Everyone has bad days, but how you handle a bad mental health day can be the difference between one bad day and an entire bad week. As tempting as it may be to stay in bed, eat ice cream, and binge on Netflix, it’s not the best way to feel rejuvenated and get back on your feet.

When you’re feeling upset and overwhelmed, it’s important to take time to practice self care. Start easy: Focus on getting out of bed, getting dressed, and attempting to feel mostly human. Once you’re there, try one of these uplifting activities that can calm your mind, feed your spirit, and boost your mental health.

Relax in a Home Spa

You don’t need to have a whirlpool tub to enjoy a spa experience at home. To create a relaxing spa-like setting at home, carve out a time where you’re guaranteed uninterrupted privacy and gather some basic materials: speakers for music, candles, and some scented bubble bath or essential oils. When paired with a soak in a hot bath, soothing music, dim lighting, and relaxing aromas like lavender or cedar wood can come together to create an experience that transports you far away from the worries of the day.

When you’ve finished your soak, spend some time pampering yourself. That may mean giving yourself a home facial, creating a beautiful face of makeup, or curling up in a blanket with a good book. Whatever pampering looks like to you, it’s important to take time to relish the relaxation and not rush back into chores or work. Just be sure to do your pampering in a quiet, uncluttered room so you don’t get stressed out thinking about your home’s cleaning and organizational needs (you’ll address those another day!).

Get Some Exercise

Hitting the gym is probably the last thing you feel like doing when your mood is in the pits, but exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins that can have a huge impact on your mental health. The key to exercising on a bad mental health day is to do an activity that doesn’t feel like work.

Getting outside is a great way to exercise without feeling like you’re laboring away. Besides the benefit of getting your blood pumping, the sunshine itself may contribute to improving your mental health. Going on a walk in your local nature park, taking a leisurely bike ride, or even pulling weeds in the garden can function as meditative exercise to clear your mind while boosting your mood and energy.

If committing to any one activity sounds overwhelming, start by taking a short walk around the block and then see if you feel like doing more. If not, that’s OK too.

Plan for the Future

Bad mental health days can leave you feeling so overwhelmed with the stresses of the present that it’s nearly impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re having a rough day, spend time planning fun activities to look forward to. Focus on the things that you want to do, rather than all the things you have to do that are stressing you out.

Look at the calendars of your favorite music and arts venues to find shows you want to attend, plan a weekend road trip to a town you’ve never visited, or find the cheapest international flight destination and plan a hypothetical itinerary. Even if you don’t follow through on your ideas, simply dreaming them up can remind you that life isn’t all dreary, and give you something to look forward to as you slog through challenging days.

One of the most important things you can do on a bad mental health day is to not expect too much of yourself. Make a concerted effort to forget about all the things on your plate, and let feeling better be your ultimate goal for the day. And if you can’t achieve that either, don’t beat yourself up over it. Sometimes a day that starts out badly ends badly, too, and the best we can do is to try again tomorrow.


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