There are days when your mind is so cluttered and overwhelmed that you wake up for the day’s work, and you’re not sure if you can even handle it. That is one of those times when you need to take a day for yourself to restore and preserve your own mental health. This isn’t a gimmick, and it’s not something that people make up to get out of work—it’s a genuine issue with which all of us need to be concerned.
To look at this properly and deal with it appropriately, you have to, first, gain a better understanding of where it comes from. Then, you’ll be able to decide for yourself when you need a mental health day, and how is the best way to manage them as it applies to your own professional and personal life.
Mental Health vs. Mental Illness
The first thing we’ll look at is what this really is because it tends to be viewed by some professionals as a joke or some kind of novelty. For some reason, many people don’t take this seriously at all, so it’s important to clarify what is meant by, “mental health day” and its significance.
A crucial distinction to make is to never confuse mental health with mental illness, which is an entirely separate area. This might be the primary reason why a person can sometimes be incorrectly stigmatized as having more serious mental or emotional issues, when that person simply says that they need a mental health day.
A person’s mental health refers to their well-being, psychologically and emotionally, which is something that every one of us contends with every day as we manage our lives and adapt to life’s daily struggles and responsibilities. Mental health basically describes the mental and emotional state of every individual. Mental illness is different.
If you have a mental illness, it means you have a psychological condition or disorder that disrupts your life and requires treatment. This can be anything from serious depression to personality disorders, and everything in-between. So, you can see why it’s important to distinguish between mental health and mental illness, to avoid branding someone with a serious illness when they just need some time to de-stress and balance their mood.
What is a Mental Health Day?
If you say you’re taking a mental health day, what do you mean by that? As we touched on already, the gist of it is that you are having a harder time than usual handling the strain of accomplishing everything that’s required of you, and though this can definitely include responsibilities outside of work, it mainly has to do with what you need to complete at work.
To simplify this further, taking a mental health day means that you’re going to take a day off work to focus on balancing yourself again, psychologically and emotionally. The whole point of it is to stop. Sometimes you need to just stop what you’re doing so that you can hear yourself think because the stress only continues to increase unless you stop what’s stressing you.
A mental health day doesn’t have to be a day of inactivity, though. Not only can you do things that will help you to relax and recenter yourself, such as meditation or exercise, but it’s also an opportunity to assess everything you’re doing at work. You can come up with new strategies for managing all of your projects, look at your schedule for tasks and see what might need to be changed, and even figure out how to relieve some of your workload if necessary.
Just like vacation days, sick days, and personal days all have a specific purpose, mental health days have their own purpose, too. In fact, a mental health day is kind of a personal day in its own way. They unfortunately aren’t recognized as an official reason for an absence, despite the clear need for them by business owners, as well as any employee. So, a mental health day is a day that you take off from work to either avoid becoming overly strained mentally and emotionally, or because you’ve already reached that point and need to take it back a notch to balance yourself.
Don’t Write It Off as Illegitimate
Your first instinct, if you’ve never heard of mental health days, may be to assume that it’s not a genuine concern, but they can be all too necessary, especially when you’re running a business. Just because it’s not a time-off allowance that is typically included in company policies, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have real value. And just because you have never considered taking one doesn’t mean that you don’t need one.
Many employees of a company don’t have the benefit of excused absences, but as the owner of your business, you can decide for yourself when you need a mental health day. You’re the boss. If this article is inspiring you to take more care with managing your mental health, then you have the option of taking that time if you need it.
Of course, you most likely don’t feel like you can justify taking the time away from your business. As you’re probably a very driven, hard-working person, you probably don’t allow yourself an absence from work for something like this; but it can help you immensely with relieving stress so that you can get back to work, full-force, and increase your productivity as you become mentally balanced.
Don’t write off mental health days as something trivial or unnecessary just because of how it sounds. When you’re struggling to get through all of the various tasks for which you’re responsible every day, letting it drain your energy and stress you out, a mental health day might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Know When to Take a Day Off
Obviously, it’s not something you can do all the time, and if you feel that you frequently need to take a day, then it’s probably something you need to address more deeply. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you aren’t going to be able to do your job very well, anyway. One particular example of an instance when you might need to take a day for yourself is the following.
During periods when there is an unusually heavy workload, you may wake up feeling instantly panicked about everything you need to get done. It probably doesn’t mean that you have some serious mental health condition; it most likely just means that you’re overworking yourself and need to take a step back from work for a moment. That’s a time when you should communicate with your team and have them pitch in to help you with the load, so that you can take a little time to relax for the day to catch your breath and get your balance.
When you have a business, or even multiple businesses to run, it’s understandable that you don’t want to let anything slip, but when you don’t pay attention to your mental health or manage your mood, that’s a fast-track to getting burned out. Any time you feel so overwhelmed that it’s a struggle to get through work every day, that’s when you might need a mental health day.
What Can a Mental Health Day Do for You?
Now that we’ve established what a mental health day is, and the value of taking one to restore your psychological and emotional state, let’s look at the actual benefits of it. First of all, as we touched on earlier, this is one of the most effective ways to reduce your stress level.
There are a lot of things you can do to reduce stress, many of which can be done while you keep working; however, when you reach that point where you can no longer effectively complete tasks because you’re becoming overwhelmed, that’s when you need to stop and regroup. As an ambitious entrepreneur, stopping completely, even for a short time, is one of the hardest things for you to do.
Even so, it should probably be your first step when you reach that point. The next benefit that results from taking a mental health day is that it can get you back to being fully productive. It does you no good to continue every day as you normally do, under extreme strain from which you give yourself no relief, and performing at a diminished capacity because of it.
To regenerate and restore yourself to full operating capacity, you have to take some time away from the things that are causing that strain and rethink your strategy for getting everything done. Take the opportunity to reorganize the workload and change whatever needs to be changed, in such a way that it doesn’t cause you to become overwhelmed.
Finally, after reassessing everything and regrouping during a mental health day, you will find that your tasks feel easier when you come back because your mind and body have both had a chance to restore themselves. Instead of struggling and fighting through projects, you’ll be able to get through them faster, with more ease, and possibly even enjoy them. Imagine enjoying running your business again!
Intense strain at work on a regular basis can eventually lead to all kinds of negative mental health issues, like depression, burnout, and other problems, which is why mental health days can be of huge benefit to you as a business owner.
Mental Health & Burnout
As we have been discussing understanding and dealing with burnout in this series, we’ve looked deeply into what causes burnout, how to avoid it, and how to handle it when it happens to you. This conversation is so important because it’s not talked about enough, and many business owners don’t even realize when it is already happening. Furthermore, mental health is one of the most significant contributing factors to burnout.
When you don’t take measures to maintain positive mental health as a business owner, something has to give at some point; it’s infinitely better to avoid burnout by using healthy practices to prevent it. One of these very healthy practices are mental health days. If you find that you really need one every now and then, don’t feel guilty about taking it. It’s vital for you to take that time to restore your energy so that you can stay productive and keep yourself from getting burned out. Again, it’s worth reiterating that mental health is something that we all need to be concerned about in our daily lives, and it in no way means that you have a mental illness, or that you’re inferior to other people.
You should take care of your mental health just as carefully as you take care of your physical health. In the same way that we suffer consequences when we overwork and strain ourselves physically, you can also harm yourself if you neglect your mental health. Just as you need rest for your body after you’ve been intensely exerting yourself, taking time to let your mind recover during high-stress periods is also needful.
No one can force you to take a step back from work so that you can regroup. You have to monitor your own mental health and watch the signs in yourself, so that you will know when it may be time to stop to restore your psychological and emotional state. You’re not giving up, and you haven’t failed when you reach that point. You should never feel guilty about taking a brief rest because we all need it sometimes. Take a mental health day. It might be exactly what you need.
Check out all of the articles in the series, Understanding & Dealing with Burnout:
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.