Have you ever taken a mental health day for your well-being — or called off plans with a friend out of sheer exhaustion? Did you feel guilty cancelling? For Meghan Markle, the decision to stay in England, and not join Prince Harry’s trip to Zambia may have been tough, but without a doubt it was the right one.
Over the weekend, the Duchess of Sussex reportedly pulled out of an anticipated two-day business trip with Prince Harry, a royal visit to Zambia. While the two royals have garnered the public’s love and affection on their international travels thus far, the Daily Mail reports that Markle decided to take a step back this time, prioritizing her emotional and physical health during her pregnancy. Instead of joining her husband, the Duchess is staying in England with her mother, taking the time to rest and recharge.
Meghan’s choice serves as a reminder that it’s okay to slow down. “Mental health and physical health [can] work similarly,” says Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Prescriptions Without Pills. “If you ignore when you’re feeling run down physically, by keeping up life as normal, you end up getting more sick. Similarly, if you’re feeling emotionally exhausted, it’s vitally important that people pay attention to those signs and take action.”
Whether you’re clearing work tasks off of your plate because they’re becoming too stressful, or you’re postponing a night out with friends because you need some down time, you should never feel guilty about prioritizing your well-being. Heitler emphasizes that taking time for yourself when you’re feeling mentally or emotionally drained is vital.
If you struggle with feeling guilty about taking that time, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
Don’t ignore the signs
When we’re feeling run-down, our first instinct is often to fight through the pain and keep showing up, especially when we lead busy and demanding lives. According to Heitler, listening to your emotions should be the first step when you’re feeling burned out. “When negative feelings emerge, listening to your emotions can help you find the next steps to solve the problem,” she explains. “By identifying the root of your feelings, you can address the problem in a productive way, instead of ploughing through.”
Give yourself permission to slow down
Remember that there’s no shame in taking a day off to engage in self-care rituals that will help you destress and refocus. Heitler says that whether you cope best by journaling, going on a long run, or just taking a much-needed tech break from your devices, addressing your well-being should take precedence.
Ask for help
Know that your break may not immediately provide you with all the answers to why you’re feeling rundown. “When you feel anxious, your thinking freezes, so even if you’re aware of the problem, you may not know what to do on your own,” Heitler explains. Sometimes cancelling plans for an appointment with your bathtub or a yoga class will do the trick, but sometimes your needs will require professional help, and that’s nothing to shy away from, she notes. “Finding solutions, gathering information, and seeking help are all parts of the pathway back to well-being.”