Wondering if you should take a mental health day? You’re not alone. Research shows that today’s workforce, across all industries, is increasingly more stressed, and job burnout is at an all-time high.
The reasons for these unprecedented levels of workplace stress are complex. More businesses are struggling to find employees, and existing employees are having to pick up the slack. The pandemic, too, has created new job stress, with in-flux masking and testing requirements and fears that we may not be finished with lock-downs.
Bottom line? It’s understandable if you’re feeling a little (or a lot!) burnt out from your job.
There’s good news, though. Taking a mental health day can help. What is a mental health day and how does it help? Mental health days are simply time away from anything work-related, however, mental health days differ from taking a sick day. They’re personal days you can give to yourself to rejuvenate and re-set, to concentrate on something that’s fun and relaxing for you.
Taking some time every so often is important for more than just mental health, though. That space and time you give yourself to recharge your mental batteries can help you avoid stress-related health issues that may hinder productivity and happiness in your job.
“A mental health day can allow a person to have time to take care of their mental health and engage in self care. This can be a day to focus on relaxation and coping from daily stressors. It can be really beneficial to take a mental health day, so there’s a break from the usual hectic routine which can also be a trigger for mental health issues. Having a free, unstructured day can allow the person to let go of negative thoughts and feelings that usually come up in response to stress and anxiety.”Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LMHC
Are you wondering should I take a mental health day? If you’re questioning the need, chances are, one would do you good — but if you need more convincing, below are 10 signs that it may be time to take a much-needed day off.
1. You’re Feeling Tired and Run Down
Stress and overwork can quickly take a toll on the body and make you feel tired or downright exhausted. If your mind is running 24/7, and you can’t stop thinking about problems at work, you don’t have any time to rest or escape from the office and likely have poor work-life balance. Feeling constantly sluggish and worn out may be directly related to the stress you feel at the office.
2. You Get Angry Easily
When we’re stressed and tired, it’s all too easy to get angry and lose our temper, even over seemingly small things. If you find yourself getting annoyed with (or even yelling at) coworkers, it might be time to take a day off and relax. You don’t want to damage relationships (professional or personal) just because you’re feeling burnt out. Journaling for mental health is a great way to release your feelings on paper, as opposed to taking it out on your coworkers.
3. You Feel Anxious and Dread Going to Work
Do you wake up wanting to stay in bed, wishing you could just pull the covers over your head? Does the thought of going to work fill you with dread? If so, it’s time for a day away from the stress of the office.
4. You Can’t Focus at Work
Stress can disrupt your focus, making it more difficult to get your work done and increasing the potential for mistakes. It’s not just your focus that suffers, either. Stress can affect memory and the ability to learn new things. Ironically, an inability to focus can lead to you being totally consumed by work, since you aren’t able to complete tasks as easily and quickly as before.
5. You Keep Getting Sick
Chronic stress can negatively impact your immune response, according to health experts and researchers. Specifically, stress can raise suppressor T cell and catecholamine levels, which are known immune system repressors — this can increase your risk of viral infections and physical illness. If you find yourself catching every cold or virus that’s circulating around the neighborhood or office, you might need to take steps to alleviate some of your stress, like taking a mental health break from work.
Studies show that other physical health-related issues that are directly related to stress can include:
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Heart issues and plaque buildup
- Histamine release, triggering asthmatic-reactions
- Altered acid concentration, leading to ulcers and/or colitis
You never have to show your employer any medical records, and your personal information is protected under HIPAA laws.
6. You Aren’t Sleeping Well
Sleep is not only important for maintaining your overall health, but is also directly correlated to stress and can contribute to a number of mental health conditions if you aren’t getting adequate sleep. Chronic insomnia is another sign of stress, and it can be the stem of a vicious cycle. The less sleep you get, the less you’re able to focus and the more stressed you become, the more sleep you might lose, and so on.
7. You Feel Disconnected from Co-Workers and Others Around You
Yet another one of the signs you need a mental health day is feeling like you’re disconnected from your co-workers, friends, and family. This might include feeling as if no one understands you, or constantly feeling like you’re on a different page from everyone else.
8. You’re Eating Less (or More)
Some people turn to food for comfort when they’re stressed. Others avoid food altogether when they’re anxious. Neither habit is healthy. If you find yourself binging or skipping meals, it might be time to consider a mental health day so you can figure out if work-related stress is contributing to newly founded unhealthy eating habits.
9. You Change Your (Alcohol) Drinking Habits
One of the more serious signs you need a mental health day is if you find yourself drinking more wine, beer, or alcohol than usual. Alcohol is often used as a crutch to ease anxiety when people are feeling overwhelmed with work. Better to take a mental health day than to turn to substances as a coping tool. Remember that excessive drinking can result in increased risk for future mental and physical health conditions.
10. Your Friends and Family Are Concerned About You
Often, our friends and family can see things in us that we can’t, since we’re so close to the situation. If those closest to you are concerned that you’re acting “funny,” or you just aren’t your “happy-go-lucky” self, you’d be wise to listen to them. See if taking a step back lets you recognize if there’s any truth to what those who love you are saying.
If you’re wondering, “Should I take a mental health day?” remember: the answer to that question is more than likely “yes,” or the thought probably wouldn’t be on your mind in the first place.
If any of our 10 signs you need a mental health day resonate with you, it’s time to get your plan together, choose a day, and present your case to your boss or HR department. You’ll probably be amazed how much even just one day can ease your anxiety at work, reduce your stress level, and change your mood.
If you find that a day off isn’t enough for you to readjust and reset, you may need a stress leave from work or something more than just work stress may be at play. Don’t wait to get professional help — stress is sometimes unavoidable in life, but there’s a difference between good stress vs bad stress. Too much, or the wrong kind of stress can lead to culminating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety that can worsen over time. The good news is you can turn it around. Therapy can be a game-changer in how you’re able to manage and work through stress in a healthy way that betters all areas of your life.
Online therapy platforms like Talkspace make getting therapy easier than ever. Convenient, affordable, effective, and accessible mental health professional help is literally at your fingertips. You don’t have to suffer…you deserve to live a happy, fulfilling life, where you know how to control your stress, instead of letting it control you.
1. Abramson A. Burnout and stress are everywhere. American Psychological Association. 2022;53(1):72. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-burnout-stress. Accessed April 28, 2022.
2. Salleh MR. Life event, stress and illness. Malays J Med Sci. 2008;15(4):9-18.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/#:~:text=Studies%20have%20shown%20that%20short,which%20suppress%20the%20immune%20system. Accessed April 28, 2022.