Too many people are falling into unhealthy cycles. We wake up, go to work, idly stare at screens and then idly stare at different screens when we get home—all without much thought. In a highly competitive world, too often we’re encouraged to keep our eye on the prize, no matter what.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 17 percent of the U.S. population is functioning at optimal mental health and one in five is struggling with a diagnosable mental health condition. Meanwhile, a survey by British health care company AXA PPP found that seven in 10 bosses believe stress, anxiety or depression aren’t valid excuses for taking time off (even though 25 percent have suffered from a mental illness themselves).
Recently, a Tweet went viral about this very topic. It shows an email between Madalyn Parker and her boss, who commends her use of mental health days. The Tweet has earned praise for countering the stigma. Many believe that there’s no shame in sometimes taking a day to recoup, recover and get some perspective.
When the CEO responds to your out of the office email about taking sick leave for mental health and reaffirms your decision. 💯 pic.twitter.com/6BvJVCJJFq
— madalyn (@madalynrose) June 30, 2017
Meeting and event planners have particularly stressful jobs. Therefore, many people think that it’s important for the industry to acknowledge the value and necessity of mental health days. Like any other illness, a poor mental state can be infectious. But people need to find the right times and ways to take a mental health day.
Reduce stress: According to the 2017 Attitudes in the American Workplace VII survey, 80 percent of workers feel stressed on the job. At times, they need extra time to decompress.
Fix the clutter: Need to clean the house or make those calls you’ve been delaying? A mental health day is the perfect time to clean the clutter and consequently strengthen future concentration.
Reinforce health: A mental health day might even be used as a preventative measure—but that can be crucial, as well. Aim to spend a good amount of time on your physical and mental health, and plan ahead to continue these habits every day.
Increase productivity: A recent Harvard study estimates that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year due to lost productivity. Consider the toll all poor mental health factors have on individuals and their companies.
When You Need It
Everyone is unique, with particular circumstances and mood fluctuations. Only you can be sure it is time to take a mental health day; every case is different and sometimes the reason can’t be pinpointed. That being said, you have to be brutally honest with yourself. For instance, staying home to watch the latest House of Cards show is an abuse of the system—and is unfair to everyone. Taking a mental health day is warranted if you are experiencing the following situations:
- Battling a mental health disorder (for more than one day)
- Dealing with a death in the family
- Experiencing persistent insomnia
- Needing to see a doctor, but have been putting it off
- Feeling overwhelmed (low energy, stressed, anxious or apathetic)
- Stuck in a poor mood (for several days)
- Lashing out at others
- Enduring a difficult break-up
- Falling behind on something essential, such as visiting someone sick or tending to bills
- Unable to remember the last time you had fun or did something just for yourself
How to Take a Mental Health Day
Don’t lie: Faking an illness is never a good idea, but unfortunately, the stigma of having a mental health issue still exists. If you’re concerned about the response, then simply explain that you need the day for “personal reasons.”
If possible, plan: Ideally, take off a day that won’t put extra stress on others or cause you to miss an important deadline, a meeting or an event.
Give the day some structure: Even though this is a day off from work, you still want to make the most of it. The purpose is to support your mental health—so plan and engage in activities that work for you. Try to avoid mindless activities such as watching TV.
Unplug and relax: Once you’ve decided to take the day off, there’s no reason you should allow work to keep intervening. Turn off all forms of communication, and whatever you do, stay present.
Avoid guilt: This is probably the hardest, but most important, step. If you’re feeling guilty, that ruins the entire purpose of the day. Remember that every person is entitled to a mental health day and the world will continue spinning if you’re not in the office.
Apply new perspectives: If you have a fulfilling mental health day, it will likely bring you some perspective on your life. Which activities could become a daily routine? Is your job in line with your values? Is something bigger at play that might require a specialist? Or perhaps, was this just the break you needed to recharge?