Signs you need to take a mental health day
- You’re snapping at your coworkers
- You can’t focus on your work
- You’re exhausted
- You have anxiety about going to work
We’ve all been there: splitting headache, snapping at your coworkers, an overall sense of dread just going to work. Those are some of the obvious signs of burnout. But too often, we try to battle through it because of the stigma often associated with taking a mental health day and talking about mental health in general. For that reason and fear of retaliation at work, the people interviewed for this blog have chosen to only be identified by their first names.
Licensed mental health therapist Erin M. Moss says other indications of burnout include feeling “stressed, anxious, on edge, disinterested, running on empty. Burnout can be an indication that you’ve let your stresses of work or home life build up too long.”
That’s when it’s time to take a mental health day.
Walter started taking a mental health day every couple months when his work environment deteriorated due to downsizing and poor management.
Chelsey usually takes one mental health day per year. One time, after a particularly stressful situation at work, she even broke out in hives from the anxiety. “Now, I try not to wait until there are physical issues. Usually, I look to how I feel toward fellow coworkers and customers. If there is bitterness, it’s time to step back.”
But taking that day isn’t always easy, whether it’s because you have a lot of work piling up, don’t want to put more on to your coworkers, or the feeling that taking some time might be a sign of weakness.
“I felt guilty the day I took a mental health day but vindicated the day after,” Chelsey says. “I know I am entitled to the time, that mental health is as important as physical health, but I still feel bad taking the day off. However, the next day when I go back to work, small things will happen or big, and I can handle it better. I literally stand there and think, thank God I was off yesterday or this would have hit me so much worse.”
Moss says, “I want people to know that it is okay to take a mental health day. I don’t want you to feel guilty about doing that.”
It’s important to use the day in a way that will help you feel recharged and rejuvenated.
“The misconception is that if I take a mental health day, I need to be laying in bed with a rag over my head, like I would be if I had a stomachache or a headache. If you’re taking a mental health day, you’re going to be doing things to rejuvenate yourself and to make yourself feel mentally well. You might go walk around the park. You might cook your favorite meal. You might watch your favorite movie. You’re spending that day taking care of yourself in healthy ways,” says Moss.
“Some days I would stay home and lay low. Some days I would get out and drive with no fear of any coworker interaction at the places where I was going during that day. It was an unspoken relaxation,” says Walter.
We all need that day from time to time.
“Even if you are passionate about your work and you enjoy the work you’re doing, everyone gets tired. That’s okay,” Moss says. “When you take the time to rest mentally, you come back refreshed and energized to do the work.”
Benefits of taking a mental health day
- Come back to work refreshed
- More productive
- Fewer mistakes
- Better relationships with coworkers
- Less turnover
Even though you don’t have to disclose the reason you’re using sick time, here are some tips if you need guidance on taking that day off. “Stigma still exists in the work place,” Moss says. That’s why she encourages employers to be open and talk about mental health.
“Employers need to be cognizant of that fact that people struggle mentally, just as they do physically. When the employee takes time to take a break, to take care of themselves, it helps them do a better job,” she says.
Moss says when employers are flexible and supportive, there are long-term benefits as well.
“When you care about your staff and their wellbeing, they care about the work they’re doing and they’re invested in the work and the mission,” she says “You can be supportive of people’s work and mental health needs “When people are not micromanaged and they have the ability to have a good work-life balance, they appreciate the company more. They kind of have their own checks and balances.”
Chelsey agrees. “Short term you are down one person one day. If you don’t purposely short staff yourself you will be fine. If you refuse these days off, you lose the employee long term. My cousin just quit a job because of the stress and being unable to take any days off.”
Walter also ended up leaving the company that was taking a toll on his mental well-being.
In addition to taking a mental health day, here are some ways to boost your mental health every day. If the feelings of burnout continue or you need a little extra support, Moss recommends taking advantage of your company’s Employee Assistance Program and speaking with a professional.