Everyone needs a mental health break from time to time. Every mother has stood in the midst of yet another supermarket temper tantrum or a floor splattered with spaghetti and thought, “I just need a break.” The most respected CEOs have rubbed their temples and wished for just a five-minute timeout at one time or another. Even the celebrities everyone idolizes have their moments of needing to step out of the spotlight and take care of themselves for a bit.
The first step is defining a mental health break. It doesn’t need to be as extravagant as a magical trip to Paris or lounging on the beach for a week. A mental health break is a timeout from life that allows you to take a few deep breaths, clear your head, and refocus your priorities. It can last 10 minutes or 10 days, depending on your resources and how deeply you really need the break.
Signs it’s time for a mental health break
Everyone’s different, so you’re the best judge when it comes to recognizing your need to hit pause. We’ve listed some of the most common signs that you need a mental health break. If any of these signs resonate with you, chances are high that you’re past due for a little space from your life stressors.
- You’ve researched substance abuse recovery programs, 12-step programs, or therapists in your area because you know that you’re self-medicating with substances or food.
- You have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep all night.
- Your anxiety is high, and you don’t know why.
- You struggle to maintain focus or pay attention at work or school.
- You’re irritable and/or easily annoyed by others.
- Your moods change with no reasonable explanation. You’re happy, then you’re crying, and you don’t know why.
- It seems like you’re sick more than you’re well.
- You feel disconnected from the world.
- You’re uninterested in things that usually excite you.
- Your motivation for working toward new goals is nonexistent. It feels like you’ve given up on life.
How to get the mental health break you need
If you recognize any of those signs or just know that you need a break to care for your mental health, what should you do? You may not have the freedom to take one day off work, let alone enough time for a proper vacation. Perhaps you’re already struggling financially or spending money on yourself will only lead to guilt, making your mental health worse. The good news is, there are ways to tend to yourself that don’t require spending or taking a leave of absence.
- Spend time outdoors. If you hit a mental roadblock and feel the need to escape, even five minutes of fresh air can help restore your peace of mind. You may also want to commit to walking in a neighbourhood park every day at a designated time or exploring hiking trails on your days off.
- Start your day with a brief journaling session. Put pen to paper or type away on your computer for at least five or 10 minutes. Let your thoughts run freely. Getting your thoughts out in a private place can help you manage stress throughout the day.
- Enjoy a nourishing meal. If you can eat more nutritious foods every day, even better. At the very least, take a short break and reward yourself with fresh food full of natural flavor.
- Take deep breaths and shut out all thoughts for a moment. It’s like meditation but a little less intimidating. Just give yourself time to breathe and not think about anything at all.
If you feel like short mental health breaks just aren’t cutting it, perhaps it’s time to take a longer break, or get the help of a professional. A registered clinical counsellor can guide you to recognize the first signs you need a mental health break and show you how to take the correct steps to feel mental clarity. Wellin5 matches you with a counsellor who meets your unique needs. Get matched today.
Your mental health is important, so use all resources available to give yourself the chance to relax.
design.org – The Science Behind Mental Health Breaks
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Non-12-step Treatment Overview
apa.org – Nurtured by Nature
Wellin5.ca – How to feed your body for anxiety and depression