In today’s fast-paced world, the lines between work, leisure, and self-care often blur. We’re constantly inundated with tasks, notifications, and responsibilities, causing our mental and emotional well-being to occasionally take a backseat.
However, just as we understand the importance of rest for our physical health, it’s equally essential to recognise when our minds need a break.
“Prioritising your mental health is not just a noble act; it’s a strategic decision,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“Mental health plays a pivotal role in our overall well-being, influencing our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It affects our decision-making process, how we cope with stress, relate to others, and make choices. Taking a break to focus on mental health can provide the necessary ‘reset’ needed to promote productivity and positivity.”
What Is A Mental Health Day?
A mental health day is a day taken off from work or regular duties specifically to focus on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Unlike sick days, which are typically taken when someone is physically ill, a mental health day is taken when an individual feels they need a break from the stress, pressure, or emotional strain of their daily routine.
5 Signs That It’s Time for a Mental Health Day
How do you know when it’s time to pause and prioritise yourself? Here are five telltale signs that it might be time for a mental health day.
1. Constant fatigue and exhaustion
If you’re persistently feeling drained, even after a good night’s sleep, it’s a glaring indicator that your mind needs a breather. Constant fatigue, not attributed to any physical ailment, often signifies mental and emotional burnout.
2. Difficulty concentrating
Struggling to focus on tasks, recurrent forgetfulness, or feeling overwhelmed by daily responsibilities can be attributed to an overtaxed mind. A mental health day can provide the space and time needed to declutter thoughts and regain focus.
3. Increased irritability and mood swings
Frequent mood fluctuations, a shorter temper, or heightened irritability towards colleagues, friends, or family members are often cries for help from a strained mental state.
4. Disconnection from activities you love
If activities that once brought joy now feel like mere tasks or if there’s a general lack of motivation to engage in hobbies, it’s a clear sign that a mental recharge is necessary.
5. Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
While it’s natural to have occasional bouts of sadness or anxiety, continuous feelings of despair, worry, or hopelessness should not be ignored. These might be early indicators of more profound mental health issues.
How To Apply For A Mental Health Day
Applying for a mental health day can depend on your workplace’s policies and the culture surrounding mental health. However, here’s a general guideline to help you approach the process:
Review company policies: Before you request a mental health day, check your company’s policies regarding time off. Some organisations may have policies specifically in place for mental health days, while others might categorise it under personal or sick days.
Plan ahead: If possible, try to plan your mental health day in advance, especially if your absence might impact your team or workflow. This isn’t always feasible, as sometimes the need arises suddenly, but planning can help ensure a smoother process.
Choose the right time: It might be beneficial to choose a time when work is less hectic. However, if you feel you cannot wait, prioritise your well-being.
Communicate honestly but tactfully: When requesting the day off, you don’t necessarily need to go into great detail. You can be straightforward and say, “I need to take a personal day to recharge”, or “I need a day off for my well-being”. You know your workplace best, so use your discretion about how much detail you want to share.
Submit a formal request: Depending on your workplace, you might need to submit a written or electronic request for your time off. Follow the proper channels and ensure all necessary parties are informed.
Set an Out-of-Office message: If you do get the day off, it might be helpful to set up an out-of-office email response, notifying people that you’re unavailable for the day.
No Guilt: Remember that prioritising your mental health is just as important as addressing physical health. Don’t feel guilty for taking the time you need.
Consider confidentiality: If you’re uncomfortable sharing the reason for your day off with coworkers or managers, remember that you have a right to privacy. You can simply state you’re taking a personal day.
Seek additional support: If you find that one day isn’t enough, or the feelings of stress and burnout persist, consider seeking professional counselling or discussing a longer break with HR or your supervisor.
Follow Up: If necessary, upon your return, you can check in with your supervisor or team to catch up on anything missed and ensure a smooth transition back into work.
“We must remember, everyone deserves a break, and taking care of your mental health is paramount. The more we can normalise and prioritise mental health in the workplace, the better off we’ll all be,” concludes Hewlett.