On Taking a ‘Mental Health’ Day

The idea of a ‘mental-health’ day was first introduced to me at the age of about 16 when the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist came out. The film starts with Michael Cera’s character, Nick, taking a ‘mental health’ day from school, which finds him burning mix CDs in honor of his lost love. Predictably, 16 year old me thought this film was amazing. At the age of 25 I haven’t watched it since, and I suspect I might not have the same feelings about it – so don’t take this as a recommendation.

Anyway.. at that point I didn’t reallyget  mental health days – I thought they were designed as a way to get out of school/stuff you didn’t want to do, and that you spent the day overdosing on carbs and feeling sorry for yourself. Turns out, that’s not (always) the case.
Confession time: I took a mental health day last week. My relationship isn’t crumbling, my family are mostly fine, and my friends are all just as sassy and hilarious as usual – so what prompted this? Honestly, I just felt really overwhelmed.

My PhD is on track, I’m still really enjoying the work, and I feel like I’m making progress at the right pace – whatever that is. One day last week I just wasn’t feeling it though. My alarm went off and I did the usual email-checking whilst still in bed, I got up, got ready and had breakfast as normal, and then I didn’t go into work. Instead I got some house jobs done (anyone else’s boyfriend not know that bedding should be changed regularly?!), I watched some really terrible TV, and I slowly got on with some of the less-brain tasking things on my to-do list. On paper, it wasn’t the most productive day.

The next day I went back into the office with a new sense of determination, I felt motivated again and I was excited to go to work. I don’t take these mental health days very often, but sometimes it’s really important to. If I hadn’t I can guarantee I’d had been horrendously unproductive, and grouchy and annoyed at myself as a result. So I guess the point of this post is to highlight the fact that everyone needs space every now and again, even if they do love their work. If you genuinely need a day away from whatever you’re doing then take time to step back; I was really glad that I did, and shockingly, the world didn’t stop when it realised I wasn’t sitting at my desk for one day.

3 thoughts on “On Taking a ‘Mental Health’ Day

  1. inascienceworld

    Hi Heidi! It’s great that you have spoken about this and your experience. I believe it is so important to develop self awareness (something I’m getting better at!) and understand you and your body. Some days motivation is high, sometimes the thought of going into work can seem too much. As PhD students we work so hard and there are stresses. If you’re exhausted or feel like you need a break then that’s ok! And if you do it’s important not to be hard on yourself about it. Enjoy the day off and start fresh the next day 🙂 That’s what I believe anyway! … and like you say – the world didn’t stop!


  2. HealthPsychTam

    Yes! I first learnt about mental health days when I was on placement in New Zealand, right after the earthquakes. People were actually able to say to their managers and supervisors ” I’m taking a mental health day tomorrow” and it was a completely valid reason for a ‘day off’. No explanation neccessary and no questions asked.

    I wish they would be more accepted. Ultimately, taking a few mental health day’s here and there could prevent burnout and the need to take extended periods of time off. So it’s a fantastic prevenatative measure!

    Thanks for posting about it 🙂


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