PLEASE NOTE: This article is not suggesting that if you suffer from depression or anxiety or other mental health issues that all you need is a mental health day to fix it. I struggle with depression and anxiety and it is an ongoing battle, I know. The purpose of this article is to help those who do not normally think about their mental health and remind those of us who already deal with issues to pay attention to signs we may be burning out and need a break from work. If you feel like you may be dealing with more than just stress at work, then please, please, please contact a professional who can help you.
I know this will be a hard one for some of you. A lot of you won’t even leave your desk for lunch let alone leave the office for a whole day for a “mental health” break. And I put mental health in quotes because unfortunately a lot of you and/or your employers view mental health days as something to roll your eyes at.
But they aren’t. Your mental health should be as important as your physical health. You wouldn’t go to work with a fever (oh, please tell me you wouldn’t go to work with a fever!?!) so you shouldn’t go to work if you are suffering mentally either.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart disease
- Obesity and eating disorders
- High blood pressure
So workplace stress can lead to actual physical issues that will most certainly keep you out of work. Hmm, does that get your attention?
I hear you saying, “But, but, nothing will get done if I am not there!”
As nonprofit communicators, you also have the added pressure of “saving the world” – the martyr complex is strong within our industry. But are you really doing your best work?
We have lots of studies showing that breaks actually help you stay fresh and get more done.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin
When You Should Take a Mental Health Day
Taking a mental health day is not the same as “playing hooky” to binge watch the latest season of Queer Eye….wait…scratch that. I am no psychologist but I would highly recommend Queer Eye if you need a positive mental health boost!
Here are a few signs it’s time for a mental health day.
- You’re exhausted or you can’t sleep.
- You dread going to work every day.
- You can’t turn off your mind when you get home.
- You’re more anxious than usual.
- You can’t focus.
- You are irritable or impatient.
- You don’t care about your job anymore.
- You are distracted by something outside of work that needs attention.
You should not use a mental health day to avoid your boss after you made a mistake or just don’t feel like listening to your co-workers. That’s a whole different article.
What to Do on Your Mental Health Day
If you have decided a mental health day could do you some good, here are some things you can do to make the best of it.
- Schedule it ahead of time and tell your co-workers.
- Take it after completing a big project. (If you do it during, you’re just going to stress about it at home.)
- Find out what you need most. (Are you exhausted, tense, angry? How you spend your day should help relieve your biggest issue)
- Make a plan, but not necessarily a to-do list (Don’t use this day to get your car worked on, etc).
- You can still rest, but get out of bed if you can.
- Eat breakfast and lunch.
- Get moving – exercise, go for a walk.
- Learn some breathing or meditation techniques.
- Get outside if you can.
- Meet friends.
- List things that drain your energy at work and see if you can remove them.
- Make an appointment with a therapist.
Share Your Experience
Have you taken a mental health day? Share when you know it’s time to take one, how you ask off, and what you do on your day off in the comments. The more we talk about this, the more we can change workplace cultures that do not value the importance of mental health!