One employee’s viral tweet is shedding light on something we all need to talk about: mental health days.
In the tweet, the employee included a screenshot of the email she sent letting her team know she’d be using two sick days to work on her mental health. It was her boss’s response to the email (also screenshotted) that caused the tweet to go viral: he thanked her for being upfront about using sick leave for mental health and took the opportunity to remind other team members the importance of doing just that if they need.
It’s not a policy in all businesses that sick days can be used for mental health days, but maybe it should be. Through new research, we’re learning that not only is mental health incredibly crucial to our overall health and wellbeing, but also that poor mental health and stressors at the workplace can lead to employee burn-outs and outbursts, as well as affect their ability to meaningfully contribute to the job.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk taking a break for the sake of your health and your job.
What is a Mental Health Day?
A mental health day may seem self-explanatory, but they’re a bit more nuanced than they may seem. But basically, you should see a mental health day as any other sort of sick day. If you wake up with the sniffles, you’re probably going to be able to power through the work day. Maybe just drink an extra cup of green tea, go to bed early, and you’ll be better the next day. But if you wake up with the flu, you’re gonna need some time off to recuperate.
Same thing applies to your mental health: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, addiction – all of these (and other mental afflictions) affect individuals differently and it all depends on the day. Most of the time we’re fine and functioning. Sometimes we’ll get a little sad or feel a little off, and that’s like a mental sniffle. It’s not something to take a mental health day for, but you know there will be days that feel like a mental and emotional flu. Those are the days to step back, stay home from work, and focus on getting better for your team, but mostly for yourself.
How to Know When You Need a Mental Health Day
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a mental sniffle is going to turn into a full-blown mental health flu, so here are a few questions to ask yourself if you think you may need a mental health day:
When was the last time you had a day off?
Not taking time off can leave you overworked, overstressed, and mentally exhausted. Even the strongest minds need a break every now and then to be the best they can be.
If it’s been a while – like, a long while – since you had a break, you may benefit from a mental health day.
Can you get up and take a shower?
With depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, sometimes it really does take everything in you just to get out of bed. So take it one step at a time: if you can get up, brush your teeth, take a shower, and get dressed, keep taking it one step further and you’ll probably do just fine at work.
If, however, you get stuck, give yourself a small pat on the back for what you did do and take the rest of the day to pump yourself back up.
Is something pressing distracting you?
Your brain works best when it isn’t cluttered thinking about all the things piling up around you.
If you’re behind on bills or budgeting or even cleaning and taking the day to take care of all of that, you can help reduce anxiety and feel more focused and in control when you come back to work.
Can you make an appointment to see a therapist today?
Just like you may take a sick day to go see the doctor or the dentist for physical ailments, you may also seriously benefit from taking a day to see a mental health professional.
Encouraging Your Employees to Take Mental Health Days
If you own a wellness center with employees and therapists, it’s also important to encourage they take mental health days if they need them. At a center for healing, you need your therapists in tip-top shape, and that includes their mental health. If you offer an employee insurance plan, make sure it includes appropriate coverage for mental health therapies and treatments. You can also make periodic announcements of the importance of mental health and taking time when it’s needed to get back to 100%.
Kat Wiseman is a content writer for Span Enterprises in Rock Hill, SC. She has a B.A. in English-Creative Writing from Winthrop University and her RYT 200 from Yoga Alliance. When she's not writing or doing yoga, she enjoys Netflix marathons, mystery novels, and being at the beach.