Community//

What Should You Do on a Mental Health Day?

Write yourself a permission slip.

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Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Are you taking a mental health day? Good for you! A mental health day gives us the fantastic opportunity to spend a bit of time reclarifying our values. This time allows us to return to work, or the next task at hand, feeling refreshed and ready to go.

What kinds of activities should we engage in to make the most of our mental health day? The truth is that this answer will not be the same for everyone. These days are unique to each person and their self-care needs.

Not sure where to start? Follow these tips to discover activities that can help you feel better inside and out.

Write a permission slip.

Lea Lester, a therapist from Dallas, Texas, learned the concept of writing a permission slip from Dr. Brené Brown.

Permission slips, according to Brown, have a primary function to serve as explicit intention setting. These slips give us a practical and familiar way to think about what might get in the way of talking about how we fell, asking for what we need, or trying something new.

“Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to do something that may feel hard,” Lester says.

Ready to write your own permission slip? (Pro tip: you will want to write it out — Lester adds that we’re 40% more likely to do something if we write it down.) Grab a sticky note and write “I give myself permission to…” Then, fill in the blank with your intentions and needs for the day.

Do what “fills your cup.”

What kinds of self-care activities make you feel good? Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) Joanna Filidor says the purpose of a mental health day is to slow down. Take part in activities that will “fill your cup.”

How do you fill your cup? First, ask yourself what kinds of activities and experiences make you feel better and happy. The answers will vary for everyone.

It’s also key that you do what fills your specific cup. Don’t engage in activities that you think you “should” do or worse, pick something to gain social media attention.

“What matters the most is that each choice is based on what will help you feel better,” Filidor says. “For some, it might be hiking, for others it might be meditation or reading a good book. Others might benefit from seeing a good friend or spending some time practicing an instrument. It is unique to each person.”

Test out new habits.

Neha Khurram, HR Practitioner and host of the workplace wellness podcast Career Catharsis, advises spending a mental health day engaging in habits you want to form during the week. Some of these habits may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Going for a walk.
  • Exercise and simple movements at home.
  • Cooking.
  • Calling loved ones.
  • Meditating.

Be careful not to load up your mental health day with back-to-back activities that require following a strict schedule. Stick to items that you resonate with. “The most important thing is to not turn your self-care day into a goal-oriented to-do list of items,” Khurram says.

Listen to your body.

One area you may focus on during your mental health day is movement. Lester says that stress is commonly stored in the body. Moving helps release this stress. It also kickstarts your body’s natural feel-good chemicals known as endorphins.

Get moving! Remember to move your body in a way that feels good, such as going for a walk or run, stretching, practicing breathwork, or working out.

Put your phone away.

Or put it on airplane mode for at least 90 minutes that day. Do not disturb — self-care is in progress!

Journal about how you spent your day.

Khurram recommends journaling before and after your mental health day.

What should you journal about? Prior to the mental health day, write down 10 things that bring you joy. Try to do at least one of these things that day. Later that night, journal about how you spent your day. Jot down what you are grateful for and what you learned about yourself.

“Writing helps process heavy emotions and reframe thoughts and practicing gratitude alleviates stress and taking stock of what brings us joy to experience more of it,” Khurram says. “The only goal is to declutter your mind and practice compassion for yourself.”

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