I once took a mental health day at a previous job. I felt overwhelmed and knew the feeling was affecting my life and work, but I remember feeling shy about asking my boss. I wondered what he would think of me for even proposing it. It turned out my boss was OK with it. During one day of sick leave I was able to get a much-needed break. Afterward, I returned to work feeling better and at full mental and physical capacity.
Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day, a day dedicated in part to reducing the stigma associated with mental health conditions. This day makes me think how our society can perpetuate the problem of stigma by looking at physical and mental health so differently. And sadly, others often look down on those with a desire to maintain or restore mental balance.
We’ve all had days or weeks where both our personal and work lives became too full and we felt burned out. We continue to work through it because we don’t know how to step back from our responsibilities. That decision may result in mistakes, forgetfulness or impatience with others. Unrelieved stress can also lead to more serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or even substance problems; more frequent physical illness; and loss of productivity. For those already struggling with a mental health diagnosis, a particularly dark day with depression or intense anxiety can be debilitating and make working near impossible.
There are some jobs where taking extra time off isn’t an option. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, but it does mean you might need to take a mental health day on an already scheduled day off, or use a lunch break to take a mental health break if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
So how do you take a mental health day? It depends on your needs, but the end goal is to recharge your batteries and feel healthy. There are small steps you can take to feel rebalanced. You might catch up on sleep, go for a walk and enjoy nature, go to the gym or the spa, visit a loved one, or spend time doing anything that re-energizes you. A short mindfulness exercise can be a great way to reboot during a 15 minute break at work.
Taking a mental health day is a good start to setting and achieving long-term mental health goals.
If you’re experiencing a mental health issue, it is important to speak with a health care professional. For resources in your area, call the DCoE Outreach Center at 866-966-1020, email email@example.com or live chat at realwarriors.net/livechat.