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It’s not uncommon for coworkers to dismiss the idea of a mental health day; after all it’s easier to notice the signs and symptoms of the flu than the state of one’s mental health. We shouldn’t undermine mental health as it can be just as draining and have the same negative effects as a physical ailment; and let’s be clear – needing a mental health day does not mean you are mentally ill.
Neglecting mental health can lead to a decrease in concentration and can turn everyday stress into a struggle. But how do you know that you need to take a mental health day? The signs can range from obvious, such as outbursts of anger, to subtle, like misplacing paperwork and waning productivity.
A decline in your mental health can come from a variety of reasons. Sleep deprivation, for instance, can affect your immune system negatively, can cause weight gain, and can interrupt proper cognitive functioning. It can also trigger many psychiatric disorders.
So what should you do?
Let’s start with prevention. Taking small steps to ensure your mental health can pay off more than you think. Stress, sleep deprivation, and anxiety can easily snowball into something more severe so it’s important to nip the problem in the bud. Take time out of your day (it can be as small as 5 minutes) to practice meditation, relaxation, or yoga. This can help care and ease you mind.
Cutting out a small block of time for yourself can also be beneficial so take some time during a lunch break to read a chapter in a book or look through a magazine. It also may help to stand up and stretch occasionally if you’re sitting at a desk.
When you’re not at work, work on a hobby such as yoga, gardening, or scrap booking. These are calm, relaxing activities that require concentration. You can also go bike riding, hiking, or exercising which require more energy but are just as helpful.
Then there’s maintenance. Try to keep up with the habits and activities that keep you calm and centered. Make sure to surround yourself with positive people who help you grow as a person and don’t tear you down or bring added stress to your life. Setting realistic goals and completing them can also help keep you positive and on the right track.
When prevention and maintenance have not worked and you feel that it is in your best interest to take time for yourself: have a mental health day. Start your day with breakfast and green tea, try some meditation or yoga and take some time to decompress. This will help clear your mind and settle your nerves. Working on your mental health should be a constant, everyday practice. Taking care of yourself is priority number 1.