The Importance of Taking a Day for Mental Health
If months under a Covid-19 cloud have made you stressed and anxious, you are not alone.
Nearly 40 percent of workers reported a mental health problem during the pandemic, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Weekly report on morbidity and mortality.
Do you think that’s in line with the past? Think again.
Anxiety symptoms were three times as high as in 2019 and symptoms of depression were four times as high before the pandemic.
Now, more than ever, consider a mental health day before stress leads to burnout — or worse.
“People need time away from work to achieve a sense of balance,” said Kevin Condon, a Georgia-based licensed clinical social worker and mental health counselor who works with first responders on mental health issues.
What is a Mental Health Day?
You go and go and go like the Energizer bunny. Think of a mental health day as a time to recharge your batteries in a healthy way before you grind to a halt.
The purpose of a mental health day is to distance yourself from work and give your brain a break. It’s a way to take care of your mental health and improve your energy and motivation and even increase your productivity when you return to work.
Your mental health day should include specific activities, including self-care, to achieve these goals. These can be reading/journal, sleeping in or sleeping in, walks in nature and a hobby that you enjoy.
Having lunch with a friend is good, Condon says, provided you establish the ground rules so that the conversation remains light and pleasant (no politics or work discussions are allowed).
Some activities to avoid during your mental health day are scrolling through any form of social media, wallowing in negative emotions, bingeing on junk food or alcohol, and controlled substances.
Here are some more mental health tips you can follow.
But what about work?
You may think a mental health day sounds good right now, but your company won’t agree. After all, your profit is your boss’s loss… right?
You’re not alone in reaping the benefits of a mental health day. Your employer can do that too.
A World Health Organization study estimated that for every $1 spent on mental health support, including mental health days, there is a $4 return in labor productivity.
There is a stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace, but here are some tips for talking about mental illness at work.
Signs You Need a Mental Health Day
It can be challenging to figure out when to give your brain a break, but there are some clear signs that your body and mind need to decompress.
Here are some common signs of mental, physical and emotional fatigue, according to our panel of mental health experts.
Your usual coping mechanisms are not working
Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, or a short walk around the block are all ways people deal with routine stressors. But if these typical tricks and tactics don’t work, it’s time for a longer break.
A daylong commitment to mental health is needed, says Sam Bernard, executive director of a Tennessee-based company specializing in disaster psychology and crisis response, advisor to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and fellow of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Tension. .
10,000 hours/Getty Images
Your emotions get in the way
When emotional reactions are out of sync with the situation, it’s time for a reality check.
Hot temper, angry outbursts, apathy and disinterest can be a sign that your perception is distorted. Blame it on stress, Condon says. And if left unchecked, this lack of awareness leads to damaged relationships and disruptive workplaces.
You have trouble staying focused
Stress creates a mental fog that makes it hard to focus, make decisions, or see the big picture, Bernard says.
If you find yourself fixated on small details that don’t matter, or drifting around with no goals or direction, a day away from stressors can help clear up the brain fog.
You’ve worked long stretches with few breaks
As work hours increase, so do stress levels.
Lisandro Irizarry, MD, a physician in New York City, has witnessed firsthand the emotional toll that staff overtime can take during the pandemic.
“They had feelings of inadequacy because they couldn’t control the situation,” he says. Some were able to cope by simply shutting down.
Take a mental health day away from the workplace instead of mentally disconnecting from the situation.
(These are the mental health issues that therapists blame for 2020.)
You are a different person at work and at home
When your behavior changes significantly and noticeably between work and home, pay attention.
“People are good at putting on a playful face at work, [but] when they get home, they take the mask off,” said Condon, who works with first responders on mental health issues.
Involve those closest to you when dealing with stress, as they are likely to see your full picture.
(Here’s how toxic productivity can affect your life.)
You start to resent your colleagues or work situation
As the stress begins to mount, you may see challenges or threats where they don’t exist, such as when a coworker asks you questions or disagrees with you, Dr. Irizarry says. Those internal frustrations can lead to misplaced anger directed at co-workers, creating an unpleasant workplace.
If that sounds like you, it’s time to improve your mental health.
Your emotional problems lead to physical problems
If your emotional stress manifests itself physically, it is a sign that you need a rest day to catch your breath. Some physical problems associated with emotional problems include:
- Increased headache, back pain, gastrointestinal complaints
- Dizziness, nausea, chest tightness
- Frequent colds
- irregular sleep
Physical symptoms are your body’s response to internal stress, Bernard says. As stress levels rise, your immune system begins to be compromised.
You feel frustrated, helpless or hopeless
It may sound simplistic, but positive thinking helps people out of a daze.
In a 2020 review paper published in Cureus, researchers recommend focusing on positive thinking, taking a mental health day, and reminding yourself that feelings of anxiety, panic, and fear will fade. Doing this, they say, will help people get through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bottom line is that if you think you’re broken, you probably will stay broken. So focus on where you want to be and start that plan on your mental health day.
When to seek help
If you think a mental health day (or vacation) might not be enough to restore your energy, mood, productivity, and so on, it might be time to seek out a mental health professional.
Mental illnesses such as clinical anxiety and depression can linger long after a mental health day or a few days off. It is best to talk to a doctor for a diagnosis and to find out if you need treatment to cope with the daily challenges.
If you’re stuck in a bad job, it might be time to quit – for the sake of your health.
Here’s how to get mental health therapy online.