Mental health is a global issue that deserves way more attention than it currently has. It is just as important as physical health, yet we rarely talk about it. People, especially in the workplace, fear to admit having mental health issues because of the stigma associated with it. As such, many employees would rather keep working even when they do not feel well enough mentally to function properly, than request mental health days at work.

However, your health should always come first and this might be the perfect time for you to check in with yourself to assess your mental health. If it is poor, this could be an indicator that you need to understand the signs you need a day off, learn how to take a mental health day, and how to spend it effectively.

What is a mental health day and why do you need it

Also referred to as a personal day, a mental health day is a day off from work dedicated to catering to your mental and emotional health. It mainly helps to reduce stress and prevent burnout. Although you can’t solve all your mental health issues in one day, taking this time helps with reducing the progression of some mental health issues, regrouping yourself, and improving your mood. It is also the perfect opportunity to address any stressors that could be bugging you.

For instance, going for a doctor’s appointment you have been putting off but keep thinking about. You will notice improved productivity and performance when you have better mental health. But how can you know you need a mental health day? Are there any signs you need a mental health day?

With the fast pace of modern-day living, it is easy for one to overlook their mental health. You work too much and have too little fun or downtime. If you haven’t taken a day off from work in a while, it might be time to take a break to practice some much-needed self-care for your mind, body, and soul. Read on to know the signs to look out for to know when you need to take a mental health day and how you can spend it.

Signs you need to take mental health day

1. You feel tired all the time

It is normal to feel tired after doing some work, especially if it involves physical activity. However, if you feel exhausted all the time, even when you haven’t done much, there might be an underlying problem. Some of the reasons you could feel like this include; a sedentary lifestyle, being too active, diet, poor sleeping habits, and mental health problems.

You probably have been overworking, and your body is experiencing burnout. Fatigue is one of the most common symptom of mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety. You need a day off to relax, unwind, and recharge.

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2. You are tense

If your job requires you to meet daily/monthly targets or work under tight deadlines, being tense can become your norm. Tension is one of the early indicators of stress. You find that you can’t relax until you have finished or submitted work before a deadline. You could even feel guilty for having fun or doing anything else when you haven’t yet accomplished a task. This can become overwhelming, and you could feel like you are wound up tight and might snap at any moment.

If you are too tense, it could manifest as unexplainable head and body aches, jaw and tooth pain, muscle pain, fatigue, as well as chest tightness. This could be a sign you need to relax and loosen up by taking a mental health day.

3. You are easily irritated

Do you ever have days where you have no patience for anyone or anything? Everything makes you angry. You can hardly tolerate other people and might start to act out or be rude to others. If you start to get into arguments with colleagues, family members, and friends constantly, even over small things; it might be time to take a step back and check in with yourself.

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4. Restlessness

Have you been feeling nervous, apprehensive, breathless, and restless more often than before? This could be an indicator of anxiety. You feel like you are constantly on edge and hence stay on guard in case something bad happens. You might also experience regular panic attacks.

Furthermore, being restless can lead to sleeping problems because your mind can’t calm down enough to rest. While working, you cannot sit still, and instead, you are either fidgeting or moving around, hence affecting your productivity. You can use your mental health day to help you sort out your emotions.

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5. You have trouble focusing

One minute you are busy writing up a report, and then you somehow find yourself sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole, with no idea how you even got there. Or you are working then suddenly remember you have unpaid bills or any other things going on in your life. Ever wondered why you keep getting distracted and zoning out while working?

Some things that affect your ability to concentrate include fatigue, lack of sleep, too many plans, and multitasking. It feels like there are too many tabs open in your brain, and your thoughts are scattered. Taking a mental health break will be perfect to help you declutter your mind and improve your focus.

6. You don’t love your job anymore

No matter how much you love your job, you need a break from it at some point, or you will start to hate it and begin to exhibit self-sabotaging behaviors. If you started out loving your job but have developed negative feelings towards it for no apparent reason lately, it might be time to utilize your leave days.

Spend your mental health day off on self-reflection and relaxation if you are experiencing burnout. Remind yourself why you loved your job in the first place and evaluate what has changed that could be causing your disinterest in it – and then come up with a plan on how to address the issues.

7. Disturbed sleep

Why is it so hard to fall or stay asleep, yet you are tired? Why do you keep thinking about what you need to do tomorrow? Why can’t your mind stop racing? Lack of sleep is associated with many health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, as well as mental and emotional health issues.

Not sleeping well for a few nights is not cause for alarm. However, when you start to experience regular sleepless nights, this could be a sign of poor mental health. It could be that you are overworked, work in a toxic environment, or are anxious about losing your job.

Anxiety keeps you in a state of hyper-arousal that makes it difficult for your brain activities to slow down enough for you to sleep. You need a mental health day to try to catch up on sleep or form a new sleep routine.

8. You are too emotional

You are probably an emotional person, and that is okay. You are human and having an emotional response to things or events is normal. It shows people what you are feeling. However, when you notice that you are experiencing unexplainable crying episodes, there could be an underlying cause. It might be because you feel overwhelmed with work, other events unrelated to work, or you might be suffering from a mental illness. The most common of these are bipolar disorder, stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Crying has numerous benefits for your mental health as it is a way for the body to eliminate toxins, relieve pain, and enhance your mood. When you notice you are crying more than you usually do, the best thing is to take a mental health day to see a professional.

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9. You keep getting sick

Does it seem like you are always getting sick nowadays? You had a cold last week. You had some other ailment the other week. This could be your body’s way of communicating with you that you need to slow down and take a mental health sick day. Research indicates that there is a connection between stress and physical illness. Stress weakens the immune system, thus making you more susceptible to viral infections. Finding ways to de-stress should be on your list of things to do on your mental health day.

10. You feel lonely and isolated

Effects of the quarantine period might have finally caught up with you. Loneliness is a complex phenomenon because everyone experiences it differently. One person could be alone without feeling lonely while another could be lonely while surrounded by people. Loneliness occurs when your need for social contact or interaction is not possible.

Prolonged periods of social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness that might result in your having negative thoughts. This could be an early sign of depression, and if identified early enough, you can prevent it by taking a mental health day.

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How to spend your mental health day effectively        

There is no specific way to spend your mental health day. Everyone is different, and you have to find what helps you de-stress and get your energy back up. However, you can spend it doing any of these activities and find out what works for you. Here’s how to take a mental health day and how to spend it.

Things to do on your mental health day

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Unplug from work completely
  • Get out of the house and go for a nature walk or explore your neighborhood
  • Connect with your friends and family.
  • Address the issues you have been putting off e.g pay your bills, go to a doctor’s appointment.
  • Relax by meditating, yoga, listening to music, or make a spa appointment
  • Unpack your feelings by writing them down
  • Aromatherapy for anxiety
  • Do something you love
  • Eat healthy foods 
  • Exercise
  • Read a good book
  • Go to an appointment with a therapist
  • Binge-watch your favorite shows
  • Do nothing(and it’s perfectly okay)


Getting a sick day from work when you have a specific, known illness is easy because you can tell when you are physically ill. However, knowing when you need a mental health day is not as easy, and many people do not even realize it until it is too late. Unfortunately, most people are hesitant to request mental health days at work because of the stigma associated with it; thus, risking their health and lives. You should be aware that you are the only one who will suffer if your condition becomes worse. If you are showing any of the above signs, it might mean you are not in a good place mentally or emotionally, and you need to take a mental health day. Use the above tips to spend your mental health day effectively.

Have you ever taken a mental health day? If you have, how did you spend it?


NOTE: If you are struggling or need someone to talk to, please reach out to a friend, family member, or call these hotlines for help: Suicide prevention hotlines for all countries.


This is the first installment in the Mental Health Awareness Month series by Aisles of Life. Read the other posts in the series here:

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Read more articles from Aisles of Life here.

27 thoughts on “10 Signs You Need to Take a Mental Health Day (and how to spend it)

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It is truly a very important topic and I wish everyone would talk about it.
      I will be doing several articles on it in the coming days because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to do my part.

      Liked by 1 person

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