Taking a mental health day off of work for self care is becoming more and more talked about among 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 to 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.
WHAT IS A MENTAL HEALTH DAY?
Taking a mental health day off from work means taking a day off for reasons other than 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.
SELF 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.
HOW WILL MY BOSS FEEL IF I TAKE A MENTAL HEALTH DAY?
Companies are becoming more aware of the mental health needs of employees thanks to the evolving understanding of mental health issues throughout the world.
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.
SIGNS THAT INDICATE A MENTAL HEALTH DAY MAY BE 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.
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.
PLAN YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DAY OFF – IT SHOULDN’T BE SPONTANEOUS
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.
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 it’s purpose as the tasks and stresses will still need to be dealt with upon your return.
WHEN OCCASIONAL MENTAL HEALTH DAYS OFF TURNS INTO OFTEN = RED FLAGS
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 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.
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 work load 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
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 stay cation 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 in 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.
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.