Saving Our Sanity: Why Taking a Mental Health Day is a Positive Thing

We’ve just come off a beautiful three day weekend full of sun, family, friends, and fun. If you’re anything like I am, getting up in the morning this week was extra rough. Maybe you sat in your car a second or two longer trying to prolong the weekend feeling. Or, maybe if you’re even more like I am, you considered calling in “sick.” Sunburn counts as a kind of sick right? As the weather gets nice it’s harder and harder to be stuck at work and “mental health days” are thought about more often. Americans have the tendency to be work martyrs and dedicate themselves so much to their job that they leave vacation time on the table. Though some would call taking a “mental health day” irresponsible, sometimes taking a break from work is needed. Here are five reasons playing hooky for your health is a good for you.

Mental Health Day

You’re Burnt Out

In 2015, 55% of Americans left vacation time on the table combining for a 658 million days unused. Millennials are some of the greatest culprits of this, wanting to prove themselves and disprove the label of lazy and entitled that has been given them. Sometimes we work so hard to accomplish something that we actually end up sabotaging ourselves. Taking even just one day to recharge will help refresh your mind. When you return, you’ll have more energy and mental capacity to tackle your project with increased vigor!

It’s Preventative Medicine

It’s no secret that stress can lower your immune system. When project deadlines are drawing near and you have meetings that are taking up most of your day, it’s easy to become stressed. Though it may seem like a bad idea to take a “mental health day” during these times, it might actually be a great idea and save you in the long run. By taking a day to relax and let your body heal itself, you will be better equipped to stave off that nasty summer cold that’s being passed around. Taking one day for yourself while you are feeling well is much better than a taking a week and being sick.

You Will Improve Relationships

We all talk about wanting a work-life balance, but how many of us really have it? We are always accessible, even when we take vacations, we still take calls and answer emails. Even if it takes a second, you are still distracted from what is happening in front of you. My fiancé and I have had many a heated discussion about work interrupting our time as a couple. I won’t lie, we’ve both taken coordinated days off and played hooky together and it’s always a wonderful day. Since we are “sick,” we usually don’t get bothered and are able to focus fully on one another.

You Can Shorten Your To-Do List

As a bride who has less than 6 months to her wedding, my to-do lists are quite lengthy. If you’ve ever been involved in planning a wedding you know it is pretty much a second job; I come home from work only to continue working on our wedding plans. But, even if you aren’t getting married, everyone has to-do lists and chores that are piling up. We can’t find the time or energy to complete them after work. Taking a day to catch up on your list can give you a great sense of accomplishment and help lower your stress levels. You can then carry these feelings over to your work the next day!

You Can Learn a New Skill

You’re burnt out, stressed, bored even. You perform the same tasks day in and out. You have deadlines approaching and you’re anxious.You feel like you’ve stagnated and maybe you’ve lost a few brain cells. Taking a mental health day can help get you out of the funk you’re in. Just because you called off work doesn’t mean you can’t be productive. Take a weekday class or head to the library. You can learn a new skill or research a topic you are interested in. Passionate about giving? Take a day to volunteer. You’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll have exercised your brain in a different way. You may even be able to use your new skills in the workplace to your advantage.

These are just some of the many reasons taking a break from work can be a positive thing. We tend to feel a “real” reason to call off work is needed and forget our wellbeing should be reason enough. As long as you are not making a habit of unplanned call offs, taking a day for yourself can be positive and helpful in the long run.

5 Ways to Prioritize Your Time During the Holidays


Thanksgiving is behind us. We all returned to work this week with full stomachs and a growing to-do list. This time of the year always seems like a whirlwind, in the office and at home. If you are like me, you make a list of all the things you need to accomplish before the holidays and the end of the year, all the events you have coming up, and what you still need to run to the store to pick up. As I make this list, I grow anxious, and at times overwhelmed. We’re busy all throughout the year, but there’s something about the holidays and the coming new year that makes it seem even more urgent. How can we make the most of the last month of 2016? Here are five ways you can prioritize your time, fit in all your holiday activities, and make strides in the office as well.

1. Make a List – “He’s making a list and checking it twice…” we all know how the rest of the song goes. Hey, if it works for Santa it should work for us too, right? We all have multiple to-do lists; one for work, another for home, shopping lists, and more. Keeping lists is a great way to organize your thoughts and get a game plan together. I know it’s a simple suggestion but that’s the beauty of it.

2. Keep a Routine – This time of year is all about traditions; try to keep to your routine as much as possible during the day. This will help you stay focused, especially in the work place. Not deviating much from your normal routine will help you be less stressed and able to work more effectively.

3. Delegate – During this time of the year there is usually family around; or maybe you have/know some kids who are looking to score a few extra brownie points before the big guy in red comes down the chimney. They may not be able to help you with office work, but you can definitely use those around you at home as a resource. One less thing on your mind and your to-do list will help you concentrate on bigger more pressing tasks.

4. Categorize – When you made your list I bet you noticed that some overlap. When working through your list, complete tasks that are related rather than jumping all over the place, it’ll save you time, energy, and even some sanity.

5. Reflect – Another big part of the holiday season is reflecting on the year that was. As you rush to finish all your work, take a moment, step back, and reflect. Take time to evaluate what truly needs to be completed and what can wait until the next year. Some things you will not be able to complete in this short period of time. Recognizing this will help you be less stressed and more successful in completing the projects that are time sensitive.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of the season. We all feel pressure from many directions–from work, from our family, and from ourselves. We want everything to be perfect. By taking time to step back and prioritize our work, hopefully the holidays will be less stressful and we will be able to enjoy the season and each other.

Do you have any other suggestions for prioritizing during the holidays? What type of tasks do you have on your to do list in December and how are you conquering them? Let’s help each other create a strategy for the best way to accomplish our goals in this last month!

How to Cope with Stress During the Holiday Season

October has passed and the days are getting shorter and shorter. For the last month or so Christmas displays have been slowly occupying more space at retailers. The holiday season is upon us. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or so the old song goes, but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. On top of our already busy schedules we are all preparing for the festivities, visiting family and friends, and shopping (oh so much shopping). This is the time of year that retailers begin to see a profit (hence Black Friday), and other industries are working to wrap up projects before heading into the new year. With all of this going on it’s easy to become stressed. During what is marketed as the most joyful time of the year, how can we best cope with stress during the holiday season?

 What is Stress and What Causes It?

5242760927_cc8f6ca24d_bGood Question! Stress is very difficult to define because it can differ from person to person. What may cause one person great anticipation and agitation, can cause little to no effect on others. Public speaking is a common stressor for many people, however for some speaking in front of others is enjoyable and easy.

The National Institute of Mental Health gives this explanation of stress;

“Stress can be defined as the brain’s response to any demand. Many things can trigger this response, including change. Changes can be positive or negative, as well as real or perceived.”

There are also good stressors. Good stress or eustress is caused by beneficial emotions like excitement and in anticipation of positive events like riding a roller coaster or preparing for a big date. During the holiday season there is a lot of eustress around as well. If you are like I am, preparing your home for family visits or the excitement of decorating the Christmas tree are things you look forward to this time of year.

So what causes stress? Again, that’s a rough question to answer as it varies from person to person. There are some common stressors though, especially during the holidays, like money, family, time management issues. The American Psychological Association put together a report in 2006 outlining how holiday stressors impact us; of those interviewed for the report 85% stated that lack of time is their greatest cause of stress during the this time of year.


Again, each person will react to stress differently; but, by being able to identify the symptoms of stress we can either learn to avoid what triggers such a response and how to best cope with it. According to the Mayo Clinic here some of the most common symptoms of stress are:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

Coping Methods

If you start to notice you are exhibiting some of the symptoms above you can combat those feelings by using some of these coping methods:

  • Take time to breathe: During the holidays we can feel like there is not enough time to get all of our tasks done and lose ourselves in the throngs of fellow shoppers at the store. By taking a moment to just breathe and center yourself you can renew your focus and conquer your tasks.
  • Exercise: If you are feeling frustrated and restless work off your anger and excess energy by working out. My go to activity during stressful times is running. It gives me time to myself and I literally run off my stress. If you aren’t up for a heavy cardio session or the weather isn’t cooperative, think about yoga (you can do some breathing during this too), or walking on the treadmill.
  • Treat yourself: You’ve spent all day shopping for others grab yourself something nice, maybe some nice comfy PJs to snuggle up in later. Or, maybe you need some you time, pick up a candle/bubble bath in your favorite scent and take a bath that will soothe your aching muscles.
  • Make time for yourself and for sleep: This time of year the days grow shorter (don’t forget to move those clocks back this weekend!) and our lists of tasks grow longer. As you are running around completing your to-do list, make sure you pencil in time for yourself to relax and prepare for sleep. If you can set aside at least a half an hour before bed to unwind. Make sure this time does not include your cell phone or computer where you can be distracted by work, or holiday project planning.
  • Take time to laugh: Though sometimes our friends and family can be the cause of our stress, they can also help us cope with it. During this busy time take the time to actually enjoy your company and have a good laugh. That’s what this season is about anyways, fellowship and joy!

Don’t let the stress of the coming holiday season get to you. Remember to take time to breathe and enjoy those around you. This time of year is about togetherness more than it is about the present and decorations.

Did we miss anything? What stresses you out most during this time of the year, and how do you deal with it? Please share with us!