I’m a firm believer that we should all be taking at least one self-care day a week.
Self-care days are SO important.
They allow you to sort of reset your mental health, rest, and head into a new day with a fresh mindset.
The worrying thing is, so many people view self-care as unnecessary and self-indulgent. Therefore, they feel guilty for practising it, especially if that involves taking a day off.
So they won’t take a self-care day until they’re at absolute breaking point. Sometimes not even then.
But think of it this way: If you have the flu, you would take some time to recover.
Why is your mental health any less important than your physical health?
In this post, I’m going to explain to you why. However, if you’re short on time, you can jump to:
What is a self-care day?
A self-care day – a.k.a. a mental health day – is a day that you completely dedicate to self-care.
I always recommend taking at least one self-care day a week to really look after your mental health.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m telling you to fork out loads of money at a spa every week. Self-care comes in many forms – it can even ‘just’ be resting.
What’s important is that you take at least one day a week off work for YOU, to do things that make you feel good and to look after your own wellbeing.
(FYI, International Self-Care Day is on the July 24th every year.)
Why is taking a self-care day so important?
Self-care is looking after even your most basic needs as a human being in order to maintain your mental, physical, emotional, financial and social health.
Every day, we carry out small acts of basic self-care (or at least we should), such as:
- Brushing our teeth
- Taking a shower
- Drinking water
- Taking our medication
When you’re in the depths of depression, these small self-care activities are a big deal and can go a little way towards digging you out of that deep hole.
However, self-care does go deeper than that and includes everything from setting boundaries, to journaling.
There are so many ways we can take care of ourselves that we don’t even think of.
For me, having at least a day completely dedicated to self-care not only helps improve my mental health and mindset overall, it works as a preventative for depressive episodes.
How do I give myself a self-care day?
I always recommend planning out your self-care days in advance.
While you should be carrying out basic self-care, such as brushing your teeth and drinking enough water, every single day, over the course of the week, write down what more in-depth self-care activities you want to do on your day off.
Think about what activities make you feel good, mentally, emotionally and physically.
Plan them out and then take a full day dedicated to doing them.
If you’re struggling for self-care ideas, I’ve got a ton for you later in this blog post.
5 signs you need a self-care day
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken a self-care day and you’re wondering if you should, the chances are you do need one.
However, here are some more signs that you need to.
#1. You feel mentally ‘done’, ‘checked out’ or low
Do you ever wake up and your brain has just ‘noped’ out of life?
You can’t process simple thoughts or tasks; you’re frustrated, tetchy, and you just CAN’T do anything stressful or taxing.
This is me if I don’t take regular self-care days. And it always ends with me feeling burned out.
I do a bit of recreational crying*, take some long strolls with the dog, eat some good food, and basically watch YouTube videos and Twitch streams in bed for two days straight.
(Crying is actually really good for your mental health. Not only do you usually FEEL better after having a good cry, it’s been scientifically proven that it helps release emotion and sad tears are chemically different to happy tears! Seriously!)
If you’re feeling as if you’ve mentally checked out, it’s time to take a mental health day.
#2. You’re feeling anxious, ‘frazzled’ or tearful
One of the first signs that I need to take a self-care day is that my anxiety really begins to come to the surface.
While my anxiety is always there, most of the time, I can keep it under control.
When the heart palpitations, breathlessness and tearfulness start to creep in, I know it’s time to get a handle on it and rein it in.
If you’re beginning to feel a bit frazzled, tearful, stressed or quick to snap, it’s time to take a day off for your mental health.
Take a step away from any stressors you experience, take some walks, try to get some proper sleep, and relax.
#3. You’re exhausted all the time
If you feel like you’re exhausted all the time, this might be an indicator that you need to take some time off.
When you’re over-stressed or your mental health is poor, your sleep patterns are usually all over the place, which can lead to you struggling to sleep at night and being tired all day.
What’s more, one of the main symptoms of depression is a lack of energy, which is a sign in itself that you need to take a break.
Taking some time off just to rest, even if you’re not sleeping, is a crucial part of self-care.
Make sure you eat well, drink plenty of water, and try to establish a regular sleep routine.
#4. You’re feeling under the weather
Oftentimes, it’s really common for poor mental health to present physical symptoms.
Depression, for example, can often present itself as aches and pains.
If you’re feeling generally unwell or as if your health isn’t 100%, you need to take some time to yourself in order to rest and recuperate.
Perhaps you’ve got a bit of a head cold; maybe your appetite has disappeared and you’re feeling a bit sick; perhaps your body just feels sore and tired. This is all a sign that your immune system and health need a reboot.
Don’t be ashamed to take some time to yourself just to recharge, eat some good food, drink some fluids, and rest.
#5. You have a shorter fuse than normal
If you’re usually pretty good at containing angry outbursts but you’re finding your fuse is shorter than normal, you probably need to take a self-care day to blunt off those edges.
I’m usually a pretty easy going, calm person. It takes a lot for me to snap at people. This means that when I do find myself sniping and snapping at those around me, I know I need to take a step back.
If I’ve not had a proper break in a while, I’ll find myself irritable and taking it out on other people, which isn’t fair and it’s not what I’m usually like.
If you’re the same and finding your fuse shorter and shorter by the day, take a mental health day and practise some self-care. You won’t regret it.
What are some examples of self-care activities?
Self-care is probably one of the most basic ways you can take care of your mental, emotional, physical and social wellbeing.
So, why don’t we all practise it nearly as regularly as we should?
Despite increased awareness, we’re still too shy to take a ‘mental health’ day from work because we’re scared of being laughed at, not taken seriously, or even fired.
We rarely take a rest or time for ourselves because we feel guilty for not working 24/7, and we hardly ever take a step back to try and balance all the balls we’re juggling.
With this in mind, here are a few of self-care activities.
They range from basic, everyday self-care for when you’re feeling really sh***y and just want to be a slug, to pretty intensive self-care that’s not essential but can transform your mindset.
#1. Get out of bed + make it
I know you don’t want to and it can be really hard when you’re feeling like you’re worthless and you have zero energy but just getting up can seriously help.
Just getting out of bed and making it improves your mental health in a few ways.
Firstly, you’ve accomplished something for the day, even if you’re feeling depressed, and it also prevents you from climbing back under that duvet.
#2. Brush your damn teeth
One of the least ~glamourous~ parts of depression is complete apathy when it comes to personal hygiene.
People who’ve never experienced a depressive episode will never truly understand how low you have to be in order to forgo simply washing.
I know it’s hard, but, if you’re depressed and struggling to find the motivation to do just about anything, please try to brush your teeth.
It’s amazing how good just brushing your teeth and rinsing with some mouthwash can make you feel.
#3. Have a shower/bath
Whether it’s a quick shower with your flatmate’s shower gel or a tepid bath combined with dry shampoo, just wash yourself.
Set aside your favourite products and use those.
#4. Breathing exercises / meditation
Breathing exercises are amazing for relieving anxiety, while meditation can help clear the mind.
I really recommend meditating for a few minutes every day and looking up some additional breathing exercises if you suffer with anxiety.
#5. Get dressed
I’m not telling you to get into your old prom dress that’s been hiding at the back of the closet. Some sweats and a hoodie will do… as long as you didn’t sleep in them.
#6. Drink water
I know, I know.
People seem to act like drinking water is a miracle cure and I never listened to it in the past but drinking a tall glass right after you get up makes you feel way more awake.
Plus, you kind of need it to survive.
#7. Tea… lots of tea
If you suffer from anxiety you may want to switch to decaf but… tea solves everything.
If you don’t like regular ‘British’ tea, try herbal tea (the Huffington Post have a handy post on tea that help reduce stress and anxiety), hot chocolate, or another warm, comforting beverage. ESPECIALLY during the colder months.
#8. Eat a balanced meal
I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy a load of exotic fruit so you can lovingly craft a fruit salad. Because I’m not about that life so I don’t expect you to be.
Plus, when I’m depressed, I don’t want to leave the house and all I want to do is munch on comfort food.
Therefore, while I say you need to eat a balanced meal, make sure it’s something you genuinely enjoy.
Just eat something.
#9. Speak with someone you love
It doesn’t have to be over the phone, but a light-hearted chat with someone who knows you can work wonders.
#10. Makes lists
I make lists for everything.
Stuff I need to do, stuff I want to do and stuff that someone else needs to do.
If you’re feeling swamped, make a list of everything you need to do.
Trust me, just seeing your tasks laid out on paper can lift a weight. I honestly couldn’t cope without my journal.
#11. Listen to Music
Listen to music that you love and makes you want to dance like nobody’s watching.
I have a dedicated Spotify playlist for this because I’m pretty extra, but it’s awesome.
#12. Do something creative
Whether it’s drawing, singing or playing an instrument, find a way to vent through your creativity.
That could be picking up your guitar and thrashing out Slipknot riffs, or it could be scribbling a black hole onto a piece of A4 paper.
As long as it makes you feel better, do it.
#13. Speak to a professional
If you’re having days that are so bad that you need to consistently force yourself to get out of bed or look after yourself, you need to speak to a mental health professional.
They’re not there to judge you or pick apart your behaviours – they’re there to help you.
One of the most basic self-care tips I can give you is to reach out because I didn’t for so long and the problem only got worse.
You can seek help by going to your doctor and asking them to point you in the right direction, searching for a therapist to contact directly, or getting online therapy from a reputable company that works with trained professionals, like Betterhelp.
#14. Keep up with your medication(s)
While the debate for and against taking mental health medications, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), rages on, I took the choice almost four year ago to visit my doctor and get prescribed anti-depressants.
And it honestly saved my live.
However, many find it difficult to stay consistent with their meds, which only exacerbates their mental health problems.
PLEASE keep up to date with the medication your doctor has prescribed and don’t come off them unless you BOTH agree this is the right decision for your mental health.
#15. Take a nap
If you’re tired, take a nap. Your brain will thank you.
There’s a huge different between lying in bed for days on end and simply taking a quite 20-minute (cough-two-hour) power nap.
#16. Attend your therapy sessions
If you’re undergoing therapy, such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), make sure you actually GO.
If you’re getting online therapy, make sure to be online and present when your appointment is due.
It can be tempting to skive off – tackling your demons isn’t usually fun – but the routine will help ground your mind.
Plus, you learn some valuable tools and coping mechanisms for dealing with your bad mental health days.
Journaling every morning has been nothing short of life-changing for me in recent years.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend using journal prompts (I have tons on this blog), as well as:
- Practising gratitude
- Setting goals/intentions
- Scheduling in your self-care (I have another post on how to make time for self-care, if this is something you struggle with)
- Writing affirmations
#18. Move your body
Exercise is indisputably amazing for our mental and physical wellbeing, but it can seem like a chore.
It doesn’t have to be.
The trick is finding a type of exercise that you enjoy doing, whether that’s yoga, walking, lifting weights, or simply dancing around your living room.
This way, you won’t dread it and will find it much easier to stick to.
I also invite you to try out a short stretching or yoga routine in the morning to help work out those kinks.
#19. Repeat affirmations
Repeating affirmations, whether out loud or in your journal, can help to boost self-esteem and improve your mindset.
#20. Do shadow work
Shadow work is delving into your inner child-self and exploring your shadow traits in order to heal from the past and grow as a person.
It can be uncomfortable and certainly doesn’t feel like self-care, but, trust me, it is.
#21. Set boundaries & learn to say ‘no’
Setting boundaries is a massive act of self-care that people often don’t think of.
You don’t have to lend your time, energy or emotion to people who don’t deserve it.
Set and enforce boundaries so that you minimise your time and exposure to people and situations that don’t serve you, or that negatively affect your wellbeing.
Learn to say ‘no’ to events, people and tasks that do the same.
You’ll thank yourself later.