9 Ways to Get Through a Bad Mental Health Day


I blearily roll over to face my arch nemeses singing it’s morning “song.” I turn off my alarm clock and think, “you have got to be kidding me,” before I even roll out of bed. It’s one of those days: The days you wish you could stay at home all day in the soft, warm comfort of your bed. If my work offered mental health days, I’d sure as hell be taking one, but alas, there is no such thing at my work and I’m fresh out of sick time, so I begrudgingly get out of bed to face the day I wish didn’t exist.

I think we’ve all been here: a bad mental health day. Maybe you know it as soon as you wake up or perhaps it takes a few hours to sink in, but there’s no doubt about it: if you could skip it, you would.

Most of us aren’t offered “mental health days” at work. We’re usually lucky if we’re offered paid sick time and if you are living with chronic mental illness, that often gets used up pretty quickly. Unpaid time off isn’t an option between the bills to pay and keeping human resources at bay, so I’m left with trying to will myself through at least 12 hours until I can go back to bed. Here are some of the tactics I’ve relied on to make it through the rough days:

1. Appeal to Your Sense of Smell

A sensational soap, a tranquility inducing essential oil or a delightful candle (not recommended at work) can work wonders for your sense of well-being.

2. Pamper Yourself

This could be as simple as massaging your hands with a thick and luxurious lotion or as extravagant as getting a manicure (by a friend or by a professional if you have the expendable income). There is something to be said for treating oneself especially well, which can often increase one’s overall feeling of appreciation for one’s body.

3. Emergency Session With a Counselor

Many counselors have appointments in their schedules set aside for those in a mental health crisis. Even if you aren’t in crisis, it’s worth reaching out to your counselor to see if they have any cancelations or no-shows if you have a flexible schedule. The power of talking it out is not to be underestimated. Sometimes all you need is someone to validate your experiences.

4. Take Your Medication

Most psychiatric meds are fairly long lasting, so this one is more preventative than reactionary in the majority of cases, but taking your meds now (if you take meds, that is) might mean a better chance of a quick recovery. In the case that you do have fast acting medication for acute symptoms: no guilt, no shame – take the medication! That’s what it’s there for.

5. Take a Shower

This one is extra hard for me, but I always do feel better after getting clean (especially if I use an aromatherapy sugar scrub – just saying).

6. Connect With Community

Whether this is your partner, your best friend, your family, a co-worker, or your online community, connecting with people who get you and what you are going through is hugely validating, healing and restorative.

7. Lower Your Expectations of Yourself

Don’t expect to get a whole lot done today. The only thing you should expect is for your body to keep breathing and pumping blood for you – everything else is high-achieving. All you have to do is get through this day. No one said it has to be pretty.

8. Appeal to Your Sense of Touch

Hold a love one’s hand, feel a fuzzy blanket, hug a cherished stuffed animal — find some way to put yourself in contact with someone/something warm, soft and comforting and feel it work it’s healing magic.

9. Say “Goodbye” to Guilt and Shame

There is nothing wrong or abnormal about you. You’re human and having a bad day like all humans do. Don’t believe those self-loathing thoughts in your head cheapening your sense of worth. You are not what you accomplish. You are worth more than your productivity or achievements. You are OK just as you are.

This is by no means a fool proof plan. Doing these things will not ensure that your day turns out great or that your poor mental health episode will end; but I’m willing to try just about anything to make those bad mental health days even just a little bit more manageable and these are the realistic actions that have gotten me through to another day. I hope they offer you some reprieve as well.

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Getty image via KatarzynaBialasiewicz


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