If we are going to get through a bad mental health day then we need to start by being honest for a moment and acknowledging the fact that mental illnesses can be exhausting which means that there will be days when you just cannot be present!
Even though mental illnesses are invisible and to do with chemicals and the brain, they still have a massive effect on the body and your energy. Every time I find myself in a high state of anxiety, for about 2 days afterwards, I am absolutely drained and functioning is a real struggle.
On some of those occasions, I take a sick day from work because you are entitled to mental health sick days – a bad mental health day is not less important than the flu and when I say I cannot, I really mean I cannot:
- I cannot get dressed
- I cannot be bothered to make food
- I cannot be bothered to speak to anyone
- I definitely cannot go to work
- I cannot be bothered to do the basic essentials such as: brush my teeth; brush my hair; drink water; go outside
- I cannot exercise
- I cannot parent beyond the bare minimum effort
If you’ve never felt this way then it may seem hard to imagine having so little energy in that moment to do those things but the best way I can explain it is: imagine working a 48 hour shift with no sleep only to be told you need to do another 24 hour shift on the back of it. Those 24 hours would seem impossible. You would be exhausted mentally and physically and possibly burst into tears at the thought of another minute of working.
That’s how I feel when I absolutely cannot. The thought of just “doing” is enough to reduce me to exhausted tears.
So for those of you who have experienced this and know it is going to happen again, what can you do on these days to make it a little bit easier?
- If you work, definitely take a sick day. You are entitled to a mental health day without feeling guilty.
- Put on your comfiest clothes – whether that’s an old tracksuit or your softest pajamas. It’s not getting changed as such but it is making sure you’re warm and comfortable.
- Eat whatever is available that doesn’t take much effort: toast, cereal, biscuits with your hot drink, a banana, a ready-made protein shake. Keep it quick and simple.
- Try to brush your teeth just for your own comfort. Teeth fur is not a nice feeling for anyone. The hair can be left for another day.
- Do not push yourself to do more than your body is able to. The laundry can wait. Outside can wait. Messages can wait. Your body and mind cannot.
- If you’re a parent, don’t feel guilty. Your children will remember the good times and “the day we had a duvet day with mummy/daddy and watched lots of films and ate lots of junk food” is definitely not going to be a bad memory. If they’re in school, the day you wore a tracksuit and hat to pick them up, gave them pizza for dinner and let them on their tablets or whatever – again, not the worst thing they’re ever going to remember.
- Sleep when you feel like sleeping (set an alarm if you have a school run) and don’t feel lazy. Your mind and body are trying to recover enough to keep you going – let it.
- Cancel any plans you know you can’t make. Your friends will understand if you tell them you’re having a bad mental health day. I once missed one of my oldest friends birthday dinners because I was withdrawing from a medication and I just couldn’t face being out of my house, let alone trying to mingle with some people I didn’t know. She never held it against me.
- Be kind to yourself. This is not the worst thing that could have happened and there’s always tomorrow. Allow yourself to take things one day at a time and respect your bodies need to protect and love you in the only ways it knows how. It’s got you this far and yes, it’s not always ideal but you have survived. You are a warrior and you can recover.
When was your last “just cannot day? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!