How To Request Mental Health Days
Updated September 30, 2022
If you are feeling particularly fatigued or overwhelmed at work, you may want to consider taking a mental health day. By spending a day focused on your health, and mental and emotional well-being, you can go back to work feeling restored, with a better attitude and improved focus and productivity. Learning some of the common signs that you need a mental health day can help you be more proactive about taking a day for mental health when you need one.
In this article, we discuss what a mental health day is, why it's important, signs you need to take one and how you can ask your employer to take a day for your mental health.
Related: How To Avoid a Burnout: 6 Steps
What is a mental health day?
A mental health day is when you take a day off from work specifically for the purposes of relieving stress. A mental health day is an opportunity to take a break, regroup and come back to work with more energy and enthusiasm.
Why are mental health days important?
Mental health days are important because they help you maintain a work-life balance and improve your overall health and well-being. Mental health days can prevent you from ever becoming burned out and help you come back to work feeling more productive. Taking a mental health day can improve your energy levels, mood, motivation and ability to manage stress.
When should you take a mental health day?
Ideally, you should take a mental health day before you get to the point where you feel you desperately need one. However, there are a number of physical indicators that you may need to take a mental health day, including:
Difficulty sleeping: If you're extremely tired but are unable to fall asleep when you go to bed, your health can suffer. Taking a mental health day to sleep in can give your body and mind the rest it needs to reset itself.
Increased anxiety: If you feel like your anxiety levels are increasing and that you don't feel like your usual self, then a mental health day can give you the opportunity to engage in activities like yoga, massage or meditation. These relaxing activities can help reduce the anxiety you're feeling and improve your workplace performance.
Difficulty focusing: If you are having difficulty focusing at work and home, possibly because of higher stress levels, then you may need a mental health day to improve your focus and regroup your thoughts. You may want to consider practicing mindfulness meditation to improve your concentration.
Feeling sadness or irritability: If you're feeling irritable, sad or depressed, then a mental health day where you spend a day doing something you love may help you re-energize yourself.
Frequent sickness: If you are experiencing recurring colds and other physical ailments, that can be an indicator that your body needs extra rest. A mental health day can give you the opportunity to sleep in, take a nap and assess other areas in your life that could be impacting your immune system, like your diet.
How to request a mental health day
Use these steps to request a mental health day with your employer:
1. Evaluate why you need the day
Start by identifying exactly why you need a mental health day. For example, are you suffering from exhaustion, experiencing anxiety or struggling to balance work and family? Identifying exactly why you need a break can help you determine whether you truly need a break from work and also make it easier to communicate your need for a mental health day to your employer.
Related: 5 Reasons To Take a Personal Day
2. Schedule in advance
While there may be times that you have to call in sick for a mental health day, if possible try to schedule the day in advance. Scheduling ahead of time can help your employer plan around your day off and give you the opportunity to get any important work completed. It also gives you the opportunity to plan how you want to spend the day. If you're experiencing extreme fatigue, for example, you may want to spend the day sleeping in and then take a restorative yoga class.
However, if what's wearing you down is an overwhelming to-do list at work and at home, you may want to use the extra time to get caught up at home so that it's is a more restful place for you. Identifying exactly why you need the day off can help you better plan how you should spend the time.
If you would rather not schedule in advance, since that would require you to use your vacation hours rather than vacation time, consider planning in advance what you will do the next time you take a day off for mental health so you use the time effectively.
3. Access whether your workplace is supportive of mental health days
Next, it's important to evaluate whether your company and the culture there are supportive of the idea of mental health days. If you feel that it isn't, you don't need to explain your reasons for taking a sick day. You can simply tell your employer that you're not feeling well and that you need to take a day off. If someone in your workplace presses you for information about why you can simply respond by telling them that you would rather not discuss the details but that you're okay.
If your employer is accepting and supportive of mental health days, you may want to be more forthcoming about the need for a mental health day. This can help create more open dialogue about the importance of mental health in the workplace. If you do decide to ask for a mental health day, specifically, you can position the request as being a win for both the employee and employer, since you'll likely come back feeling more energized, focused and productive.
Related: How To De-Stress at Work
Tips for taking a mental health day
Here are some additional tips that you may want to consider before taking a mental health day:
Completely disconnect from work: While many people still check emails or stay logged into their office's communication channel, try to resist the temptation. Remember that taking a break is beneficial to both you and your employer and that by avoiding work entirely for the day, you'll go back feeling more refreshed.
Be okay with doing nothing: If you're feeling overly fatigued, sometimes you need a day to do nothing. While you may have planned soothing activities for your mental health day, if those activities sound tiring, then you need to honor that and give yourself the freedom to do nothing.
Spend time in nature: Spending time away from technology and out in nature can be rejuvenating. If you live in an area where doing so is feasible, consider going for a walk on the beach or in a wooded area. You could even just find a botanical garden or park.
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