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Image from Pexels.

Everyone knows that allowing stress to buildup and boil inside of you never amounts to anything good. Usually it turns into a complete meltdown (cue flashback of hallowing out eggs for Spanish class on a Sunday night which turned into a full on tear-fest). And when school is the source of stress, it can become a real issue because obviously you have to go to school, and often times the weekends aren’t enough downtime. School is hard. It’s difficult to get up at six in the morning five days a week and spend seven hours at school and then come home to a huge stack of homework that you really don’t have the time or energy to do. It’s okay to give yourself a break sometimes!

Enter the glorious mental health day. It’s literally a lifesaver.

Last year I took approximately ten “sick” days. Ten whole days of school I just didn’t go to. Hey, junior year was stressful as heck! I stayed at home, watched TV, and relaxed. Oh, and I got an entire weeks worth of homework done in six hours. It wasn’t that I took easy classes or faked my homework. But chapters of APUSH and literature books seemed to melt away when I was watching Criminal Minds and not worrying about getting to bed before sunrise. It was refreshing. And to be honest, I did more work at home then I would have done at school.

The tricks to taking a sick day are to plan in advance and to be productive. If it’s Sunday night and you are already super stressed, think about the week in front of you and which day you have the least going on or the day with the easiest things to make up.

For example, if you have an AP Chemistry test on Tuesday that will become all free response if you have to make it up at a later date, you should probably stay home on Wednesday or Monday instead. Also, don’t be afraid to give yourself an hour or two in the morning to just chill out. Watch some Boy Meets World or listen to the new Artic Monkeys album. Just make sure you get to work at ten or so. Crank out some bio notes while you watch Law and Order reruns or at the very least take breaks in between sections. The point of a day like this is to detox and not put yourself in a pressure cooker and still getting ahead to create a less stressful week.

Pro-tip: Staying home on Monday has its perks. Usually not much happens on Mondays, plus you get a three-day weekend and you can get all the homework for the week done without feeling pressure.

When you take a mental health day and use it properly, it will make you feel better about everything. Getting a jump start on homework will obviously give you more free time in the week to go to bed early or study or hang out with friends. HOWEVER, you must not forget to go back and find out what happened when you were out. If you are like me and cannot self-teach math, spend a lunch in your teacher’s classroom learning the lesson. It will make a world of difference and erase any disadvantage of missing school. Also, do any makeup work the day you get it. Just trust me on that one.

Note: The correct reason for skipping school is because you are feeling overwhelmed and cannot handle physically being at school, not because you are afraid of that mean Stats test. Staying home to put off having to take a test or do a presentation will just make everything worse. Not only will your day be filled with anxiety and guilt, but you probably won’t study or review and will wind up doing worse than you would have originally. Be responsible. Get difficult tests over with and then take a day to recover later.

Some days you are just going to wake up and be filled with feelings of dread for the day ahead of you. You are going to feel like you just can’t get out of bed. And most of these days you should push through it and go anyways. But once in a while, cut yourself some slack and take a break from the real world. Your sanity will thank you later.

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the author

Kathleen is a Northern California native and incoming freshman at Washington & Lee University. She spends much of her free time obsessing over the future (not in a crystal ball way) and making plans to visit as many countries as humanly possible throughout her four years of college. She loves her dog Morton, Grey's Anatomy, and money. One day she hopes to become the perfect mix of Cristina Yang, Mindy Kaling, April Kepner, and Amy Poehler. Until then you can find her crying over how exciting life is and retaking the Myer's Briggs Test to make sure she really is ENTJ.

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  1. Katie on January 8, 2014

    If you have to take a skip day…. Do it on Thursday. You get all day to study for the inevitable Friday tests, plus any homework assigned, you have the entire weekend to make up.

  2. Vy on November 6, 2014

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been struggling with my mental health this year, so I’m glad that this article is encouraging people to give themselves a break.

  3. Zoey on April 5, 2015

    I totally agree with this post! This year (my Junior year) has been the most stressful year of my life, so I took about 10 mental health days as well. Now I’m getting straight A’s and I feel completely prepared for my AP test in a few weeks. Taking a mental health day doesn’t make you a slacker, it makes you human. Go for it!

  4. Savannah on September 19, 2017

    This is a great explanation. Last year (my sophomore year) I tried to limit myself to 3 mental heath days a semester (but also to not get upset if I felt the need to exceed that) and this year I’m going to try to lower it to two. I’m taking my first one right now and it’s been great – I’ve almost finished my book that’s due in a week, and I finished a season of New Girl at the same time. The only problem is I ALWAYS feel guilty. Today was a pretty good day to skip, all I really missed was recording a presentation with a partner (which sucks since they were relying on me but I really needed today) but even if no one is relying on me I still feel terrible and uncomfortable when people ask why I was gone. Before, I told my friend’s t was because I was very overwhelmed and just needed a break from having to go to school (even though I try to maintain a school schedule when I miss) and they say that I ditched and could’ve just waited until the weekend to catch up. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to properly, yet casually, explain that this was something that I needed to do and it was really helpful and I still got stuff done (definitely more than I would have) without revealing too much personal stuff?

    • Sabah on October 3, 2017

      I feel exactly the same way! Having to explain myself to others is the worst, and I have stupid thoughts of being lazy or too unmotivated when everyone else is able to wake up in the morning and face school. I get untrue thoughts that I don’t work as hard as others because I bring myself to take mental health days, but I need them so much. I’ve accepted my needs and I simply respond by saying I just needed a day to myself to get my life back together. Or, if it’s too much, I just tell them that I wasn’t feeling well (always be vague XD). Hope this helps, and don’t feel guilty. As long as it’s actually not affecting your grades or school work ethic, you should be fine. Sometimes, it’s easier to work at home at your own pace. 🙂

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