When to Take a Mental Health Day and How to Make the Most of It

There comes a point when enough is enough. Continuing pays diminishing returns or does real damage. The key is recognizing you’re at the breaking point and stopping before you snap. What to do with the timeout.

Identifying the breaking point and stopping

Sometimes you can see your breaking point coming, but not always. It can happen at the worst of times.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is a prime example we all can learn from. Her break came on the world’s biggest stage for her sport – the 2020 Olympic Games. She withdrew from four competitions, all of which may have given her a gold medal. But she realized, at that moment, there was nothing more important in the world than her mental health. Because of the criticism she took, she was under even more pressure and required a lot of courage on her part, but she took a break she knew was right for her – no matter what anyone else thought or said.

The lesson here is when you need a mental health break – take it. Only you can know what’s right for your mental state. Others may try to pressure you to keep going, but if you know you’re at the breaking point – take that break. Pushing yourself beyond the breaking point could have both catastrophic and long-term consequences.

5 signs you need a break

According to US News, here are 5 signs you need a break:

-You can’t focus.

-You’re lacking energy or running on empty. It could be a result of either a physical, mental or emotional drain – or all of the above. Identify what’s depleted.

-You’re no longer taking care of yourself.

-Physical signs of stress are showing.

-Your personal and/or professional relationships are suffering.

What to do with your mental health break

Once you’ve decided to take a mental health break, what to do with that break will largely depend on why you took it. Another important point is – sometimes a day is not enough. Take a break appropriate to giving yourself time to ease the pressure, as well as take steps to remedy the situation.

For some people, complete escapism might be the answer. Give yourself some “playtime.” Do something creative. Go see something inspiring. Go outdoors. Get some exercise. Anything to put your mind in a different space away from what’s troubling you.

Remedies for the 5 signs of needing a break

Using the 5 signs you need a break listed above, here are some remedies to try for each of those scenarios.

-You can’t focus: If the cause is your mind is on overdrive, find a way to relax and slow down. Engage in things that don’t force you to think or worry, preferably away from anything related to what’s causing your overload.

-You’re lacking energy or running on empty: You may need to sleep or relax. You might need to put yourself in an environment where that’s possible. If you’re running on empty, look for a way to recharge yourself.

-You’re no longer taking care of yourself: Prime factors for these are overbooking yourself or over-committing, as well as depression and apathy. Figure out ways you can make the time and hold yourself accountable to improve your self-care whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep, medical, dental, or mental.

-Physical signs of stress are showing: Signs of such stress are illness, obesity, malnourishment, decreased alertness and memory, and more. You may have too many commitments and are overworking if those are the root cause. If it’s negligence on your part, find a way to prioritize yourself.

-Your personal and/or professional relationships are suffering: This could range from your not keeping responsibilities, keeping too busy to keep up with others, or shutting people out. Give yourself a chance to catch up. Come up with a plan that allows you to stick with your commitments.