A mental health day is a day taken off from work for the purpose of de-stressing or recovering from burnout. While you may wonder whether it’s appropriate to schedule time out of the office if you aren’t physically ill, it’s important to recognize when you’ve reached your limit mentally and emotionally.
A well-timed day off for self-care can help improve your mental health and your work. Taking a break from your workplace stressors can help you rebalance to avoid bigger mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. What’s more, a mental health day off can be the “stitch in time that saves nine” in terms of your physical health too, since failing to address chronic stress can lead to a wide range of ailments, from weight gain to high blood pressure or even a heart attack.
Signs You Should Take a Mental Health Day
The first step to taking care of your mental health is identifying some key red flags that suggest you may benefit from taking a mental health day. Think of these “symptoms” as warning signs that a mental health day may be in order:
- You’re feeling more anxious than usual.
- You’re feeling overwhelmed.
- You’re having trouble focusing on your work.
- You have something major to deal with in your personal life that is distracting you from your job.
- You’ve been feeling stressed and burned out for several weeks or months without relief.
The Step-by-Step Guide to Career Success
Requesting a Mental Health Day
Once you’ve determined that you need to take a mental health day, the next step is to approach your boss to request a mental health day off. Make sure to review your company’s policies on sick days, mental health days and taking time out of the office; how you request a mental health day off will depend on your company’s approach and policies. Some companies may treat mental health days as sick days and you may not need to explain further than when you expect to be back. But some employers may want you to disclose the day off as a mental health day.
The key is to be able to make a solid case to your supervisor about why you feel you need the day off and how taking it will help further the company’s goals and your own. It’s also important to address who will cover your projects while you are out of the office. For example, when requesting a mental health day, you might say something like this:
“My workload has been particularly intense for the past few months. I’m starting to feel the results of the stress and pressure, and I feel like my current projects would benefit if I took a day off to reset and refocus. I know I’ll be able to come back much stronger if I can take a mental health day off. I’ve talked to a co-worker about covering for me tomorrow if I were to take a mental health day, and she is willing to do so. Does this work for the team?”
What to Do On a Mental Health Day Off
If your boss approves your request to take a mental health day, you want to be sure to make the most of this precious time. Ideally, you’ll be able to fully disconnect from any work-related activities or correspondence. If you end up tethered to your projects online or are glued to your smartphone answering texts from colleagues rather than using the time to recoup, then your mental health day won’t be as effective as it could have been.
Here are some ideas for activities to partake in during a mental health day off:
- Enjoying a creative pursuit like painting or writing in a journal.
- Doing some aerobic exercise, such as biking, hiking, swimming, jogging or working out to a fitness video.
- Talking to a therapist about specific stressors you may be experiencing.
- Reading or listening to an audiobook or podcast.
- Meditating or doing yoga.
You might also consider giving yourself permission to do nothing on your mental health day. The purpose of this special time off is to re-enter your workweek restored and rejuvenated, so think about what you need to do to make that happen.
Also keep in mind that some things that might seem like stress relief initially may actually make you feel worse in the long run. It’s best to avoid engaging in unhealthy activities on your mental health day, such as overeating junk food, spending all day on social media, or smoking, drinking or using other substances.