The Benefits of Taking a Mental Health Day

Whether it’s a whole day or just a few hours, taking time off can help your mental well-being

August 16, 2023

From time to time, everyone needs what many have coined a “mental health day.” It’s a day off from work, a day away from screens and other obligations, or a little time to escape the pressures and frustrations of everyday life.

“We all have a point at which we get overwhelmed, we’re engaging in unhelpful behaviors, and our thought processes become very negative,” says McLean’s Andrew M. Kuller, PsyD, ABPP.

“If you’re feeling stressed out and drifting away from a healthy set of behaviors, those are things you could think about and try to rectify by taking a mental health day.”

Keep Reading To Learn

  • How to overcome the stigma associated with taking time off to prioritize mental health
  • How to get the most out of your mental health day
  • Why unplugging can be just as valuable as a day off

Mental Health Screening

Online screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness.

New Attitudes About Taking Time Off

Despite the positive effects of a mental health day, many people do not take them. Some individuals do not want to be thought of as weak or unable to handle daily pressures. Some do not want to be thought of as having a mental illness.

“There is definitely stigma associated with mental health, and some companies don’t advocate that people take a day off to focus on self-care,” Kuller states.

Company culture dictates how you request time off for mental health. In some cases, you talk directly with your supervisor, and in others, you work with the human resources department.

“I think you have to use discretion and really understand what type of work environment you are in,” says Kuller.

Regardless of your job climate, it’s still beneficial to find a way to focus on your mental well-being.

Family walking on beach, child on father’s shoulders

Getting Back on Track

So how do we make sure that we are getting the most out of our mental health day? What can we do to truly calm down and get back on track?

For Kuller, the key is mindfulness.

“For somebody to get the most out of a mental health day, being mindfully present is very important,” he says. “You don’t want to just listlessly drift through the day.”

This doesn’t mean making a to-do list, but rather, putting in effort to have an intentionally low-stress, relaxing day.

Kuller recommends “trying to use all the skills that you use on normal days, but really concentrating on those skills and using them purposefully.”

This, he says, involves “practicing good self-care, like socializing with people, exercising, eating a healthy diet, or taking part in other activities that are pleasurable or meaningful to you.”

The goal of a mental health day, Kuller states, is to “reclarify what your values are and try to bring your day in line with those values so you can get back on track.”

What You Need To Know About Stress?

Young woman covers eyes in out of focus crowd

Whether at home, school, or work, everyone of all ages experiences stress. But how can we keep stress from overtaking our everyday lives? Learn to recognize the signs and how to know when to get help.

Young woman covers eyes in out of focus crowd

A Few Hours Can Help Too

Taking a single day off for self-care may be all some people need to reset their thinking and behaviors. For many, however, taking any amount of time off feels almost impossible.

“The boundaries between work and personal life have been blurred for a long time now,” Kuller explains.

“With the internet and social media, people are expected to respond to emails at all hours of the day. Even if people take a day off, they have a hard time getting completely away from work.”

For these constantly connected people, Kuller recommends unplugging as much as possible.

“Staring at screens all day can be exhausting, and it can slow down your functioning,” he says. “Try unplugging and getting back in touch with what’s going on in the environment around you. This can be as valuable as taking a sick day or a personal day.”

“Try unplugging and getting back in touch with what’s going on in the environment around you. This can be as valuable as taking a sick day or a personal day.”– Dr. Andrew Kuller

Despite the benefits of mental health days, Kuller points out that a single day off is not a prescription replacement, nor is it a cure-all for anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms—especially for individuals with diagnosed mental illnesses.

“Any person, whether they have a severe mental illness or not, should be on the lookout for warning signs that they’re not coping with things well. If people feel they need more than a single day to reset their thinking and behaviors, they should talk to a doctor.”

Are you or a loved one struggling to manage anxiety or stress? McLean Hospital is here to help. Call us now at 617.855.3141 to learn more about treatment for depression, stress, or anxiety.

Want More Information?

Looking for even more information about the mental health and well-being? You may find these resources helpful.