7 Things Therapists Always Do During A Bad Mental Health Day

If you’re human, it’s simply impossible to go through life with no bad mental health days. Whether coping with a negative experience, dealing with a life change or just waking up in a low mood, not feeling 100% mentally or emotionally is just a part of life.

Exactly what a bad mental health day looks like will vary from person to person — some folks may feel scattered or stressed while others feel low energy and tired. No matter what one of those rough days feels like for you, it’s safe to say it’s unpleasant. And you certainly don’t want to do anything to make your hard day any worse.

Even therapists have these days ― and there are certain things they personally do to care for themselves when they happen. Read on for their advice:

1. They make sure their physical needs are met.

“I generally start by taking an inventory of where my physical needs are and if they’ve been met or not that day,” said Em Evans, a therapist and co-founder of The Understory Group in Pennsylvania.

This can mean making a literal list of physical needs, Evans said — “Did I take my medication? Am I drinking enough water? Have I gotten enough sleep? Have I eaten an appropriate amount of food for that point in the day? Have I moved my body in a way that makes me feel good?”

Evans added that a lot of times when she’s dealing with a bad mental health day, “I don’t notice that my physical needs have fallen behind and that can really perpetuate the cycle.” Meaning, if you’re not fueling your body with food, water and other necessities, you won’t be doing any favors for your mental (or physical) health.

2. They reschedule the things they don’t need to get done.

When you’re having a tough day, it’s a good idea not to put any additional pressure on yourself — who wants to be met with a lengthy to-do list when it’s tough to even get out of bed?

Nat Adey, a therapist and the other co-founder of The Understory Group in Pennsylvania, said on bad mental health days it can be helpful to assess what needs to get done today and what can be pushed to later in the week.

“Because, sometimes, being productive is just a layer of stress that we don’t need,” Adey said.

“I also remind myself to give myself grace,” said Payal Patel, a licensed marriage and family therapist who works with clients in North Carolina and New Jersey. “And that things will get done when I’m feeling better.”

So, yes, the vacuuming can happen tomorrow. That pesky errand can wait until the weekend. That ongoing work project likely isn’t going to collapse if you hold out a few more days until you’re in a better headspace.

3. They avoid making big decisions.

“I personally try to avoid making any big decision, whether it’s planning a trip with somebody or making a big medical decision,” Adey said. “If I’m not in the right headspace, I’m not going to be making any decision that could impact my life for the permanent future or just foreseeable future.”

Think about it: If you’re not in a good headspace you may end up agreeing to something you don’t really want to do or making a decision out of anxiety and not careful thought.

fStop Images – Winnie Au via Getty Images

Resting can be a good way to take care of your mental and emotional needs.

4. They get outside.

Nature is known to be good for your mental health. Studies show that being in nature can boost happiness and going for a stroll in nature compared to a busy environment can reduce stress.

If possible, Patel said she gets herself outside when she’s feeling down — “a quick walk or even to sit outside for a little bit of time,” she said.

5. They prioritize movement.

It’s well-established that exercise can help you feel less stressed and can help you feel better emotionally, so when you’re not in a great head space getting in some movement could be a good idea.

“I’m a big proponent … of moving my body, and whether that’s just going for a walk or doing some yoga or going for a run and doing something a little bit more intense, I find that movement usually really helps [to set] my day in a different direction,” said Adey.

Even if you can’t motivate yourself to do your regular HIIT class or long run, try a short walk or a gentle stretching class instead. Any kind of movement can help.

6. They connect with other people — and not on social media.

Evans said she tends to isolate when not feeling like her best self, which only makes her feel worse. “And kind of hand in hand in that I try to limit my social media usage as well,” Evans said. “I can get caught up in an endless cycle of scrolling, which just makes me feel kind of zapped and drained.”

“But, in addition to that, when you’re isolating yourself in the real world, and yet, staying on social media for hours … it can give you the illusion that you’re connecting with other people,” Evans added.

Liking someone’s Facebook post isn’t the same as actually sitting down to talk with them about their update. “So I try to make a conscious and intentional effort to go and connect with friends, loved ones,” Evans noted, adding that it’s also helpful for her to be in a physical space with other people, like a park or coffee shop.

“I feel like your bad mental health days really invite you to turn inwards, and for me, at least, it takes conscious and intentional effort to turn and allow myself to connect with other people and maintain the connections that foster my best mental health space. So that’s, that’s kind of where all of my strategies start,” said Evans.

7. They rest.

“During bad mental health days, I focus more on resting as much as I can,” Patel said. This can mean anything from napping to simply lying on the couch to rest her body, she added.

“I won’t force my body to do more than it’s capable of,” stated Patel. And, a hard day, simply moving from your bed to the couch may be all you can handle — and that’s OK.

When you aren’t feeling your best, you shouldn’t expect yourself to be as active as normal. Instead, you should lean into the stillness that can eventually help you build up more energy and do the things that you like to do.