When was the last time you took a sick day? What was it for?
Most people consider an injury or illness, like a fever or sprain, to be an acceptable reason to stay away from work and linger longer in bed. But have you ever taken a day off when you knew your mental health wasn’t at its best?
Many of us find ignoring our mental well-being easier than neglecting a physical ailment. And especially in the workaholic cultures that can be perpetuated by startups, it can seem more difficult than ever to put yourself before your work.
This effect is amplified if you’re a solo entrepreneur or founder, and the day-to-day operation of your business relies on you physically turning up to work. But if you aren’t feeling right mentally, there’s a big chance that it’s affecting your performance and productivity.
The stigma surrounding mental health has decreased significantly as our public discussions of this important subject have evolved and matured with better education, research and socialisation. In recent years, there’s been a transformation in the way that mental health is perceived, and more attention is shifting to the importance of self-care and mental wellbeing practices. Recognizing mental ill-health and seeking therapy or other treatments is becoming more normalized thanks to these discussions within society, media and pop culture.
Despite this, reports state that only 17% of the total working population in the U.S. function at the optimum level mental health, so there’s no doubt that more of us should consider taking well-intentioned mental health days when needed.
Many people operate at a certain level of stress that provides enough adrenaline to do their work, but it’s important to recognize when you’re overstretching yourself. Your mind and body will often give signs that you’re being pushed to the limit – so know yourself, know your signs and know when to take a time-out.
Some people find that a continual, repetitive routine can also put them in a mental rut. In such a situation, a mental health day can be a great option to break out of it and re-ignite your creativity. Engage yourself in an activity that can help refresh and reset such as –
- Sleeping in
Everyone could do with a few more hours of snoozing! Let yourself switch off and take the day to reset your body clock.
- Engaging in your favorite hobby
Give yourself a break from your work tasks and give in to the world of your own interests. Whether it’s gardening, knitting, painting or writing that story that’s been stuck in your head for a while, your brain will thank you for the change of pace.
- Getting some exercise
With a busy schedule and sedentary, desk-based lifestyle, it can be tough to get regular physical activity. Use your day off to hit the gym, head to a Zumba class or find your Zen with yoga.
- Losing yourself in a book or TV show
Have a TV series or book that you’ve been meaning to catch up with? Make the most of your day off and binge watch to your heart’s content.
For the best results, find a method that works for you! There is no right and wrong way to take care of yourself.
When it comes to family and relationships, there can be a perception in some workplaces that only a serious event like a death is worthy of taking a day off work. However, other major changes to your social and emotional support networks can also be mentally draining and have a serious impact on your ability to work – such as a relationship break-up, friendship falling-out or illness of a relative or friend. You are the best judge of when you need a day away from work to distract yourself, rest and recover, or process your emotions in a healthy way.
Studies show that taking even a short break between periods of work can improve your overall productivity, and managers are being urged to recognize that hours worked is not always equivalent to productivity gained. Perhaps more importantly, research has shown breaks lead to a boost in creativity and an improved mental state of being beyond leading you to an optimal working rhythm. And this is a benefit we could all stand to gain.
Even your electronics need a reboot every now and then, so why not do the same for your brain? Think of a mental health day as hitting your reset button, allowing you to take time to disconnect, recharge and rest, for the benefit of your health and your future productivity.