Mental health conditions affect one in four people worldwide. You would think, then, that mental health days would become standard practice in the workplace. Unfortunately, that is not yet the case. In one sense, though, a mental health day can fall under the umbrella of paid sick leave, which many companies do provide. While some employers are taking proactive steps and implementing policies specific to mental well-being, don’t fret if yours isn’t one of them. You can—and should— still take a day off to dedicate to your mental well-being. Here’s how to know when you need one:
Are you dependent on your three-a-day lattes to keep you afloat? If so, you’re not alone. According to one study, nearly 50 percent of people report being “often or always exhausted” due to work. When you are fatigued, not only does the quality of your work suffer but your body suffers too — especially your brain. You know, that incredibly important organ in your skull keeping you alive. When you’re exhausted, your brain cells literally die, your cognitive responses slow way down, and your brain struggles to regulate your emotions. None of these things make for a valuable employee or a particularly happy person. If you’re exhausted, take a day (or two, or three) to rest and get back on track.
You can’t remember the great outdoors
In the summer, you may be lucky enough to get some sunshine in your down time. But now it’s autumn, and soon enough it’ll be winter, and you’re getting to work before the sun rises and not heading home until after it sets. What is more, you’re sitting in an office under harsh fluorescent lights the majority of the time. These lights have been linked to a myriad of health problems, including mental health conditions like stress, anxiety, and even depression. You may not be able to convince your boss to change the lighting, but taking some time off to spend in natural lighting is well within your control. Schedule a sick day and head out to your nearest state park to try some forest bathing, that is, spending quality time with nature (no swimsuit required).
Your family feels like a second job
Are you one of the 25.1 million mothers with children under the age of 18 in the workforce today? If so, you may feel like you clock out from one job to immediately begin working on the second — that of running a household and caring for children. It’s no wonder that a quarter of working moms break down in tears once a week. And if once a week sounds like nothing, let that be an even greater indication of how badly you need to take a mental health day. Get a sitter for the kids and spend some quality quiet time with your significant other or just spend a full day, and maybe even night, by yourself. Netflix is all the company you may need while you rest and recharge.
What you do on your mental health day doesn’t much matter as long as you are focused on improving your mental health. And please, don’t feel guilty for taking time to yourself. Your husband, kids, employer, and even your own self need you to make your mental health a priority. You have our permission to call out tomorrow.