This blog post was written by Christy Johnson, Counselor at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
The Importance of Mental Health Days
Mental health days allow employees to attend to their vital needs such as relieving stress, renewing energy levels, and attending to personal and family matters. Whether an individual simply hasn’t had enough time for themselves in a long time or is suddenly experiencing many more stressors than before, it is reasonable and healthy to occasionally consider taking a mental health day. Allotting time for mental health care is essential. Just as it is encouraged to attend to physical health through sick days, mental health days are a positive way to care for emotional and mental needs.
In fact, a well-timed, effective mental health day can help reduce stress and prevent loss of motivation and burnout. According to the World Health Organization, “burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Mental health days can help prevent burnout by providing valuable time for employees to tend to and cope with life’s stressors.
Signs It’s Time for a Mental Health Day
Despite the benefits of taking mental health days, it’s not always clear-cut what exactly constitutes an “appropriate” reason to request one. To some extent, this will vary since each person’s needs and experiences are unique. However, if you find yourself developing a pattern of low mood or irritability at your workplace, this could be a sign to consider requesting a mental health day (and maybe evaluating your workplace needs as well).
Another strong clue that you may need some time for a mental health day is if you find yourself more distracted than usual. The inability to concentrate and a lack of focus could indicate that a “recharge” is in order.
Finally, if tasks or circumstances outside of work require immediate or focused attention or are affecting your ability to perform your job, this may be the right time for you to take a mental health day. Whatever the case, trust your instincts about needing a break, and honor that side of you that is asking for rest.
Sometimes employees may have concerns about taking a mental health day because they worry that it will cause them to fall behind in productivity. The good news is that mental health days provide the rest and time to re-energize required for employees to perform at their best.
How to Take a Mental Health Day That will Actually Benefit You
When you are ready to take a mental health day, there are a handful of ways to ensure that you get the most out of your time. Here are a few thoughts on how to take a mental health day that feels both productive and rejuvenating.
1. Mindfully consider what you will use the day to accomplish
If you can, you may find it helpful to assess what your needs are before taking the day off. This will help you to take your mental health day mindfully. By preparing, you can figure out what will be the most helpful for your situation and plan to attend to those needs effectively.
2. Give yourself permission to rest
If you find yourself hesitating or feeling reluctant to take the rest you need, try to allow yourself to have this rest without guilt or worry of judgment. Many people find it difficult to rest and relax, and that’s okay, just remind yourself that you are a human being with a finite amount of energy, and it is healthy to allow yourself to recharge. If it helps, you can think about the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” This is a good reminder because it helps us see that it is impossible to do our best when we are mentally or emotionally depleted.
3. Consider your basic needs
Self-care is commonly equated with self-indulgences like enjoying a bubble bath or splurging on a purchase. While these “treats” are helpful because they encourage the individual to spend time focusing on themselves, there are additional aspects of caring for our emotional and mental state that are often overlooked. Some basic needs for good mental health include having healthy sleep habits and adequate rest, having enough physical activity and sunshine, developing supportive social connections, attending to one’s nutritional needs, and using helpful coping tools to deal with stressors. As an example, someone who is very stressed and unable to relax may find that slowing down and engaging in a simple practice such as deep breathing would be the most effective way to improve their wellbeing. For those interested, this blog post discusses several such breathing practices Breathing Exercises for Workplace Stress Relief.
4. Avoid or limit the activities that add no value to your mental health day
Many individuals utilize social media or video games to distract themselves from difficult or overwhelming circumstances in their lives. This can help the person cope when they just want to “tune out” for a while. However, too much time spent on these kinds of activities can leave the person feeling as though they have been unproductive or even “wasteful” of their time. For everybody, the balance that feels appropriate will be different, so setting some honest boundaries can be helpful. Boundaries around screen time can also be helpful when you are experiencing anxiety around stepping away from work responsibilities during your time off.
Tips for Requesting a Mental Health Day
If you find it uncomfortable to ask for a mental health day you are not alone, many people experience discomfort around requesting time off. Here are a couple of suggestions for making the request straightforward and comfortable:
First, you may feel more comfortable keeping your message simple. There is no requirement for you to share details of what your plans are for your mental health day. Some employees feel more comfortable requesting a ‘personal day’ rather than asking for a ‘mental health day.’ The verbiage is up to you; whatever you decide, be honest and concise. Your message may be as simple as “I need a mental health day to attend to personal matters.” Finally, if you find it easier to write your request in an email, this is also perfectly acceptable, especially since many companies prefer time off requests to be submitted in writing. Remember that it is natural and perfectly human to periodically need breaks to rest and recharge. Thankfully, forward-thinking employers are making efforts to increase employee mental health support, reducing the social stigma around taking time to care for mental and emotional needs.
If you feel that your mental health concerns are more challenging than what can be addressed in a single mental health day, consider talking to a therapist or seeking out additional support through your workplace. Everyone deserves to find productive and fulfilling work, while simultaneously having the ability to maintain a healthy mental and emotional state.
For more on talking about mental health in the workplace, check out this article.
By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.