You’ve probably heard of “mental health days” before — and watched as co-workers used them to call in sick and do who-knows-what outside of the office.
In spite of their vague definition and uses, mental health days are essential for you to recharge and replenish your mental health — especially if you have a high-stress job. When implemented correctly, mental health days can help you remain engaged and productive at work and at school.
Defining “Mental Health Day”
You know it's time for a mental health day when stress prevents you from doing your job effectively. Research suggests that high stress levels at work can lead to mental health disorders such as depression, which in turn lead to lowered productivity and even premature retirement. While mental health days seem like distant excuses to skip work, they provide opportunities to help you improve your overall wellness and remain fulfilled on the job.
When Should I Take a Mental Health Day?
If you have a lack of energy, feelings of boredom, or personal issues such as family or financial difficulties, it may be time to schedule a day off. Here are some other appropriate reasons to take a mental health day:
- You feel apathetic, in or out of the office
- Unhealthy habits (lack of sleep, poor diet, not exercising) make you feel slow at work
- You consistently feel depressed or anxious
- You’ve lost your sense of work/life balance
Using a mental health day to skip out on dreaded projects or avoid meetings are etiquette no-no's. Use a mental day for personal recharging only.
How to Appropriately Take Your Mental Health Day
Instead of calling in the morning of your day off, arrange the time off with your boss in advance; this way, she can adjust her workload and won’t need to work overtime to make up for your absence. If you lie over the phone and fake an illness, your boss may catch on and assume that you’re trying to cover something up (like a job interview). Instead of claiming a sick day, explain that you have personal matters to address outside of work and leave it at that.
One or two mental health days per year should keep your mind and body refreshed. Don’t feel guilty about taking those days off! Your time away from work will make you more productive when you return (which will make your boss happier, too).
How Should I Spend My Time Off?
Only you know the best ways to de-stress yourself — but if you’re not sure where to start, try some of these common activities:
- Sleep in. Since lack of sleep may have caused your stress in the first place, catch a few extra hours in bed.
- Visit family and friends. Sometimes being with people who love and care about you can help you relax and recharge.
- Tend to personal matters. If they distracted you from work, deal with them as soon as you can.
- Run errands or clean. Checking these items off your to-do list may help calm you down.
- Don’t do any work. Check email if you must, but think about your job as little as possible.
Don’t suffer through work stress if it damages your well-being. Instead, take a much-needed mental health day.
If you are looking other ways to make your life healthier, check out this article: 10 Apps to Help You Remember 10 Important Healthy Habits
Blackmore, E. R., Stansfeld, S. A., Weller, I., Munce, S., Zagorski, B. M., & Stewart, D. E. Major depressive episodes and work stress: results from a national population survey. American Journal of Public Health, 97, 2088-2093. Retrieved from NCBI
Gurchiek, K. (2008, April 1). Family issues top reason for taking ‘mental health’ days. Retrieved from Society for Human Resource Management
Smith, B. (n.d.). Signs you’ve lost work/life balance. Retrieved from The Workplace Therapist
Tarkan, L. (2012, January 12). When to take a mental health day from work. Retrieved from FOX News