If there’s anything a lot of my clients know about me, it’s how much of an advocate I am for taking mental health days.
But first, what is a mental health day and how did it start?
It might come as a surprise that world mental health day originally started in October 10, 1992. It was a program started by the World Federation for Mental Health, whose long-standing advocacy for mental health began 62 years ago. The advocacy for mental health has come a long way since then, and the stigma towards mental health has steadily seen a reduction in numerous sectors. A quick search in various social media platforms (e.g, Tiktok, Instagram) can demonstrate a growing trend towards a wider acceptance, if not embrace, towards taking care of one’s mental health needs.
But it’s not only in social media that one can see the changes. In most recent years, even popular films have slowly been more receptive towards mental health, perhaps as an answer to the growing calls to prioritize mental health and reduce its associated stigma. A clear example is Disney’s most recent film, Encanto, where intergenerational trauma highlights the struggles of a family whose members battled to restrain their true emotions and feelings due to the same trauma that dictated family expectations. In fact, Luisa, one of the main characters in the film, sings exactly about the growing pressure of remaining strong and wanting to at least be able to take a day for relaxation.
Which brings us exactly to the importance of taking a mental health day!
Akin to the more familiar version of a sick day but less utilized for mental health, a mental health day is a day where you take a breather from the pressures of everyday life. Whether you’re fighting to stay strong like Luisa, straining to maintain the image of perfection like Isabelle, or striving to maintain your moods like Pepa – maybe even all of those combined, a mental health day is exactly what is required to center yourself again.
But you might say: “I feel too guilty to take it because it’s not like I’m sick.”
To which I most commonly respond, what is the difference between feeling sick physically and feeling stressed out emotionally? The answer? Absolutely nothing. One might be more visible than the others to the untrained eye, but stress also shows in different ways. You might feel sluggish on some days, clumsier, experience a lack of motivation, feeling more forgetful than usual, and feel more tearful or sad. Or perhaps you’re like Luisa whose eye twitches and only the one who pays close attention can really notice. Either way, if you have a migraine and can’t go to work, why should your mental health be any less prioritized just because the effects might not be as visible?
The next question might be: I don’t know what to do with all my free time!
Well, here are some ideas:
It doesn’t matter what it looks like! Happiness and relaxation comes in so many forms for everyone. For others, it’s playing games, or catching up with friends, reading, binge-watching Netflix shows, or being a couch-potato and doing absolutely nothing. All of these are great ideas so long as they allow you to relax and feel centered again. Don’t allow misplaced guilt or societal expectations to stop you from taking a mental health day.
Even if it’s in the middle of the week, take that much needed breather.