How To Get The Most Out Of Your Mental Health Day

However many mental health days your company offers you, pounce on each and every one. Squeeze every last drop of relief out of this gift of rest and allow yourself to unplug, reset, and feel refreshed.

If there's any positive to come out of COVID-19 at all, especially during the lockdown phase, it's that our collective mental health became front page news. At the height of the pandemic, worldwide depression and anxiety levels rose by 25% according to the World Health Organization. The WHO's research also found that young adults and women were hit the hardest. 

One result of that mess? The global pause from the shutdown opened the door to a much more public conversation about how isolated people felt, and it reduced reluctance to deal directly with mental wellness. It may not have truly eliminated the stigma around emotional ups and downs, but it did create better conditions to address it.

Use it to regenerate, not isolate

Even though experts recommend taking frequent mental health days, keep in mind that if you're using it to withdraw or isolate in order to avoid problems at work, you might regret it and end up feeling pretty blah. There is a difference between curling up on the floor to avoid dealing with a difficult conversation at work and doing fun activities that help you feel sparkly and alive.

What do you love doing but don't because you never have enough time? Does the challenge of hiking up a steep incline make you feel like you've accomplished something beneficial? Give your lungs a workout and go for it. Does the zen of being surrounded by a forest or botanical garden appeal to you? The harmony of nature is restorative and calming. Do you prefer to move indoors? Spend the day bouldering at a rock climbing gym or bouncing with glee at an indoor trampoline park.

Preventive Medicine's pandemic-era study about increasing physical activity and spending time outside is still extremely useful today. Spoiler alert: more movement means less depression and anxiety, and mental wellness increases when spending time outdoors.

Be productive too, but just a little

Psychologists recommend that you add some productive activity to your well-deserved mental health day to help you feel accomplished. For example, you might want to target one tiny corner of your home for a decluttering extravaganza.You've walked by that irritating pile of papers and unopened mail for so long, it's become part of the decor. But, at least according to feng shui principles, it drains energy from your home. If you spend about 25% of your day off tackling it, it will feel like time well-spent. 

You might consider blocking out your time and handling the productive portion of your day off first. Another idea is to coordinate at least a portion of your mental health day with your partner and find a way to play. It's fun, and you could frame it as an active way to improve the quality of your communication. 

But remember, spend three quarters of your day creating joy, whether it's through movement, inhaling the fragrance of nature, or reviving a hobby, like painting.