We live in an age of unprecedented stress, yet few of us would consider taking time out to promote good mental health.
We’re proactive about physical health, for sure. We’ll do workouts every week, with after-work boxing and the the odd 10K thrown in.
Read more: A simple way to cope with travel anxiety
But our attitude to mental health is still framed by a breakdown mentality.
In other words, we’re happy to ignore the ominous bleeps and warning lights, and will only take action when the proverbial dung hits the fan.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our approach.
Of course, exercise *is* a great way of lifting your mood and promoting good mental health.
But if you’re in a fast-paced job with deadlines and demands flying from all angles, you may need more than a 30-minute run, squeezed in whenever life allows it.
Read more: Tackling burnout with an outback adventure
And it’s better not to wait until you hit burnout – or a myriad of other stress-related conditions – before you take action.
Some proper time out to clear your mind and practise self-care could make all the difference.
“In our society, we’re lead to believe that only hard work is productive, but I’d argue that rest is just as worthwhile,” say Chloe Brotheridge, anxiety hypnotherapist and founder of calmer-you.com
“You can’t pour from an empty cup, so taking the time to work on yourself and replenish your reserves could mean you’re in a better position than before you started.
“If work has taken over and become the most important thing in your life, it could be time to reverse this completely and make time for you as the number one thing in your life for a while,” she adds.
Why to take a mental health career break
So what are the benefits of taking a mental health career break? Chloe breaks it down:
Re-learn how to relax
“Many clients that I speak to tell me that they never relax, or don’t know how to,” says Chloe. “When you’re accustomed to living in survival mode, you might not even realise that there’s another, calmer way to be. Taking a break could show you that there is another side to life. It proves that it’s possible for you to relax and it could give you the impetus to make positive changes once you do return to work.”
Spark better ideas
“When we’re in a stressed or anxious state the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response – takes over and your frontal cortex – the rational, clear thinking part of your brain – takes a back seat,” explains Chloe.
“That’s why it can be hard to make good decisions when you’re anxious. When we’re relaxed, our minds work more efficiently and being in a new environment can mean we feel more inspired and creative. Archimedes had his ‘eureka’ moment while chilling in the bath, Issac Newton came up with his law of gravity while relaxing under a tree in nature. Taking a break could help you to come up with your best ideas, too.”
Practise the art of self-care
“Pressure and tension can build up and lead to anxiety, and while a break can alleviate this, your problems may still be waiting for you when you return,” says Chloe.
“Ideally, I’d suggest taking time out to work on your mental wellbeing. It might be learning yoga or meditation on a retreat, starting an exercise habit or reading books that help you to develop as a person.
Read more: Unwind and recharge with a green therapy hit
“It could mean you’re in a better position after your break than you were before, even if you’re going back into the same environment.”
How to take a mental health career break
With that in mind, here are three great trips to help you dial down work stress and carve out some much needed head-space…
Unplug in the Himalayan foothills
We all know that too much screen time is bad for mental health, but it’s counteracted by exposure to nature. So, join us on a rousing nine-day hike through the trails around Everest, and lose yourself in a world of ancient Sherpa culture, fluttering prayer flags and hidden monasteries.
Between the donkey-filled foothills and vast swathes of rhododendron forest, you’ll find plenty of acreage for thinking in this serene corner of Nepal (a little off from the mainstream Everest path). And remote valley ravines with zero wi-fi means there’s no temptation to tune into work. Send your soul soaring with regular yoga and meditation sessions in the morning sun and rep-tap your sense of purpose in this deeply spiritual place.
Slow things down in Kerala
Slowing things down and being present is another key element of good mental health. And that’s what you’ll find in Kerala. From the warm breeze of the Arabian Sea to the gentle put-put of backwater barges, life unfolds to a mellow tempo in India’s beguiling southern state. It’s like a balm for the overwrought soul, offering solace at every angle.
Get your chill fix with our week-long escape, stretching from the wild and beautiful Western Ghats to the tropical Malabar coast. Whether you’re escaping the crowds in the shola forest of Munnar or kayaking through sleepy fishing villages in the Keralan backwaters, this is one long lesson in the art of slow living. Stretch out and drink it in.
Learn gratitude in Costa Rica
One of the happiness nations on earth, Costa Ricans are famously easygoing and content with their lot. Pura vida, their official slogan, literally means “the pure life”, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a lifestyle and a means of appreciating simple pleasures, from spending time with loved ones to savouring Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity.
Since gratitude is closely linked to good mental health, you too can learn this habit of appreciation, as you kick back in a land of wildlife, waterfalls and thick tropical greenery. From canoeing the mangroves of Tortuguero National Park to lazy hammock days on Pacific coastline beaches, there’s plenty of opportunity to shake out your shoulders and take stock.
Photos: Flash Pack and Shutterstock