Mental health days are more than just time out of the office and can benefit everyone. Learn what mental health days are — and aren’t — here.

In a workplace setting, sick days, vacation time and paid time off are all recognized as valid and purposeful time spent out of the office. Although they might not be as common, mental health days can be just as necessary as a sick day and even more fulfilling than vacation time. More than a day off, a mental health day is time devoted entirely to cultivating your psychological and emotional well-being. Whether planned or unplanned, a mental health day is a chance for you to take a step back from the daily grind and focus solely on your mental health.

Essentially, taking a mental health day means doing whatever you need to do to maintain your mental well-being. If you find yourself spread thin from constantly meeting the demands of a busy schedule, a mental health day is a chance to check in with yourself, think about your goals and realign your priorities, if necessary. This day helps you relieve stress and prevent burnout so you can return to your daily life with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Most importantly, by taking a mental health day, you make your well-being a priority, which is key to a happy, balanced life.

Given that a mental health day can be incredibly beneficial, don’t be afraid to take this opportunity to recharge mentally and emotionally. Before you do, it’s important to understand what mental health days are, and are not.

Mental Health Days Are for Everyone 

Anyone can benefit from a mental health day because mental wellness matters for everyone. For someone who is already psychologically healthy, this time can be spent practicing the healthy habits they’ve developed. For a person who struggles with a mental illness like anxiety or depression, this day can be an opportunity to re-evaluate their needs and goals, possibly with the support of a licensed mental health counselor or therapist.  

Mental Health Days Are What You Make Them 

Because there are no set guidelines for what to do on your mental health day, this time can look different for everyone. It’s an open-ended opportunity to engage in any sort of activity (or inactivity) that relieves tension, relaxes your mind or makes you happy. It could be a day devoted to a specific hobby, self-care activities, time spent with a good friend or even a day to sleep and rejuvenate your body. Alternatively, you can take a mental health day to focus on personal growth and work through a personal issue, meditate on meaningful questions or set goals for your future. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how to spend your mental health day. It’s all about fostering your mental well-being in a way that’s meaningful and effective for you.

Mental Health Days Don’t Have to Be Workdays 

Typically, mental health days are time off from work, but they don’t have to be. You can take a mental health day whenever you need one, whether it’s during the week or on a Saturday or Sunday. If you feel that there’s too much going on at work or you’d like more time to devote to your mental health day, you can always take a mental health day on the weekend. Either way, it can be beneficial to plan your mental health day ahead of time so that your schedule can be rearranged and you won’t worry about work while you’re out of the office.

You Don’t Have to Be in a Crisis to Take a Mental Health Day 

It can be easy to imagine a mental health day as an emergency escape when the pressures of work and life grow too overwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with taking a mental health day on short notice when you feel unable to face the day. However, you don’t have to reserve this day for when a depression-induced or anxiety-related crisis occurs. In fact, a mental health day can be a preventative measure as much as a last resort. Whether you struggle with a mental illness or not, you can take a mental health day to relax and recharge at any time, and by doing so, you can effectively prevent burnout.

If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, you’re not alone. Even if you’re not suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a trained crisis counselor immediately. If you’d rather not talk over the telephone, you can text with a counselor at the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Need More Than a Mental Health Day? 

If you constantly feel overwhelmed, one day off may not be enough to help you relax and refocus your energy. Overall, your life shouldn’t be something that you constantly need an escape from. It can be all too easy to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, like misusing drugs or getting drunk, when you feel this way. While they may provide a temporary sense of relief, drugs and alcohol are dangerous escape routes. Casual drinking or drug use can quickly spiral into addiction, which can cost you much more than your mental health.

By using drugs or alcohol to escape the weight of stress, you put yourself in danger of addiction and overdose. If you feel like you can’t stop using drugs or alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s OK to take a day to find help for yourself, especially if you struggle with addiction. Getting the kind of care that you need can start with a telephone call. Reach out to The Recovery Village at  866.337.7215 to speak with someone who understands addiction and can guide you toward a treatment program that meets your needs.

Camille Renzoni
Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.