If you'd call out for a fever, why not for a panic attack? Here's how to benefit from mental health days.
- Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being.
- Employees are less likely to stay home to care for their mental health than they are for their physical health.
- Employers can help to improve employees' well-being by creating a mental health policy.
Many employees are afraid to call out when they're feeling emotionally ill. Typically, this is not the company's fault but rather a personal struggle; sometimes, workers believe they should push or distract themselves. But there's a fine line between "giving in" and looking after yourself.
"Self-care is vital to your success – not only on the job, but in life," said Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster. "If you're not sleeping well, feeling depressed, sad, alone, overwhelmed … it's completely acceptable – and, in fact, should be encouraged – to take mental health days to take care of yourself."
Mental health should be treated with as much importance as physical health, Salemi said. If you'd call out for a fever, why not for a panic attack? Here's how to benefit from mental health days.
1. Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions.
Your mind is going to scream at you. Or, if you're lucky, it will merely whisper in your ear throughout the day, telling you your emotions and reactions are invalid. Let those thoughts exist. Don't actively invite them in, but don't kick them out, either, Salemi said.
"A common reason why many refuse to take mental health days is because they feel guilty, ashamed, weak and a million other overwhelming emotions," she said. "Their thoughts convince them that they're giving in, playing victim, being dramatic, when really, it's quite the opposite."
By taking a mental health day, you are choosing to help yourself get better. If you woke up with a migraine, would you force yourself to follow the routine of your day when you can barely keep your eyes open without vomiting? (I hope not.) Odds are, you'd acknowledge the pain, call out sick and do whatever it took to feel better.
2. Give yourself what you need.
Admitting you're struggling, and being aware of your struggle, is the first step. From there, be your own best friend, and do only what you think will ease your emotional strain.
Ask yourself what will make you feel better in this moment. Is it rest? A good book? A shopping spree? Lunch with your sister or an old friend? Whatever it may be, focus on what you need and how you can fill that void in a healthy way.
"If you're doing what you need to take care of yourself in a way that matters most, that is how your mental health day should be spent," Salemi said. "There's no right or wrong answer on what you do with the time. The point is, you are taking one, and you're recharging your batteries."
3. Don't worry about judgment.
You might be concerned about what your colleagues or managers might think. Do they believe you're slacking on a project? Do they think you used your mental health day as an excuse to skip work?
But their opinions are none of your business. No one can fully understand what you're dealing with except you. Be willing to accept that, and be willing to accept yourself. "Normal" is not universal; it is unique to every individual.
Additionally, you don't need to label your day off. If you're uncomfortable calling it what it is, simply tell your employer that you're under the weather (because you are!), and treat it as you would a physical illness.
Mental health days are efficient and encourage overall health and wellness, helping to maintain work-life balance. Taking advantage of them will help both you and your company in the long run, so don't let anyone (including yourself) convince you that you're making a poor choice, Salemi said.
"If you're reluctant to take a mental health day, just know it's highly unlikely you will ever regret taking one," she said. "Go for it, and realize that your employer also reaps the benefits when you return to work feeling more clearheaded, less stressed and more refreshed."
Implementing a mental health policy
Many of us spend more time at work than we do with our loved ones. As a result, the workplace can be a place of connection and inclusion, or it can be a place that has negative effects on your mental health. Workplaces that have mental health policies care for everyone's well-being and provide a place where everyone feels supported.
Standards around a business's mental health policy
There are some important considerations to keep in mind when implementing a mental health policy.
First, it's key to have support from management and leaders in the company. They play an important role in creating and promoting policies that promote mental health; they must lead by example.
In addition, make sure to have a solid communication plan. The policy must be clear and define the goals in a meaningful way. An example of a goal may be to improve mental health awareness and knowledge in the work environment. You should select the communication method that makes the most sense for your company.
Furthermore, provide ongoing mental-health-awareness training for your staff, including the leadership team.
Finally, determine how to track the effectiveness of your policy, and use those methods to measure how successful the mental health policy is for your company.
Companies that stand out for their mental health policies
Deloitte is one company leading the way for mental health policies in the workplace. The company says it provides training, education, information, and resources designed to improve the mental, physical, and emotional health of all employees.