9 Signs You Need a Mental Health Day Off Work

The average American worker won’t request a mental day off work despite being stressed and overworked. A recent study found half the polled workers would hesitate to ask for a mental health day because they’re afraid their bosses would think less of them. Yet, sometimes taking a day off to prioritize your mental health is […]

therapist william snyder By William Snyder, LPC

Updated on Mar 22, 2024

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The average American worker won’t request a mental day off work despite being stressed and overworked. A recent study found half the polled workers would hesitate to ask for a mental health day because they’re afraid their bosses would think less of them. Yet, sometimes taking a day off to prioritize your mental health is a must.

This article will cover mental health days, including what they are, their benefits, and the signs that you may need some time to take stock of your mental health.

What Is Mental Health Day?

A mental health day is a personal day off work that allows you to focus on self-care for stress relief. It allows you to escape the rigors and stresses of your workplace for a day or two and improve your mental health and well-being. Disconnecting from work when feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed can significantly improve your mental and physical well-being.

The core idea of a mental health day is to help you recover to your optimal mental health levels and minimize work disruptions. The rationale is simple: If you can take time off work to fix your body, you can also take a break to heal your mind. 

What’s the Significance of Mental Health Day?

At a personal level, a mental health day lets you safeguard your mental health and prevent burnout. It lets you deal with spiking stress levels before they compound and become chronic. Chronic stress reduces productivity while increasing susceptibility to various mental and physical illnesses that lower your quality of life. Taking a personal day off protects you from such an unfortunate outcome. 

According to the World Health Organization, anxiety and depression cost the world economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity. Such results galvanized the organization to champion the fight for improved mental health awareness in the workplace. WHO declared 10th October the World Mental Health Day to help raise mental health awareness and support. 

9 Signs You Need a Mental Health Day

If you exhibit any of these signs, it could mean that you’re stressed and should take a mental health day. 

1. You’re Feeling Burned Out

Help Guide suggests that burnout can sneak up on you over time if you do not take breaks and manage your stress levels. The cumulative result of immense, relentless pressure leaves you in a perpetual state of physical exhaustion. Burnout leaves you feeling empty, emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and overwhelmed. Besides sucking the joy out of your life, burnout takes a toll on your health. It lowers your immunity and increases vulnerability to diseases such as colds and flu. 

2. You’re Temperamental 

While anger is a natural human emotion, it may intensify when you’re under pressure. The psychological response to anger triggers tension and anxiety, including elevating blood pressure, increasing heart rate, and raising high-stress hormone levels. If kept unchecked, chronic anger is a precursor to mental illnesses such as chronic anxiety, depression, or substance abuse disorders. If the slightest inconvenience sends you into a rage, you should take some time off to relax. 

3. You Dread Going to Work 

You may not love your job, but you should derive a reasonable amount of joy and satisfaction from it. Therefore, if the thought of going to work leaves you brimming with dread, something is wrong. High-pressure and toxic workplaces often elicit such emotions since you’re constantly on edge. Taking a mental health day off can help you relax and recharge as you try to figure things out.  

4. Your Health is on a Downward Spiral

Chronic stress has far-reaching consequences on your health. When faced with a stressful situation, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol. Stress hormones keep your brain alert, increase your pulse, and tense your muscles. These short-term solutions help you deal with a threat or a stressor. When you’re chronically stressed, these reactions become your baseline, causing your body to stay alert all the time. Unfortunately, that weakens your immune system and puts you at risk of various health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart diseases.  

5. You Have Trouble Sleeping 

When you’re stressed, your brain may become restless. You’ll think excessively about work, school, or other factors that have you backed against the wall, depriving you of the ability to enjoy quality sleep. Chronic stress triggers your body to release more stress hormones, further disrupting your ability to enjoy restful sleep. That may cause you to develop insomnia, which is associated with poor health outcomes.

6. You’ve Changed Your Eating Habits 

The hormones your body releases when it is stressed may alter your eating habits. For a short term, the hormone epinephrine may suppress your appetite during a stressful situation. However, when the stress persists, your body releases cortisol which may ramp up the motivation to eat. Usually, when we are stressed, we tend to indulge in unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar. According to the Harvard Medical School, your body craves comfort food to counteract stress and dampen stress-related emotions and responses. 

7. You’re Imbibing Too Much 

Alcoholic beverages are a common but dangerous stress coping mechanism. You may want to check your stress levels if you’re going through your wine or alcohol stash faster than usual. While drinking may help calm your nerves, it’s a terrible choice for stress relief, and there’s a risk of dependency. Heavy drinking may alter your brain chemistry and impact how your body perceives and responds to stress. 

8. You Significantly Lack Motivation 

Chronic stress can lower your motivation and change your worldview for the worse. It can drastically reduce your quality of life and leave you feeling helpless. You may find that you no longer enjoy your favorite things and can’t shake the feeling that everything is lost and hopeless. It may take a herculean effort to do even the simplest things, such as getting out of bed in the morning. If everything in your life feels like a chore, you should take time off and re-strategize. 

9. Unexplained Physical Symptoms

Chronic stress can negatively impact your health and saddle you with many unexplained illnesses. It weakens your immune response system by raising immune suppressors such as the catecholamine and T cells. That increases your susceptibility to viral infections such as colds and flu. According to the American Psychiatric Association, chronic stress increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart problems, and respiratory diseases. Altered acid concentration in the stomach may lead you to develop colitis and ulcers. 

How to Ask for a Mental Health Day Off Work 

There are no hard rules about asking for a mental health day off work since it’s the equivalent of a sick day. However, you should approach the process tactfully, depending on your work environment. While some workplaces fully embrace mental health, others may not appreciate its value and place. 

It’s advisable to configure your approach to requesting a mental day off work to suit your current circumstances. If your employer champions mental health, you can explicitly ask for a mental health day off. Conversely, if mentioning it may lead to stigmatization, consider asking for a personal day off or sick off. 

A national poll by the American Psychiatric Association found that workers refrain from discussing mental health issues at work because it could lead to retaliation or job loss.  

Here’s how to ask for mental health day off without fear of retaliation or stigmatization: 

If you’re a student, check your school’s policy on mental health days. State legislators are increasingly encouraging school policies that allow students to prioritize mental or behavioral health.  

What to Do During Your Mental Health Day

The best activities should leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed, and reinvigorated. They include: 

Avoid any activities that subject you to negative consequences later. These may include an indulgence in alcohol or drugs, eating unhealthy foods, or spending time with friends who may drain your energy. 

Remember to seek professional help if you worry you lack the skills and strategies to overcome your current situation. 

Benefits of Taking a Mental Health Day

Besides giving yourself a much-needed break, taking the day off can help clear your perspective. It allows you the time to rethink your life and career and make plans to adjust accordingly. Some of the benefits of a mental health day include: 

Improved mental health: A proactive mental health day allows you to decompress your emotions and recharge your mind. It can help lower stress levels and provide new insights to handle work challenges. 

Heightened productivity: The restorative therapy of a mental day off allows you to refocus your mind and spikes your ability to concentrate. You can get work done faster and improve your productivity and job satisfaction. 

Improved health and well-being: Regular mental health days let you nip the effects of stress in the bud. It allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle unencumbered by the effects of chronic stress. It enables you to develop coping mechanisms early, so you’re not overwhelmed by stress and anxiety

Enhanced emotional resilience: Taking mental health days allows you to develop a robust internal locus to overcome everyday setbacks and challenges. It enables you to build a road map and emotional resilience to take future obstacles in stride. 

Most people suffer from burnout because they don’t understand their limits. Scheduling mental health days lets you establish a clear baseline to learn to recognize the early warning signs of burnout and take proactive measures. 

Take Charge of Your Mental Health

Scheduling mental health days off work is the most cost-effective way to safeguard your mental health and well-being. A proactive mental health day allows you to slow down, recharge, and take stock of your life. By taking a mental time out, you may be able to realize what triggers you can control, and take preventative action to reduce those in the future.  

You may use your sick days, PTO, or weekends to focus on stress relief. If you feel overwhelmed by your current stress levels, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist can equip you with coping strategies to help you to take charge of your mental health. Grow Therapy can help you find a therapist who meets your needs and accepts your insurance. 


  • The frequency of mental health days comes down to your specific circumstances, stress levels, and mental health needs. You may schedule a mental health day every few months or take unplanned breaks as needed. It’s your choice!

  • Taking a mental health day off is a personal decision. You should take one if you experience prolonged stress or exhaustion or find it difficult to concentrate. Trust your instincts and listen to your mind and body.

About the author
therapist william snyder William Snyder, LPC

William Snyder is a licensed professional counselor who works with adults experiencing symptoms such as anxiety, depressed mood, loss and grief, identity and self-concept difficulties, relationship problems, life-transition difficulties, and traumatic memories.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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