As exam season comes closer and "hell week" begins for many, stress levels especially among students are rising. While some have developed great ways to deal with stress, many do not have good coping mechanisms or simply are not capable of coping with the stress on their own. As stress begins to pile on, this can leave some feeling like it may be impossible to get through. The stress can make it harder to stay focused and to do your best work. How are you supposed to calm yourself down or focus on things like exams when you have to take care of all your other responsibilities?

I used to just believe that you don’t. I used to just push myself to the breaking point where I felt exhausted, completely drained and almost hopeless. During my freshman year, I learned an important lesson: It’s okay to not be okay. As Jessie J sang in her song “Who You Are," it’s okay to not be okay and everyone is not expected to be perfect all of the time. It’s important though to focus on yourself and take care of yourself when you need to. A crucial life skill is recognizing when you are not okay and what you need to do to change that.

With my independence in college, an important skill I had to learn was self-care. Self-care involves caring for yourself in ways that aim to reduce stress and promote your overall well-being. While I initially thought of self-care as a luxury, I have now realized that self-care is a necessity because it aids self-preservation. Although this includes taking care of your physical health, self-care especially includes taking care of your mental health.

If you are not physically healthy, you take a sick day to recuperate. So if you are not mentally well, what do you do? You take a mental health day! Like a sick day, mental health days are aimed at promoting well-being by giving your mind a break and time to recover so that you can get to a better mental state. If you’re like I was, the idea of taking a day or part of a day off to focus on your mental health may seem unrealistic. With everything else going on, how can you afford to take time off? First, recognize that you are allowed to make yourself a priority and to have a day to yourself. I have found that if you are candid, most people are understanding and supportive of you making yourself a priority. You may be surprised by how many people understand that mental health is just as important as your physical health. So don’t feel guilty for taking this time for yourself. Class, work, chores and any other responsibilities or obligations can wait. In fact, a mental health day can be a great opportunity to take care of some of those responsibilities you have piling up without worrying about your usual load of responsibilities.

As part of my mental health day, I have even taken the time to share with you these thoughts and to share why I so deeply believe that mental health days are important. Dr. Bronder (a.k.a. me) highly recommends that if you are feeling too stressed or in need of some self-care to take a mental health day. No one knows you better than you know you, so do what you need to do to get back on your feet.