Mental Health Day Off Work – What’s the Verdict?



Taking a mental health day off of work for self-care is becoming more and more talked about in the workplace, and it can be somewhat of a controversial topic. We’re in the midst of a mental health epidemic where people now more than ever are feeling more stressed, and when the mind is not healthy, the body isn’t either. Now more than ever we need to be putting self-care at the forefront to maintain our emotional and physical wellness.

When we have the flu, we’re too physically unwell to go to work so we call in sick, so if we’re feeling mentally exhausted shouldn’t the same rules apply? Well, that’s’ is the big debate.


Taking a mental health day off from work means taking a day off for reasons other than a physical illness to relieve stress and renew vitality. It provides us distance, literally and emotionally from our work environment that can help us achieve better-coping strategies in the workplace and we can quite possibly become more productive in our jobs.

As emotional beings, we need to reset and take care of our emotional well-being and we shouldn’t feel guilty, anxious or fearful about it. We’re entitled to put ourselves first and make self care a priority.

Mental Health Day Off Work - ImageSELF CARE ~ taking a few moments frequently to check in with ourselves and take note of how we’re doing emotionally and physically. Are we exhausted? Overwhelmed? Stressed out? Completely depleted? Burnt out?

Many of us don’t do this enough says Alison Ross, a psychologist, and professor at City College in New York. We go, go, go when it comes to work and home life and this contributes to feelings of unhappiness, resentment, hopelessness and we feel like we’re on a treadmill that we can’t get off. It’s important that everyone take time occasionally and do something pleasurable which may include taking a mental health day. Taking a mental health day should involve doing something that you enjoy and brings you happiness and relaxation, says Ross.


Companies are becoming more aware of the mental health needs of employees thanks to the evolving understanding of mental health issues throughout the world.Mental Health Day Off Work - Image

Some companies, notably in Canada and the United States don’t officially offer days off specifically for mental health care but support the practice unofficially. Many companies have implemented mental health resources to assist employees in determining how to help themselves with not just a day off but with a continuum of care. Some examples include:

  • Employment Assistance Programs
  • Exercise Programs or promoting wellness within benefit packages
  • Mindfulness classes (lunch and learn workshops)
  • Flex Time Accrual

It’s important to be honest with your boss, if you’re mentally exhausted, ensure that you communicate that and explain why you feel a day off to reset yourself is in order.


When we’re dealing with overwhelming stresses trying to balance our work and personal lives for an extended period it can impact both our mental and physical health.

If you’re having difficulty with sleeping whether it’s getting to sleep or staying asleep, this usually means that there are high-stress hormone levels present in your body. Not getting enough rest can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, this usually is a good indicator that you may need a self-care/mental health day to regenerate. Mental Health Day Off Work - Image

If you find yourself losing interest in the things that you previously found joy in such as being around family and friends, or maybe you just lost a close friend or just went through a breakup of a meaningful relationship, these can all be signs that you may need a mental health day off.


It’s important to remember when taking mental health days off occasionally to rejuvenate our emotional health and wellness, it shouldn’t be spontaneous, it should be a planned day.

Determine what you need in your day off, maybe it’s relaxation, a spa day, time for fun, maybe you just need a day to restructure your tasks and responsibilities so that you are not feeling so overwhelmed, maybe you need to do errands to eliminate some of the multiple tasks you can’t just seem to get accomplished. For me personally, if I’m organized at home, I’m able to cope with work stresses much better.

Mental Health Day Off Work - Image


For the occasional mental health day off it’s important to take into account consideration for others who may have to fill in for you in your absence, be mindful about leaving your work for your coworkers to pick up while you’re off and equally important that you aren’t avoiding important meetings or tasks that require completion, because if this is the case, taking a mental health day off will not be serving its purpose as the tasks and stresses will still need to be dealt with upon your return.


Stress and anxiety are emotional experiences felt when a person is trying to avoid something in their world. Don’t wake up dreading going to work and call in sick to avoid workload pressures or responsibilities, this is not a mental health day.

This type of response can easily become a habit and become your “go-to” response to avoid stress and anxiety at work.

When the very occasional mental health day turns into often, you can be sure that the employer will raise red flags.

If an employee is taking too much time off or demonstrates a pattern of time off behaviors, employers most likely will have questions and concerns about that particular person’s intentions. Mental Health Day Off Work - Image

Maybe that employee is dealing with more serious mental health concerns such as depression and may need to be reminded or referred to appropriate supports to assist with overcoming emotional stresses they may be feeling. Or maybe they have fallen into that “go-to” response to avoid work stresses.

The intention of a mental health day is not to avoid workload responsibilities or stress and if taking frequent time off becomes a default strategy to cope with work stresses it might be time to seek out counseling supports to help identify the underlying cause(s) of the stress and anxiety, says Ross.


Call it what you want, self-care day, mental health day or wellness day, taking time for ourselves is imperative in this day and age. Companies are becoming more responsive to the mental health needs of employees as the importance of mental health becomes more mainstream.

Be sure that if your employer offers resources that assist with continuum self-care that you participate in and utilize the resources to be proactive in coping with work/life stresses.

Taking an occasional mental health day off to rejuvenate ourselves is one thing but if a person feels like more time is needed, take a staycation or vacation and be sure to check in with yourself to determine if you might be headed toward burn out. It may also be a good time to talk to your doctor.

Ensure to find ongoing stress management resources at the forefront and take measures to be proactive in coping with work stresses to avoid falling into negative habits in an attempt to deal with stress and anxiety.

Mental Health Day Off Work - Image

Taking time for ourselves keeps us on our path to overall wellness.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what your thoughts are on taking a mental health day off occasionally and if your company supports the concept.

14 thoughts on “Mental Health Day Off Work – What’s the Verdict?”

  1. This is such a great awareness post because people often work themselves sick to the bone. I pursue other activities than a day off for my mental health like working out. But then again I a am currently part-time at my job so I have lots more mental health days than I like :). But in all seriousness, this is a really good subject that you brought up because of the lack of time off that employers give to their employees. If you work for a reputable company you start with 4 weeks off that’s including your sick, vacation and personal time. Other companies offer a week and like 2 days of sick. Maybe this will spread some type of awareness within the job force 🙂

    • Hi Viviana

      Self care is so important and my hope is that more employers will start to have the discussion within the workplace. I’m lucky to work for an organization who has implemented some of the resources I’ve mentioned in the post as a means to assist employee’s with the continuum of care. But you’re right, many employers don’t offer much time off or opportunities for employee’s to take time off for wellness. We need to keep the discussion going in hopes that one day, mental health, self care or wellness day’s off are acceptable within all workplaces because our overall wellness depends on it.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment


  2. Great post! I am a huge advocate of mental health days as I am a recovering substance user. One of the reasons I resorted to drugs in the first place was because I was not taking care of my mental health needs when I most needed to.
    In law school, I worked hard and played harder, leading to a dependence on the very substances that were supposed to help me study, sleep, and relax. It all catches up so quickly if we do not slow down and take care of ourselves.
    Personally, I need to have two days off a week, even if I need to work extra hours on the other five work days. Day 1 I use to get my house in order and errands run and day 2 I do my best to relax and do things I enjoy.
    I hope everyone takes this post to heart and closely examines their own schedules before stress has a negative effect on their health.
    Thank you for a great read.

    • Hi Ashley,

      Thanks for your comment, glad to hear that you have found what works for you to maintain your wellness. I too feel the same way, I need to take time for myself every week and ensure I put self care at the top of my priority list and believe that more people should do the same. Taking the time to be proactive with maintaining wellness is the key to our overall well being.

      All the best to you


  3. As a therapist myself I can’t stress the importance of taking care of your mental health and well being enough. It’s is vital for you to make yourself a priority and do what is necessary to relax and find some inner peace within your mind and emotions. Our lives are stressful and the world will always keep on turning, so if we do not take the time to put ourselves first we are sure to get run over and rundown. Great article.

    • Hi Charity,

      Thanks so much for the comment, I couldn’t agree with you more.  

      So many of us tend to feel guilty when we put ourselves first, but the reality is our emotional well-being should be our priority and we should never feel guilty about it.


  4. I must admit that if I worked for a boss, I would feel guilty taking a day off work to get ‘destressed’ but as you say it is necessary every now and then. Self-care is important, as stressed individuals are normally potential sick individuals.

    Maybe if companies introduced a policy allowing workers say one day off every two months, they would find that they would have less absenteeism due to other illnesses from overtired and stressed workers.

    If they did this it would also stop some individuals taking off too often and taking advantage.

    • Hi Michel, yes I agree.  Giving people the opportunity to take time off work for self care could potentially reduce the risk of employee’s taking extended sick leave as a result of burnout, on the positive side for an employer it could very well increase employee work productivity.  My hope is that more employers will find ways to incorporate employee wellness into their business practice.  

      Thanks for the comment

  5. This is a very interesting concept.  Several years ago when I was a manager, it was go time all the time and I needed all hands on deck at all times.  When someone didn’t come to work, it added more pressure and stress to everyone else and made everyone elses life more difficult.

    As time passed, I later started to realize that giving someone the time off actually made them more productive when the were at work.  I changed my way of thinking, and if I saw someone was really working hard, I might tell them not to come back after lunch and instead go and enjoy the day and thanks for all the hard work they had been putting in.

    As a manager it can be hard at first, but I do believe giving employees extra time off will give you more loyal employees, and ones that are ready to get the job done when they are at work.  I believe in the mental health day and wish more employers did as well.  

    • Hi 

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.  I think you’re absolutely right, managers/employers may find it  difficult to authorize the green light for mental health days for fear that it opens up the doors for employees to take time off when it’s not necessary and therefore be taken advantage of.  I’m glad that you had some experience and saw the benefits of giving time off to employees for self care.  With the epidemic we’re currently facing when it comes to mental health I think now more than ever, employers should be strategizing to implement self care and wellness plans into every employee’s work experience.  

  6. This is a very good topic for the work force especially those who are under employment. Often times, we experience stress and anxiety which brings out more negative effect if not addressed properly. This might be considered a minor condition at first but it’s gonna turn out really bad if a person ends up with depression. This will make an employee physically weak and emotionally unstable. any workplace should be supportive of this cause.

    I agree that a day off should be allowed to relieve an employee from any type of mental issue though I haven’t asked to take a leave of absence for this reason. I also believe that it should’t be spontaneous. Some companies would like you to elaborate your condition so I guess writing a letter of explanation should also be a part of the process. After all, sick days can be used for mental health problem and a day or two is acceptable to be excused from work. Thanks for sharing this thought about taking care of oneself. it made me realize a lot of important things that doesn’t matter to me before.

    • Hi 

      Thank you for your comment.  When working with stress and anxiety over an extended period of time this is definitely cause for concern as it can lead to bigger issues such as chronic depression if not dealt with appropriately.  Allowing employees an occasional day off to engage in self care activities (whatever that may be for each person) allows them to rest, reset, and refocus and quite possibly become more productive in their work.  

      I’m glad you found this article helpful. 


  7.  you let me know more about how Mental health is so  important and I think it needs more awareness to educate and enlighten public about it, this is because if not  that I read this post now, I as a company holder don’t even know it necessary for my workers, but please is a day only okey for this mental health and please advise if I want to introduce this to my company which day is best suit to give them off. Good content keep it up.

    • Hi 

      Thank you for your comment.  When researching how often a mental health day should be taken or offered,  the studies suggest that 3 days out of a year is appropriate for most employees.  This offers employees  an opportunity to be proactive in managing their stress and anxiety and allows some dedicated time for self care .  I can empathize that employer’s may feel that if given additional time off  for a “self care day” could lead to employee’s taking advantage of having days off, but if the expectations were clear to staff about how to go about taking the time off (pre-arranged, not spontaneous), ensuring that whenever possible no one is picking up their work in their absence and having a set amount of days in a year for each individual, I believe that the work place would be a much happier and less stressful place to be.  When an employer acknowledges that my mental health is of importance and trusts me enough to take time off for self care without having to sneak around about it, I’m going to work that much harder while on the job.

      Thanks for the interest.  


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