When should you take a mental health day? The answer is probably simpler than you think.
But first, a word of caution… The phrase “mental health day” may seem innocent enough, but it can also cause damage. Remember that mental health is simply health. Taking a day for yourself may give you a much-needed opportunity to recharge and in some circumstances, may even include valuable self-care. But doing so is not a substitute for professional care, and using this phrase may even contribute to stigma by suggesting self-diagnosis and time off are all you need to work through mental illness.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2008, “major mental disorders cost the nation at least $193 billion annually in lost earnings alone.” And the World Health Organization estimates that anxiety and depression result in nearly $1 Trillion in lost productivity each year. In case you haven’t done the math, that is a lot of money.
Perhaps the real question should be, can your employer afford for you not to care for your mental health?
Poorly managed or untreated mental health conditions may manifest through:
- Increased tardiness, absenteeism, and presenteeism (showing up to work physically, but not able to function)
- Family and Medical Leave requests due to long-term absences attributable to depression and other mental health illnesses
- Decreased productivity due to distraction and cognitive slowing
- Decreased self-confidence
- Isolation from peers
- Agitation and increased interpersonal conflict among coworkers, leading to a potential for workplace violence
- Increased voluntary and involuntary attrition
- Increased feelings of being overwhelmed
- Decreased problem-solving ability
- Substance abuse, which affects workplace performance
If you feel like you need to take a mental health day, take a moment to think about why. Are you feeling overwhelmed with your workload? Frustrated with a colleague? Haven’t gotten enough sleep? Bored with your work? Or is there something else going on?
A great way to keep track of how things are going is to keep a mood journal, such as the My Story feature in LARKR. You can use this to track how you are feeling over time and recognize any trending problems before they become more serious.
If you need a bit of rest, or a break from the mouth breather across the hall, then sure, take a personal day.
But if you notice that you are regularly having trouble sleeping, trouble getting out of bed, experience loss or increase of appetite, or loss of attention span, etc. and these issues are getting in the way of your productivity and happiness, it may be time to see a therapist.