If you’ve ever considered whether a mental health break is worth it, I’m here to tell you it is. A mental health break is best defined as separating yourself from stressful situations, experiences, people, or activities to promote positive mental well-being. And while I can’t speak scientifically, I can say that personally, they’ve helped me manage my bipolar disorder. I’ve utilized mental health breaks over the years to decrease the symptoms of depressive episodes, overwhelming anxiety, and debilitating chronic pain. Looking back, I realize how beneficial they were in helping me to rebound faster and confront serious issues in my life.
Benefits of Taking A Mental Health Break
It Helps You Process Your Emotions
Life is complicated. And it’s easy for our emotions to become a tangled mass of confusion. And when our feelings rule us, we can easily make unwise choices or get caught in poor situations. Additionally, our emotions reflect our thought lives. So if we’re sad and dejected, our thought life will match these emotions causing us to feel worse.
Hence, taking the time to slow down and process your feelings is crucial. Taking a step back allows you the space to gain perspective. Spending time with yourself in quiet introspection will enable you to sift through your emotions to determine your feelings.
Doing this means you’re better equipped to make decisions, handle stressful situations, enforce boundaries, or make any necessary life changes to protect your peace. Additionally, your thought life improves and increases feelings of positivity and hopefulness.
It Allows You Space to Grieve and Heal
There are various situations aside from losing a loved one that stirs grief within us. For example, problems such as financial stress, breakups, divorce, ending friendships, being diagnosed with cancer, or managing a chronic illness can trigger grief.
Working through the stages of grief can help bring closure to the situation and allow you to find peace and move forward. This process isn’t easy and takes time for everyone, but it is a necessary part of healing.
It Allows You to Get Professional Help
Sometimes the struggle of managing your mental health alone becomes too great to bear. And while having the space to rethink and reframe your situation is good, it’s not always the best option to do so alone. Hence, I recommend working with a licensed therapist to deal with mental health issues such as depression, severe anxiety, significant life changes, or intense grief. Getting professional help will help you navigate these life events while helping you deeply process your emotions and experiences.
Additionally, they can help you develop the skills you need to confront these issues healthily and positively. You’ll develop strategies, learn habits, and modify behaviors that keep you stagnant. Then you get to implement these practices as you work on getting better.
It Gives Your Brain A Break
When you take a mental health break, you can allow your brain to disconnect. A great way to accomplish this is to step away from work responsibilities and ditch the never-ending to-do list. Instead, focus on activities that allow you to destress and relax. For instance, spending time in nature, exercising, reading, or enjoying a favorite hobby.
In addition to reduced stress and anxiety, you’ll also experience improved focus and concentration. You’ll be able to dedicate attention to tasks and projects without feeling scattered. Additionally, you’re more detail-oriented and have enhanced motivation.
It Helps with Managing Mental Illness, Disorders & Learning Disabilities
Living with mental health complications and/or a learning disability can be complex. The daily grind can quickly become cumbersome and overwhelming, especially in a world with few accommodations for those with these conditions. So, taking mental health breaks becomes a necessity.
Strategic utilization of mental health breaks helps with the alleviation of symptoms. These breaks can help accomplish all the benefits mentioned above and aid in managing and treating the condition. I’ve found that taking frequent, shorter mental health breaks have helped with managing my bipolar by preventing the onset of full-on depressive episodes. Thus, increasing my quality of life.
How Do You Know You Need A Mental Health Break?
Are you Feeling Overwhelmed?
If you’re consistently feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, regardless of the cause, it’s time to explore stepping back and taking a break. This feeling can also accompany a general sense of dread, discontentment, fear, or anxiety. And they impede your ability to function in your daily life.
Do You Lack Motivation?
You’ve lost the desire to do any and everything. Even the things that you enjoy. Your focus and concentration become impaired, and you don’t feel as capable as usual. Additionally, you’re bored and procrastinate more often than usual. And you may feel dissatisfied with your life or career. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to make it through the day, looking into taking some time off may be beneficial.
Are You Overly Tired?
Another sign that a break is necessary is if you’re struggling with excessive tiredness. This is especially true if you feel exhausted after sleeping seven to eight hours each night. While it’s common to hit a slump in the afternoon, it’s uncommon to feel constant tiredness throughout the day. These feelings of sluggishness are enough to interfere with your quality of life, making work and various activities hard.
Are you Easily Irritated & Triggered?
Do you find that you’re getting unreasonably irritated and angry with loved ones and co-workers? Do small things trigger you and set you off? The world is a stressful place. And things aren’t always how we’d prefer them to be, and we may lose our temper occasionally. However, experiencing issues with an extremely short temper could indicate that your mental batteries need recharging.
Are You Going Through A Major Life Event?
A significant life event, such as losing a loved one or divorce, will impact your mental health. It’s normal to experience grief and struggle with depression. Taking time for yourself allows you to navigate these life changes healthily. During this time, you’ll want to prioritize seeking professional help and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family.
Planning A Mental Health Break
Suppose you feel that taking a mental health break benefits you. Knowing what actionable steps you need to take is essential. The first is identifying how long of a break you need. For some taking a day off work by calling in sick or prioritizing quality time to rest and relax over the weekend and scheduled days off is adequate.
On the other hand, this may not be enough time if you’re navigating severe mental health complications or dealing with the underlying issues of a major life event. In this instance, scheduling time away from work or school is imperative.
You must arrange time off if you have work or school commitments. Regarding work, you’ll want to speak with your manager about using paid time off and scheduling your work break. Doing so ensures that any responsibilities with projects and tasks are passed off to someone that can handle them while you’re away.
On the other hand, with school, you may want to explore taking a semester off to allow yourself space to address complex mental health issues or life events.
What to Do During A Mental Health Break
During your break, it’s crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional needs. Those needs will dictate how you spend your break and what you’ll do. But a few ideas for how you’ll spend your break include:
- Getting adequate rest and sleep
- Moving your body and exercising
- Eat well-balanced nutritious meals
- Enjoy hobbies like reading, gardening, or enjoying a favorite TV show
- Spend time away from social media & technology.
- Seek professional help and get counseling.
- Journal your feelings.
- Reflect and set goals.
- Organize and declutter your home.
On the other hand, there are certain activities that you’ll want to avoid. An article in Very Well Mind shares five activities you’ll want to avoid, which are:
- Limiting social interactions that prevent you from destressing (think negative toxic people)
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Poor dietary choices and overeating
- Negative thinking and wallowing in your feelings
- Spending excess time on social media
These behaviors don’t allow you to destress and process your emotions healthily. Instead, they contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, making you feel worse. Remember, a mental health break aims to identify what’s causing your mental distress and provide solutions for addressing those issues.
An Important Consideration
While there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental health break, it’s essential to prioritize mental health every day, especially when managing a mental illness. Being responsive to your needs and creating an environment where you can thrive mentally helps decrease burnout and makes managing symptoms easier.
Ideas to make mental health a part of daily life include:
- Create a monthly mental health reset where you utilize a weekend for a mental health break.
- Engage in regular therapy sessions throughout the year.
- Find hobbies that allow you to destress and relax.
- Take regular breaks from social media
- Develop well-balanced routines and habits
- Exercise and move your body regularly
These are just a few examples of how you can make mental health a daily part of a healthy lifestyle. Thus, preventing burnout and poor mental health. The more active you become about mental health and well-being, your mental health will improve.
If you’re struggling with mental health or substance abuse and need assistance, please call the SAMHSA Hotline at 1-800- 682-HELP (4357). They are a bilingual 24/7 helpline providing free, confidential aid for treatment referral and information service for those facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.
If you’re struggling with hopelessness and despair and contemplating suicide, please reach out for help and contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988.