Many people – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – know it’s irresponsible and inconsiderate to come to work when they’re sick because they could spread illness to their colleagues. However, the idea of taking a day specifically to tend to your mental well-being has been slow to catch on in the U.S. – one of the world’s most overworked countries.
Are your thoughts about work mostly negative? Do you dread going to your workplace every day? Sometimes, taking a day off to reset, de-stress and center yourself can help you feel refreshed and give you a renewed enthusiasm for your job. In observation of Mental Health Month this May, here’s how to tell when it’s time to take a break for your mental health, and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about setting aside a day or two to manage stress and focus on self-care.
When to Take a Mental Health Day
A mental health struggle may not manifest in physical symptoms such as a cough or sore throat, but in some ways, it might be even more contagious than a viral infection. If you feel anxious or burned out, your resulting irritability can have a ripple effect on everyone you work with. And, if you’re too overwhelmed to focus on your tasks, your work quality and motivation will start to suffer. You might miss critical due dates that impact others who count on you, causing workplace trust and morale issues.
Deciding when to take a mental health day is entirely up to you. If you’re already stressed out and have a lot of work piled on your plate, the best way to avoid adding to your anxiety is to schedule your mental health day in advance. Take steps to have someone cover for you, or rearrange your workload so you don’t have any looming deadlines hanging over your head.
How to Take a Mental Health Day
If your co-workers are supportive and you are comfortable doing so, feel free to set a positive example by telling them you’re taking a day off from work solely to focus on your mental health. However, don’t feel pressured to explain your reasons if you’re worried you’ll face stigma or judgment for your decision.
In some cases, your workplace’s unhealthy or toxic culture could be the reason you want to take a break in the first place. If anyone asks, it’s not stretching the truth to tell them you weren’t feeling 100% yourself and decided to stay home.
Ideas for What to Do on Your Mental Health Day
You’re free to spend your day off work doing any healthy activity that makes you feel good about yourself. Remember, your goal should be to relax, not use your free time to do errands or chores. Here are some ideas you can use to get started.
- Do a digital detox: The news and social media can be significant stressors, and your smartphone probably demands more attention than you can realistically afford to give it. On your mental health day, keep your phone turned off or in airplane mode. You may even want to put it in a closet or drawer, so you don’t feel tempted to look at it.
- Read for pleasure: When’s the last time you read solely for the joy of getting lost in a good book? Reading is a relaxing activity that sparks your imagination and takes you anywhere you want to go.
- Volunteer: The act of giving back and helping others is intensely rewarding, but many busy people feel they don’t have time to volunteer. Using your mental health day to support a cause you believe in will benefit yourself and others.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Just as you should plan rest days into your workout schedule to let your body recover from strenuous activity, your mental well-being will thrive when you allow yourself periodic downtime. Stress is a risk factor because it can lead you to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-harm. If you need help with your mental health and a co-occurring substance use disorder, contact us at Canyon Crossing today.