(This post was written in honor of the “Mental Health Month” of May. Updated September 23, 2015.)
Mental health days are gifts to yourself in the form of time.
Call them what you will…a mental vacation day, an emotional sick day, a press-pause-on-responsibilities day…these days are necessary survival tools in the digital age. Do you listen to the signs that it’s time for you to press pause on your responsibilities and grant yourself a sacred mental health day?
If you pan back and view your life from a distance, away from the minutia of daily life, you will hopefully see that time is more valuable than money or pleasing your boss or a deadline or keeping a perfect reputation as the employee who never misses a day. Are your priorities in the right place when it comes to taking a day off from work?
While not easy to time perfectly, sick days are much easier than mental health days to figure out. Your body offers more recognizable signals that you won’t be able to function at work and that home would be a much more comfortable place to suffer. People (your boss included) speak the language of the sick day. They won’t question your decision like they would if you declared that you’re taking a mental health day.
A mental health day, on the other hand, is a different story. Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving their boss an early morning message stating that they’ve decided to take a day off because they’re feeling more depressed than usual or the thought of an upcoming meeting is giving them panic attacks. People generally feel too exposed to use their mental suffering as a reason for skipping a day, especially if their work environment leaves no room for sharing weakness.
What about tuning in to the state of your mental health to assess the need for a day away from your routine?
The idea of a mental health day isn’t embraced by American society. It can be viewed as a sign of weakness, especially by people who value money and productivity over happiness. I feel sorry for these people.
But really…what better way is there to care for yourself than to honor your emotional needs for at least a day…to address the neglected parts of you and take a big first step toward gaining a sense of control over them?
Vacation days have their obvious benefits, but a mental health day has a unique role in your life.
Use them once every few months…because you can.