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Mental Health Days

We all know the signs of being sick. You know the feeling of waking up with a sore throat or having aches and pains. Taking a sick day or break when you’re feeling under the weather feels like an easy choice when you’re physically feeling the effects. Taking a break and letting your body rest when sick can help you recover faster.


The same is true for mental health. While taking one day off or a short break won’t resolve more serious issues, a mental health day can provide you with the space to rest, recharge, and recover. It can be difficult to know when you need a mental health break. We don’t always understand our reactions to stress and can’t identify when we need help.


A mental health day is a dedicated day you take off from work or school and minimize any commitments or responsibilities. You can use this time to focus on relieving stress, relaxing, having fun, and preventing burnout.


There are subtle signs you can look out for below.


Always Tired. When you’re feeling overworked or stressed, your sleep may be disrupted. Not having your normal amount of sleep can lead to you waking up feeling well-rested.


Decreased Immune System. If you feel like you’re constantly fighting a cold or other illness, it may be a sign that you need a break. Too much stress can make you sick, and when stress is left unchecked, it can lead to issues that are more serious. 


Increased Irritability. If you’re normally a chipper person and find yourself short with family and coworkers, you might benefit from resting. 


Lack of Concentration. If you’re in a mental fog or your focus is failing, it’s probably time to reset.


Stress Relief Isn’t Working. From a hot bath to a brisk walk, many of us have developed tried-and-true tricks to tackle daily stress. But when your go-to strategies still fall short, you probably need a longer pause. Rather than squeezing in a quick stress-relieving activity, sometimes you must commit a full day to decompress and take care of yourself.


If you have identified you do, in fact, need a mental health day, what’s the next step? First, find a time that works for you. If you feel you really need a break now, consider using a sick day or asking your workplace for the day off. It’s important to first evaluate whether your company and the culture there are supportive of the idea of mental health days. If you feel that it isn’t, you don’t need to explain your reasons for taking a sick day or using PTO. You can simply tell your employer that you’re not feeling well and that you need to take a day off.


If that doesn’t work for your schedule or workplace, consider scheduling a day to take vacation or PTO. Don’t plan anything on this day. Just rest. If you’re feeling exhausted, you need a day to do nothing. A busy schedule might hinder your rest if you plan a day of stress-relieving activities.


On mental health days, completely disconnect from work. That means not checking emails or responding to messages that come from work. Most importantly, try not to feel guilty about not being at work. Think of this as your dedicated time to recharge. You may be more productive and feel better when you return to work.


If you’re not feeling refreshed after a break, it may be a sign of a larger issue. Unregulated stress can impact your health, long-time. Remember, help is always available. You can seek mental health help by calling or messaging the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by just dialing 9-8-8 on your phone.


According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as of July 16, 2022, anyone across the U.S. in mental health distress can call or text 988 or use the online chat function on to connect with a counselor through the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 


People who reside in Wisconsin and use 988 will connect with an in-state service that they fund, known as the Wisconsin Lifeline. This will be a fantastic resource for getting assistance to those who need mental health aid quickly and easily. This is a much-needed resource as the current statistics from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) show that 859,000 Wisconsin adults struggle with a mental health condition, which is more than three times the population of Madison.