You Shouldn't Feel Guilty About Taking A Mental Health Day and Here Is Why

In Australia, the poor mental health of workers costs our workplaces a collective figure of approximately $10.9 billion per year. Through absenteeism, a poor productivity rate and compensation claims, mental health is taking a toll not only on workers themselves but on the workforce as a whole. So, why aren't we taking more mental health days to avoid the extreme consequences?

What is a mental health day?

A mental health day is taking a whole day off work (or school because I know I needed to take them in high school) to decompress your emotions, a whole day to not think about your workload, a whole entire day to focus on yourself and your mental state. Taking mental health days are just as, if not more important than taking your sick days and your vacation days. It is a day off to relieve the stressors of your work life.

Why do we take mental health days?

By taking days off for mental health reasons when you need to take them you are not only helping yourself to be more mentally well- you are also helping your workplace out. By allowing a day to mentally recharge your batteries you have a better chance of being productive upon your return to work. If an employee is suffering mentally because of their work, in general, they aren't going to be getting work done, are they? No. They're going to have a poor work performance, they're going to be snappy, they're going to have low morale.

How do you know if you need a mental health day?

Ultimately the only person who can truly know if a mental health day off is needed is you, and you're boss can't tell you otherwise (just in case they try too.) Some signs that you might need to take a mental health day could be:

  • You are easily set off. The smallest, most minuscule of happenings can tick you off. You snap at people you probably shouldn't snap at, you are irritated 99% of the time. 
  • The mere thought of going to work (or school) tomorrow makes you anxious already.
  • You are run down, getting sick all the time, constantly feeling not at your best.
  • You are utterly exhausted, but sleep, well sleep just does not come to you that easily. 
  • When you get to work you can't focus on the task at hand, you are constantly trying to pep talk yourself into staying on your task. 
  • You don't feel happy. This is a hard one to explain, but you just feel down all day every day at work, you don't feel like a positive person who is full of energy and has a passion for the work they do. 
  • You feel a disconnect from life in general. From your work colleagues, from your work in general. It will start eating away at your life outside of work, you'll feel a disconnect from the fun you want to have, from your family, from your pets. 

Will a mental health day "fix" me?

Unfortunately taking one day and doing a bit of self-care won't be a magic cure-all for your problems, but it is a good place to start. Think of this day off as the first stepping stone to the ultimate self-care plan, the first day to put the wheels in motion and start towards a better feeling version of yourself. 

Take this day to consider the bigger picture. Ask yourself: what is the issue at large? Am I depressed? Am I stressed out? Am I in the wrong job? Am I bordering on burn out? Use this day as a planning day, use it to assess your long term needs, to recharge your internal batteries and reset your perspective. 

Do I need to tell my boss it is a mental health day?

If it makes you uncomfortable you can absolutely not be clear on why you are taking a sick day. However, if you do have a boss or supervisor that you feel you can confide in as to why you are taking the day off, being open and honest is always a good way to go. You never know, opening up about you're struggling may encourage them to take a look at the current happenings in the workplace and open up a discussion on how the mental health of workers can be looked after.

If you need to take a mental health day- take one and don't feel guilty about it. Your mental health and wellbeing are far more important than anything you will miss from one day off. 

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