Check Your Vibes: How To Have The Best Mental Health Day Ever

Actress Ellen Burstyn, who still has a bustling career and packed schedule at 81-years-old, told Anna Sale of the podcast Death, Sex & Money that she celebrates an odd day off with what she calls “should-less days”:

“I have what I called should-less days. Today is a day where there’s nothing I should do. So I only do what I want to do. And if it’s nap in the afternoon or watch TV, and eat ice cream, I get to do it. I had that kind of day yesterday…Should-less days, I recommend them. Because, what I figured out is we have wiring. I have wiring in my brain that calls me lazy, if I’m not doing something. ‘God you’re so lazy’—can’t imagine whose voice that is? And that wiring is there. I haven’t been able to get rid of it. But what I can do is I can put in another wiring, I can put in should-less days, so when that voice goes off and says ‘you’re being lazy,’ I turn to the other wiring in my brain that says, ‘no, this is a should-less day, and I’m doing what I want.'”

Does that sound painfully familiar or what? Burstyn implies that it took her much of her life to master the art of taking a mental health day, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to wait until you’ve undergone decades of self-growth to get there. Hell, you can take one tomorrow if you want! Our society likes to condemn laziness, but tell me, so long as you don’t have a child or a pet solely dependent on you to get up and care for them, what is so morally bankrupt about spending a day in bed? That hurts exactly no one. You know what’s way worse than physical laziness? Emotional laziness. That’s the kind of laziness that’s harmful to yourself and to everyone you love, and that’s what you’re practicing if you’re stuffing away feelings you don’t like and generally refusing to be honest with yourself and others (which, in this case, means ignoring your own blatant need for a mental health day).

I don’t blame you if the idea fills you with guilt, because we live in a culture that encourages that, and because if you care about your coworkers and the job you do, the last thing you want is to leave anyone hanging at work. In this economy, we’re fortunate to be employed at all, and doubly so if we have a job that allows us to miss a day without threat of getting fired or losing pay, so it can’t help but feel a bit ungrateful or counterintuitive to take a random day off. But honestly, taking the time recharge back to your full capacity is doing everyone a favor, especially your employer, because you’re way more efficient when you’re rested and ready to take on the day.

Still not convinced? Here’s why you need a mental health day:

Here’s how you know it’s time for you to take that mental health day ASAP:

When you’ve at last decided to take a day off, here’s how to make it count:

It really is that simple! Just you watch how much better you’re going to feel the next morning. If you’re not sure what your ideal version of “doing nothing” is, try one of these deliciously unproductive but emotionally beneficial activities:

It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re kind to yourself and allow for lots of rest. It may seem frivolous, but sometimes this is what making your health a priority looks like! Life regularly  means powering through things we don’t want to do, but it’s also meant to be enjoyed, and spending a day doing exactly that better equips you to find joy in your busy everyday life when the going gets tough again. When you’re back to your frazzled schedule, try to prevent excess burnout by making an effort to ditch the draining people in your life and keeping the good ones close, leaving a tiny bit of wiggle room in your schedule should you need a night off now and then, and spending some quality alone-time with yourself for even 5-10 minutes a day so you have a second to collect your thoughts. The most conscientious among us, the ones who cringe at the very thought of taking a day off for no reason, are usually the ones who need a mental health day the most. If nothing else, do it just to prove to yourself that the sky doesn’t fall when you take a break!

Vice Week is our seven-day exploration of all the indulgences that surely will ruin us sooner than we can imagine. But hey, what a way to go. You can check out all of our Vice Week coverage here.