In a culture that often promotes workaholism and a strict adherence to the 40 hour week, a growing trend of the “mental health day” is helping Americans learn to take time off for self-care. A story recently went viral on twitter about a web developer who emailed her colleagues to tell them that she would be taking a couple days off to focus on her mental health.
Her boss praised her for her honesty and for cutting through “the stigma of mental health”.
Sharing her CEO’s response in a tweet, she created a discussion about workplace mental health that went viral across major media. Hard-working employees, worried about the stability of their jobs often don’t give themselves the space they need to care for their mental health. Just as you would stay home for a day or two with the flu to recover, sometimes issues like anxiety or depression should also require a break from work for your own well-being.
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision. 💯 pic.twitter.com/6BvJVCJJFq
— madalyn (@madalynrose) June 30, 2017
People often consider physical health ailments a higher priority and expect people with feelings of sadness or stress to simply power through the work day. Going to work while dealing with mental health issues can mean that you do not perform at your best and could lead to more problems later on. If your proactively take care of your mental health it will be better for you in the long run.
Signs that You Need a Break
If you are struggling with some mental health issues that are affecting your ability to work then you might consider taking a few days off. These are some of the problems that could mean that you need a mental health day.=
- Feeling distracted at work or having trouble focusing – If there’s something going on in your life such as a personal problem or just a build-up of stress and you can’t focus at work then give yourself a break. You might just need a day off to address whatever is troubling you and then come back to work with renewed energy.
- You haven’t had time to yourself – If you have been neglecting your personal time because of work and family obligations then you might want to take a day off just to recharge. Everyone needs some alone time to sort through their thoughts and feelings so that they can reduce anxiety and be more emotionally available for others.
- Making a healthcare appointment- When you would really benefit from a session with your therapist or you need to go to the doctor to get your medication adjusted then don’t postpone it for work. Take a day off if necessary to get your situation taken care of so that you can get back on track. Putting off mental health care appointments because you have to work will only make matters worse in the long run.
The important thing about taking a mental health day is using the time to address specifically what you are dealing with. While it might be tempting to use the day to binge watch hours of movies or TV you will benefit more from really focusing on resolving the issue.
If you have been physically and mentally stressed try meditating, getting a massage or going to a yoga class. Or if you have been putting off work around the house or bills you need to pay then take the time to get back in control and feel more organized.
Benefits Of Taking A Mental Health Day
For people with more serious mental health issues, such as a diagnosed disorder, you might need to take more mental health days than the average person. In this case you can talk to your boss about what you are dealing with and make sure they are okay with you taking more than a few days off. For some situations you might need to take a leave of absence if you need to attend a treatment center or focus on recovering from symptoms.
In some cases such as someone with an anxiety disorder, taking a day off can be a symptom of avoidance. If something at work is giving you anxiety and your inclination is to stay away then it might be more beneficial for you to face the problem head on. People with anxiety often try to disappear from difficult situations as a coping mechanism so taking the day off might not be the right solution.
If for any reason you cannot take a mental health day then try to focus on reducing stress in other ways such as short 15 minute meditations either before work or when you have a break on the job. Exercising regularly can help reduce stress and attending therapy sessions on a weekly basis can help you care for your mental health. A mental health day can help temporarily but daily self-care can go a long way to improving well-being.