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Guide to Taking a Mental Health Day at University

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University life can be hectic, with tight schedules and heavy workloads. As such, keeping up with everything and functioning at your optimum level can be overwhelming.

Sometimes you need a break from the demanding and stressful university routine. That’s where mental health days come in. No, not the kind you take from your job to go to the spa. We’re talking about the sort of break you take from your university life to focus on your mental health.

A mental health day is a day entirely devoted to self-care. You might use this time to go back to your room, catch up on sleep, or stay in bed and read a book. You might also use it to do something fun that you’ve been putting off.

Here are four signs you need a mental health day at university:

1. You’re Exhausted

Mental exhaustion or burnout is a genuine and recognized threat to university students. University culture has normalized laboring hours over assignments, committing to a demanding job, participating actively in extracurricular activities, and maintaining a social life. While you may successfully manage all of these initially, being engrossed in the same exhausting cycle for months may lead to burnout.

Extended burnout periods can even cause depression and anxiety – all of which may collectively damage your health, your relationships, your grades, and more. A mental health day can help you prevent or recover from burnout. A day or two off your tiresome routine can help you rewire your brain and your body.

2. You Feel Burnout Coming On

Burnout may present itself in different ways. For instance, you may feel tired all the time, but you force yourself to commit to your strict daily routine. You might also feel overwhelmed with your workload, yet you manage to submit everything by its set deadline. You could also be missing out on ample sleep to maintain attendance at university and work.

At any given moment, you have tons of things to take care of, and while it may seem okay on the outside, you know on the inside that you’re becoming increasingly tired and exhausted. If you resonate with these feelings, you may just be on the brink of experiencing burnout. It’s time to hit pause! Take a break to prevent complete mental and physical exhaustion, and just relax.

3. You Get Sick More Often

Stress and illness are interlinked. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of American students reported stress-induced physical symptoms.

Stress can take its toll on the body. It weakens the immune system, exacerbates any health conditions, and makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Prolonged stress can contribute to severe conditions like depression, anxiety, asthma, diabetes, and more.

Stress may even hinder recovery from minor ailments like the flu. If you’re struggling to recover from a cough or a cold, try to assess the stress you experience daily and take a break from study and work. Doing so can give your body the time and energy to recover.

4. You Have to Deal With Personal Problems

As a university student, you’re probably already juggling enough stress day-to-day. But the added drama of a personal issue can really throw you off your game. Sometimes it’s tough to know what to do when a problem has you feeling down.

You may have a breakup, a problematic relationship with a colleague at work, or an ailing loved one back home. In such situations, it is crucial to take a mental health day because nothing is as important as your well-being.

How to Spend Your Mental Health Day?

So, you have decided to take a mental health day at university! That’s great, but how are you going to spend that day? If you don’t have a plan, here’re some simple activities to unwind, relax, and recharge your mind and body:

  • Chill in bed
  • Exercise a bit
  • Take a walk around University of Alberta off-campus housing
  • Call a loved one
  • Catch up on sleep
  • Meditate
  • Take up a DIY project
  • Watch a movie or spend time outdoors
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Take a short trip to the park
  • Cook and eat a delicious meal

Sometimes, a mental health day may be just what you need to go back into your routine feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever lies ahead. Of course, it’s best to only skip a day of classes if your attendance has already been great, you’re not missing any important deadlines or exams, and you know someone who can share notes with you. Otherwise, missing class might only compound your stress, so be sure to plan a time when your coursework is lightest.

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