Why Taking Mental Health Days is Important

May 24, 2017

The month of May marks Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance that aims to increase awareness of and discussions surrounding mental health conditions. It’s also about combating stigma. At Elysian, we believe that everyone should be able to go to work as a whole person–not as part of a bottom line, or the means to an end in a creative project. Being a whole person with strengths, weaknesses, and talents also means being a person who may sometimes experience hardship that makes life and work more difficult. This month, we’re devoting our blog to talking about mental health and how it relates to work and the workplace.

Most of us wouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day if we woke up feeling overwhelmed by physical illness, whether it’s a cold, a flu, or a stomach bug. However, we don’t often react to an exhausting mental state in the same way. Because of stigma, as well as the harmful idea that your mental health can’t take as much of a toll on you as physical health, it’s easy to convince yourself to just “push through” hard times. But doing so without taking a break, otherwise known as a mental health day or two, can actually cause as much damage to us as not hitting pause when we feel a nasty flu coming on.

The most Googled question involving mental health days is, “Should I feel guilty about taking a mental health day?” which is the first serious issue. It’s likely that you’ve been taught to think you should feel guilty for wanting or needing a seemingly random day off. But the fact is that workplace stress is actually the number one cause of stress in America--so giving yourself a break as often as possible is nothing to feel guilty about. It will actually help you be your best, most healthy self in the long run.

"I see using mental health days as a form of self-care. Making a plan (and sticking to it) for how you'll use them is key if you don't want them to go unused,” says Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist, according to Bustle.

So why should you be letting yourself off the hook and prioritizing mental health days as much as you would prioritize any other kind of sick day? Here are a few reasons:

It will help you feel refreshed, and lower your stress or anxiety levels.
Even though it might not hit the reset button quite the way a full vacation could, taking a day for yourself to unplug, unwind, catch up on a favorite activity, or even get some extra sleep can seriously help you feel refreshed. And it’s scientifically proven that setting aside time like this for yourself will help you to decompress, and lower your stress or anxiety levels. That means that your head will be clearer and you’ll feel a little lighter when you have to get back to work.

Taking a mental health day will actually make you a better employee.
When you give yourself a mental health day, it will allow you to feel even more productive when you dive back into work. If you’re constantly working, it’s likely that you’re not giving your body or brain the kind of rest it needs to properly recoup. Working uses up the same kind of energy as any other kind of strenuous activity, and we can’t properly operate at 100% or more all the time, and still expect to feel creative, motivated, or ready to face the day. By giving yourself a mental health day, you can up your productivity and feel less overwhelmed by whatever tasks you’re trying to tackle.

You deserve it.
Although it’s true that taking a mental health day will help you do better work and be a better employee overall, you should be doing it for yourself more than anything. You don’t need an excuse to take care of yourself, because the truth is that you simply deserve to take care of yourself. You deserve to feel fulfilled by who you are and what you’re doing, and if all you’re focusing on is work, there’s a high chance that you could be neglecting yourself. The next time you ask yourself if you should really be giving yourself a break, simply remind yourself that you deserve to take care of yourself.

So… how do you know when it’s time to take a mental health day?
You don’t need a huge reason, and you honestly shouldn’t wait until you feel like you’re on the brink of a breakdown. If you’ve noticed that you’ve been getting distracted, are feeling particularly overwhelmed by work, that you’ve been neglecting yourself or forgetting to eat, or feel like you need to take a day to make an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist, these are all valid reasons. Check in with yourself as often as possible to ask how you’re feeling about work, and if you might need to take a day off just for you.

If you’re feeling exhausted, more anxious than usual, or you just know that you have some big projects or tasks coming up that might require more of you, you deserve and should take a mental health day. However, if a mental health day or two doesn’t do the trick, it’s also important to remember that professional help is an option. It’s more than valid to do whatever you need to do for yourself in order to feel fulfilled and taken care of, instead of trying to just scrape by on the bare minimum energy to get through work and life.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741

All the best