A new law passed in Washington State takes effect for the 2022-23 school year. It allows students to have an absence excused because they need to take a mental health day.
Before the new rules were passed, it was up to each school district to determine the validity of an excused absence for mental health wellness, visiting a counselor, or receiving behavioral health treatment.
A doctor’s note is not required to take a mental health day. “Mental health has as much significance as physical health, and is similarly important to one’s overall well-being,” said Bridget Underdahl, who works in the state’s superintendent’s office. []
The House and Senate unanimously passed the law earlier in 2022, and it was signed into law by the governor on March 11. This policy went into effect in early June, as most districts ended their academic years.
How to Create a Mental Health Day for Yourself
When you feel under pressure constantly or stress seems to be spiraling out of control, it might seem like an irresponsible choice to take time away from work.
Stress can come in many forms. We’re all affected by the news stories we see, how the economy performs, and the uncertainty of some relationships.
Those moments are when it is crucial to take time to care for your mental health. You don’t need to be one of the 47 million people who quit their jobs because they faced complete exhaustion.
Here are some ideas to help you enjoy a mental health day to recharge for tomorrow.
1. Get Some Exercise
Physical activities are linked to mental health improvements. When the 2020 pandemic lockdown happened, those who went outside to exercise had substantially lower levels of depression and anxiety than those who decreased their activities. []
Dr. Kimberly A. Yonkers serves as the Chair of Psychiatry at UMass Chan Medical School. She encourages everyone to move their bodies in joyful ways. “Carving out some time, even modestly, to move your body can be rejuvenating,” she said.
2. Drink Some Water
When life gets busy during the week, your priority might not be to have a healthy meal or to drink enough water. Your focus is on getting the job done.
That focus could be setting the stage for more stress. People with healthy eating patterns typically have more positive outlooks about their mental health compared to those who choose less healthy foods. []
Think about what you could eat right now that could support your energy. Don’t forget to drink lots of water, and then try to get some extra sleep.
3. Rest Doesn’t Always Mean Sleep
If you feel tired and overwhelmed by stress, take the mental health day to get a nap and catch up on your sleep.
When you have a problem getting to sleep, mindfulness apps and white noise machines can stop racing thoughts. Many downloads are free on Google Play or the Apple App Store.
4. Find Something You Love
Although having a day where you do nothing might sound like fun, it isn’t a great way to support your mental health. When there is too much stress, your productivity declines. If there isn’t enough, you’ll become complacent.
If you’re spending time alone, consider pursuing a hobby you love. Once you accomplish something in that activity, tackle a chore that needs to be done at home. Then return to another activity you prefer.
This pattern provides a greater sense of accomplishment, letting you see the power of taking time to care for yourself.
Can I Take a Mental Health Day?
Most employers offer sick days workers can take when they need a day off to focus on themselves. A growing number of companies provide specific mental health days as an added benefit.
If you work from home or are self-employed, it can feel like you cannot take time off. Block off a day in your calendar, don’t schedule work for that time, and enjoy the day.
Check with your employer or speak with your school district to determine what options you have when caring for your mental health. A proactive approach can help to limit the impacts that stress can create.
[] WA students can take mental health days as excused absences | Tacoma News Tribune (thenewstribune.com); [] New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic | CDC Online Newsroom | CDC; [] The longitudinal associations of physical activity, time spent outdoors in nature and symptoms of depression and anxiety during COVID-19 quarantine and social distancing in the United States - ScienceDirect; [] Food and mood: how do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? | The BMJ; [] QuickStats: Percentage of Currently Employed Adults Aged ≥18 Years Who Reported an Average of ≤6 Hours of Sleep per 24-Hour Period, by Employment Category — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2008–2009 and 2017–2018 | MMWR (cdc.gov)