What is a Mental Health Day? Is it just a poor way to shirk your responsibilities or a form of self-care that we are entitled to?
Mental health is vital to every aspect of our lives. The outer world that we take part in is controlled largely by what’s going on inside our heads, so naturally, it’s a high priority. For many people, there is a high chance of conflict between our desire to tend to our mental health and show up flawlessly for our employers, friends, and family. Have you ever needed to be vocal about needing time away from friends and family to get back into a better headspace? If you have, you might have found that it requires some skill and a level of vulnerability to get the message across in the way you intend.
So how do you ask for a Mental Health Day?
It all depends on who you are asking and what exactly you hope to accomplish with this time period of rejuvenation. We will give you examples that you can use for an employer, friend, or family member so all of your bases are covered and you can feel confident that you are getting your concerns across in a professional, friendly, or otherwise healthy way.
Asking an Employer/Boss:
In your job or career, you may tend to get overwhelmed by the workload or even the work relations at your place of employment. It’s more common than you may think and it is completely normal to need to take time for yourself every so often. Below is a short example of how you can request time off to address your mental health in a professional and courteous manner. Be sure to adjust the wording as needed to fit your unique situation at work.
I hope you are doing well after company event/sales goal/campaign and are recovering well. Now that we’ve hit our goal, I am noticing that I’m feeling some symptoms of burnout and would love to know when would be best for me to take a day or two of scheduled time away from work so that I can recharge and move forward in the most productive way possible. I was hoping to get some additional time off for a Mental Health Day within the next couple of weeks to address this with my therapist and I wanted to get your approval before setting anything up. Do you have any preference for when I take this time off or should I give you some dates to work with? I appreciate you and your hard work as well, so hopefully you are additionally getting some much-needed rest.
Warm Regards, ______.”
The example above acknowledges your higher-up’s hard work and might even make them consider a Mental Health Day too. This is helpful because it gets across the fact that you appreciate everyone’s efforts, but you yourself are just feeling overwhelmed for your own reasons and want to handle it so you can come back with a bang.
Asking a Friend:
Friends are usually easier to be vulnerable about your mental health with than your employer, but it still can be challenging to let them know when you need to take a break or cancel plans in order to recharge or focus on your well-being. Thankfully with friends, you can be less formal, but more forthcoming emotionally and if you’re comfortable, you can tell them outright what you’re dealing with. Try the template below if you’re looking for a place to start with opening up to your friends about your need for a mental health day.
I know we had plans this weekend, and I really wanted to see you again! Unfortunately, I’ve been dealing with a lot in terms of my mental health and I feel like I need to give myself a break from everything for a few days just to get back to myself and recharge. I know you’ll understand this as my friend and in the future, I want to address my mental health regularly so I can always show up as the best friend I can be for you. I think I should be feeling more like myself sometime next week. Can we make plans for then? Love you ❤️”
You can customize this as much as you need. The most important points to cover are that you did want to see them and have a good time, but because of what you’re going through at the moment, you find it’s best to prioritize recovering so that you can remain a good friend to them in the long run. They might ask you exactly what’s going on or what happened to put you in a bad place, at that time you can go into more detail, but this is just a place to begin opening up that dialogue. Easy isn’t it?
Family is another category of relationships that you may have to make aware that you are needing some space for your mental health. How you tell them will depend on a few factors. Whether or not you live with them, who they are, if they’ve been aware of what you’re going through, if they’ve witnessed you dealing with similar issues in the past and your overall relationship will tailor your messaging.
“Hi ______, you might have noticed I haven’t been feeling great the past few weeks and I think I might need some space to recharge for a while. I might stay in my room or keep to myself a bit this weekend to do that and I wanted to let you know so you’re aware of what’s going on with me. (This is where you can go into more detail about exactly what’s going on if you’re comfortable). Thanks for allowing me the space and time to deal with this and I’ll let you know when I’m feeling better.”
It can be hard when you’re dealing with issues of mental health to confine your mental health day to just one 24-hour period. You might feel like these days seem shorter than your normal ones and before you have fully recovered, you’re back into the work grind or socializing.
Realistically, it’s more likely that to completely recover from burnout or poor mental health you will need much more than one day, but it’s important to stay in the moment and truly rest when you take that day off.
Some things to look out for that can hijack your Mental Health Day are:
- Getting sucked into scrolling social media for hours – This isn’t rest and can leave you feeling even more fried and burnt out than productive activities like true rest or actively participating in hobbies that rejuvenate you. With work and productive activity, you at least are being energized by the fact that you are working towards something. With social media consumption, you can find yourself feeling worse than when you started because you haven’t gotten anything done and you might even be made to feel bad about it by the content you’re seeing.
- Allowing your mind to remain cluttered – A restless and overworking mind can also burn a lot of time in your Mental Health Day without giving you the feeling of restfulness. Try to meditate or do whatever activity allows you to empty your mind of all your worries, and try to remain worry-free all day.
To make sure that you aren’t constantly in a cycle of burnout and requesting days off for mental health, try to schedule a couple of times each day to truly relax so that you can let go of the tension in your mind and body. Prevention over intervention is a great way to rationalize this if you have trouble feeling like these periodic breaks are okay. Remember that rest and healing is just as productive as checking off tasks on a list.
- Lamont, S., Brunero, S., Perry, L., Duffield, C., Sibbritt, D., Gallagher, R., & Nicholls, R. (2016). ‘mental health day’ sickness absence amongst nurses and midwives: Workplace, workforce, Psychosocial and Health Characteristics. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 73(5), 1172–1181. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.13212
- Angela Theisen, L. C. S. W. (2022, October 4). Recharge with a mental health day. Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/recharge-with-planned-mental-health-day#:~:text=A%20mental%20health%20day%20is,efficiency%20and%20overall%20well%2Dbeing