Every person needs a mental break. It is absolutely crucial for both your mental and physical health.
In our information and media driven world, the average person consumes 34 gigabytes of information per day. To put that into context, that is 23 words per second for 12 hours straight. Over the course of a 12 hour day, that is roughly 105,000 words.
It is not only your job that requires such a high rate of consumption, but life as well. App notifications, tv shows, podcasts, news articles, conversations, etc. all add up throughout the day. The result of such a high volume day-in and day-out is cognitive fatigue.
Cognitive Fatigue is exhaustion of your mental capacity. Similar to physical fatigue experienced after rigorous exercise, cognitive fatigue is experienced after extended periods of rigorous information processing.
As cognitive fatigue sets in, focusing on even minor tasks will become difficult, stress levels will increase, and the ability to handle complex issues properly will decline. These are symptoms that, if left unaddressed, will transition into conditions such as chronic anxiety and depression. Thus, it is important to take mental health days.
As you consider the importance of taking mental health days, consider the following suggestions to decompress your mental queue:
Take a Vacation
The most immediate and obvious suggestion is to take a vacation. There are many immediate benefits of taking a vacation, such as:
- Reduction of anxiety and stress.
- Improvement in overall life satisfaction.
- Reduction in pressure from work deadlines.
However, the benefits are not only immediate and fleeting. Studies have demonstrated the long term effects on employee health due to yearly vacations. Those include:
- Longer, healthier lives.
- Increased ability to handle high stress situations at work.
- Overall reduction in the stress hormone known as cortisol.
So, if you are experiencing cognitive fatigue, it may be time to plan your next vacation.
Take a Break from Electronic Devices
If getting away from work is not possible for the moment, but still need to decompress, then consider putting down your phone and away from the television. Of the information processed throughout the day, over 70% comes from your phone, computer, and television. To put that into context, 23.8 gigabytes of the average 34 is consumed from electronic devices.
By taking just one day away from all electronic devices, you will have gained 73,500 words or 8 hours in your day. Using those 8 hours of time to connect with friends and family, meditating, or relaxing outdoors will leave you feeling refreshed.
Leave the Earbuds at Home on Your Next Run
Physical exercise is a great way to decompress from a stressful day. Studies over a decade have concluded that physical exercise will lead to a significant reduction of depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, and PTSD. You might say your mind needs physical exercise as much as your body needs it.
However, the mental benefits of physical exercise are limited every time you put those earbuds in. Especially if you listen to a podcast, or something that requires mental concentration, you are causing your mind to work, rather than relax. What could have been a great moment of reflection is lost.
So, do not limit the benefit of exercise on mental health. Leave the phone and earbuds at home next time.
Schedule Time for Meaningful Interactions Daily
It may sound silly to say “schedule” time for meaningful interactions, but we have already demonstrated the majority of our time is spent in consuming material rather than interacting with our environment. Therefore, it is important to schedule time daily for meaningful interactions.
Recent studies have indicated the importance of regular meaningful interactions with our friends, family, and colleagues. The benefits are similar to those of going on vacation or taking some time away from electronic devices. Regular meaningful social connection leads to a greater ability to handle stress, limits depression and anxiety, and has shown to lead to improved life longevity. Simply put, daily meaningful interactions improve overall mental and physical health.
It Is Important to Take Mental Health Days
It is critical to both mental and physical health to decompress from the continuous bombardment of information and media. The benefits of which includes a reduction in depression and anxiety and an overall improvement in life satisfaction and health.
As you consider how and what to do for a mental health day, consider the suggestions listed in this article. Though it is not comprehensive, they are small adjustments that can have an immediate effect for the better.