By Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau

Clinical Director

Bowen Center

I can feel it when I have been pushing myself too hard for too long.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a rope getting more and more frayed at the edges and I know I have to call a time out for myself. It’s important to check your emotional well-being on a regular basis.

When you feel burned out or notice that you don’t have your typical capacity to handle stressors, it might be time to consider a mental health day. Quite frankly, one day by itself will not cure burnout but it can provide you with a much-needed break.

If you are proactive about scheduling periodic mental health days, it can help maintain your emotional well-being. Maintenance is always much easier than trying to come back from burnout.

If you are strategic about scheduling these days in advance, you can schedule your projects around this time, which will help you to actually relax and enjoy your time off. Maintaining your emotional health also requires scheduling time each day to destress.

Research is clear that daily mindfulness or meditative practices are excellent ways to maintain overall emotional well-being. Additionally, physical exercise, good nutrition and sufficient sleep are crucial practices to maintain emotional health.

Everyone has their unique threshold for dealing with stressors and we all have different tells when we are not coping well. Some of the warning signs to watch for include problems with sleep, chronic fatigue, difficulty with focus and memory, irritability and mood swings, frequent illness, poor decision-making, heavy use of caffeine/stimulants to get through your day and decrease in productivity.

If you are wondering if you have already reached the stage of burnout, it might be helpful to take a quick questionnaire like the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory. If you have truly reached a state of burnout, you are going to need much more than a mental health day to fix things. Consider connecting with a mental health therapist if the task of resetting seems daunting or if you feel like you are not having much success with this on your own.

Utilize your mental health day well. This is not the time to tackle your “To Do” list at home but really a time to do things that you find restorative, relaxing and reenergizing.

We have all seen the memes about indulging in a glass of wine as big as your head. While laughter is always a good strategy to help restore and recharge, excessive use of alcohol or other substances will only make you feel worse, not better, and will really exacerbate the problem in the long run. Do what works best for you, but if you are not generally good at relaxing, you may want to consider things like investing your time sleeping more than usual, eating good food, spending time in nature, enjoying the company of loved ones, exercise, meditation or engaging in a hobby.

Whatever you do, don’t overbook or over plan your mental health day. Pick one or two things you want to do and allow time to just be without any obligations or watching the clock.

On your mental health day, it is also good practice to detach from electronics, the outside world, and especially work.