Author By Jor-El Caraballo, Talkspace Therapist
Posted: August 13, 2018
Everyone has their own way of embracing self-care and addressing their mental health. It’s important for your mental well-being and can provide a valuable reset that leaves you more positive and productive going forward. Today, we’re sharing some secret tips from a therapist on the best way you can spend your mental health day.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
The first key to taking care your mental health, which is often overlooked, is to get a good night’s rest! So the night before your mental health day, make sure to give yourself a block of at least 8 hours of sleep. If you’re not a particularly good sleeper, you may want to block off as much as 9-10 hours for sleep as interruptions during the night might leave you feeling tired throughout the day. And don’t forget to set your alarm clock just out of arm’s reach so that you can’t just roll over and hit that snooze button.
Set Goals for the Day
When you wake in the morning, start your day with a few minutes of intention setting. Starting with setting plans or goals for your day will help you feel balanced and grounded before you get into the world of catching up on the news, or returning calls and emails. Spend a few minutes thinking of the goals that you would like to achieve today and set the tone for yourself.
Once you’ve taken the time to set your goals, sit down and make yourself a nutritious breakfast. This usually means a breakfast full of variety. Sorry, but a donut and coffee doesn’t cut it anymore. Studies suggest that a rich and hearty breakfast can help improve mood and mental performance throughout your day. There may even be a ideal breakfast for those living with depressionsymptoms. Skipping breakfast altogether is not recommended. Those who regularly eat breakfast have been shown to have less depression, a lower stress response, and generally live healthier livesthan those who don’t.
After your breakfast settles, the next best thing you can do is to engage in some moderate exercise. If you’re feeling really full, you may want to avoid intense cardio (maybe save that for later), but a low-impact workout such as stretching or yoga can help loosen up muscles stiff from the night’s rest. Exercise can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure as well as make you less susceptible to the stress of the day. After you’re done, be sure to take care of your daily grooming, like showering and brushing your teeth to help you feel fresh and rejuvenated.
Do Your Mental Work
If you are fortunate enough on your designated mental health day to take a day off from the office, now is a good time to engage in some mental work. This could include completing some challenging work from your to-do list or problem solving around some bigger tasks. With a well-balanced breakfast and some exercise under your belt for the day, you are primed to perform with focus and clarity. Take advantage of it and challenge yourself. In the end you’ll also end up feeling a great sense of achievement for putting forth effort, which is great for your mental health!
In the midst of that work, don’t forget to take some time a little later to eat a balanced lunch. This is a good time to work some leafy greens into your day as they help slow down the process of cognitive decline and may even prevent dementia long term.
Do Your Emotional Work
This may also be a good time to tackle some of the emotional issues you’ve been facing. What are you going to do about the anxieties you face daily? How are you going to follow up with your boss after making a mistake at work? This is a good time to engage in some robust problem solving or reframing, otherwise you may spend your evening turning over these things in your mind, greatly impacting your restfulness and sleep.
After lunch, get back to tackling some things on your to do list or you can spend time reconnecting with friends and loved ones. Spending time socializing is great for your mental health, whether that be going out with friends for a bike tour or spending time catching up with grandma. Making regular human contact is a big part of being mentally well. Social isolation is linked to several mental health conditions such as social anxiety and depression, among others. And if you don’t currently have friends or other loved ones that you can connect with, this is an opportunity to engage in a group activity to potentially make new friends.
Take a Nap
If you’re like me, then after engaging with friends and doing some work you may need a little down time. If you can swing it, why not take a short nap? Naps have been long proven to positively impact mental performance. Just don’t make it too long as it might disrupt your sleep for the evening. It only takes about 20 minutes of napping to reap its benefits, so keep it brief! If you’re not a fan of naps, this is also a good time just to delve into something that brings you joy. That can mean anything from reading a book to getting in some additional exercise or even practicing meditation. Whatever you choose, just make sure to utilize that time for yourself.
Luxuriate and Eat a Light Dinner
After a nap is good time to luxuriate in something you enjoy until dinner time. At dinner time eat a slightly lighter meal. Eating less at night might be better for your weight, your glucose levels and metabolism, helping you to get better rest and feel more balanced energy-wise. And we all know how hard it can be to be well when we don’t feel well!
Reflect on the Day
Spend the early evening hours winding down and taking it easy. Before bed, set aside some time to reflect on the day’s events or journal. Practicing the GLAD technique, a gratitude practice that can help improve your mood, might help you with an extra dose of positivity and set you at peace before bed time.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
For many of us, the evenings are when all the not-so-great stuff tends to occur to us. Anxieties about work, personal issues or grief, or other emotional concerns tend to stake their claim on our evenings as we spend most of our days trying to fend off these ills. By making time earlier in the day to work through challenging emotional material, and leaving positive stuff for night time, we set up ourselves up for successful sleep.
These are just some points to consider in your mental health day. If you are able, it may be worth it to throw in an exercise class, some spa treatments or other holistic therapies to help you feel restored. This is a template for you to make them most of your next mental health day.