DO on your mental health day:
- Don’t stalk your ex’s social media profile. I cannot stress this enough, this will not end well. The temptation to look at the new people they’ve followed, what they’re tagged in, who’s liking their photos, sussing what their mum is up to… it leads to madness. I’ve never liked this saying but for this dot point it’s relevant – ignorance is bliss. So put your phone down, get a glass of water, moisturize, and leave them in the past, where they belong.
- Following from the above point, don’t stalk your current interest’s social media. Mental Health days are about YOU, not going 63 weeks deep into your new bae’s Instagram profile and wondering how much they slutted around on their 2015 Sail Croatia trip.
- Don’t spend the whole day sleeping in bed, drinking, or eating shitty food. Granted, if you’re physically sick as well– you are excused from the sleeping in bed point – get some rest. Otherwise, up and at em. Avoid isolating yourself and doing unhealthy activities, and opt to do things to enrich your body and your body will thank you for it.
Making sure your mental health is intact is SO important – and it’s commonly overlooked because unlike a broken leg, a headache or the common cold, mental health is invisible and cannot be seen. Additionally, for men especially, it can be incredibly difficult to battle with the overpowering stigma that prevents men to openly express if they’re having a tough time. Having a mental health day that is focused on resetting your batteries and taking care of yourself is a legitimate excuse to take some time off. If you want to kick some goals, continue striving to achieve in all aspecst of your life, mental health days are essential! Don’t ignore the signs – if you’re feeling stressed, unproductive and overwhelmed, pick up the phone, take the day off for yourself and enjoy alllll the benefits a mental health day can offer.
However, I’d like to end on the note that a mental health day is most certainly not a quick fix for long-term mental health difficulties. If this article has triggered the realization of any emotional problems you may be experiencing, please call either Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 78 99 78 (they’re both free – and we’re always here to listen), visit the Beyond Blue website or see your local GP.