- We need to take care of our emotional health just as we take care of our physical health.
- Emotional intelligence encourages us to prioritize mental well-being in taking taking a day off from work.
- Taking an occasional mental health day actually boosts productivity.
We often wait until we are exhausted, depleted, and burned out before realizing we need a break. It’s time to prioritize our mental health by scheduling mental health days off from work to recharge our mental health. Work-related stress has become an increasing mental health concern in today's fast-paced, high-pressure world. According to the Centers for Disease Control, work-related stress impacts job performance, productivity, work engagement and communication, and daily functioning. As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, there’s no better time to use our emotional intelligence to determine the best way to spend a mental health day.
7 Benefits of Mental Health Days
What could the benefits of a proactive mental health day be?
1. Improved Mental Well-Being: A mental health day is an opportunity to hop off the gerbil wheel of work and focus on well-being. Mental health days allow workers to decompress emotionally and recharge psychologically. The goal is to reduce stress levels as well as gain new perspectives in approaching challenges at work.
2. Increased Productivity: Ironically, taking time away from work can actually result in greater productivity. A mental health day provides essential restorative therapy that refocuses minds to maintain high levels of efficiency within a workplace, improving happiness. Research shows that when employees are happier, there is a direct correlation to productivity.
3. Improved Physical Health: Mental and physical well-being are inextricably connected; chronic stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on both. By taking mental health days for relief and renewal, workers may more effectively maintain healthier lifestyles that support both mental and physical well-being.
4. Improved Work-Life Balance: Just like computer operating systems, our brains become overloaded when we have too many screens open, and glitches occur. Taking a day to shut down and then restart yourself will reboot your mind, body, and spirit. Mental health days serve as a timely reminder to employers to strike a good work-life balance for employees.
5. Increased Emotional Resilience: Recovering from setbacks and challenges quickly is important in both personal and professional settings. Taking mental health days allows us to reflect upon our emotional well-being and develop coping mechanisms to handle future obstacles.
6. Cultivation of Mental Health-Friendly Workplace Culture: Companies that support taking mental health days off create cultures that prioritize employee well-being for happier, healthier employees who gain in productivity. Workers who feel supported and understood tend to experience overall higher job satisfaction.
7. Reduction of Employee Burnout: Burnout has become increasingly common in the workplace and can negatively impact an worker's mental, physical, emotional health as well as job performance. By scheduling mental health days proactively, employees can prevent burnout while striking a balance between work and personal obligations.
How to Plan and Ask for a Mental Health Day
Although requesting a mental health day or missing a day’s work may feel scary, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Depending on the psychological safety of your workplace (how safe and comfortable you feel about talking openly about mental health without fear of retaliation), you may decide not to reveal the nature of your day off. Just as you don’t have to share with your employer the nature of physical health problems, you don’t have to share details about your mental health.Provide only the information needed, as mental health issues are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Taking a mental health day is an aspect of self-care. Prioritizing self-care and setting healthy limits for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s essential. If possible, be proactive (plan ahead, as doing so will make it easier for the workplace to plan around your absence), be honest (don’t make up a sickness or lie), and be firm with your boundaries (hold your ground that you need the day off). Let go of undue guilt.
Review your benefit plan and decide whether to take a personal day (no explanation required) or a sick day (you could say you need a day off to address some health issues, which is true, without details). Practice healthy assertiveness when making your request. For example, you could say, “I’m requesting Monday the 12th off to address some health issues.” The response may be, “Is everything okay?” You can then say, “Yes, but I need to take care of my health to be my best at work.”
What to Do on Your Mental Health Day
Mental health days allow us to recharge our batteries, but sometimes we are so busy we don’t know what in our life is lacking.
As you proactively plan for your mental health day, consider the following:
- Prioritize sleep, nutrition, hydration, exercise, and play (hobbies and healthy leisure activities). Practice mindfulness such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.
- Unplug from technology and spend time in nature.
- Consider which serves you better—taking a Monday or Friday (to extend your weekend) or a midweek break (to make the week feel more manageable).
- Access support. Talk with a counselor or therapist or make time to connect with a supportive friend or family member who lifts you up.
- Put an out-of-office auto reply on your email and voicemail.
- Consider using part of the day to plan for ongoing and continued self-care on a routine basis—perhaps starting a morning meditation or yoga practice.
What to Avoid Doing on Your Mental Health Day
It's important to use mental health days wisely, but unfortunately, some people make mistakes that do not boost mental health. Avoid the following:
- Self-harm disguised as self-care, such as binge watching television, misusing alcohol or substances, or compulsive shopping.
- Overworking on projects for home or work in an effort to catch up.
- Posting on social media about being out and about having fun while taking a day off from work
Now that you know some of the benefits of taking time off work and how to ask and structure your mental health day, it’s time to schedule your time off.