The phrase “taking a mental health day” is often used for comic exaggeration, as in, “My boss wore this hideous dress, now I have to take a mental health day.”
But they are real, and when used correctly they can do a lot to rejuvenate people who are on or past the edge of burnout in their jobs.
Taking one won’t resolve deeper issues, but taking a step back from your situation can help you refuel on energy and gain a new perspective on your work and workplace.
When and how to do it
If you’re feeling stressed, and especially if you’re experiencing such symptoms as poor sleep, exhaustion, reduced performance and productivity, anxiety, moodiness and falling victim to more colds and other infection than normal, it could be time to consider taking a mental health day to reset.
It very likely is time if you’re turning to alcohol, excessive caffeine or other substances to get through your shift.
Tell your boss or HR department that you want to take a sick day for mental health if you think they’ll be receptive to the information; otherwise you can take a sick day or PTO without reporting the specific reason.
Scheduling your day off can avoid creating more stress in the process, but if you wake up one morning and you simply can’t get out of bed or fathom going in for another round, use it!
What to do with your day
This will depend on how you’re feeling going into it, but it’s a good idea to sketch at least a loose plan so you don’t get sucked into doomscrolling or other bad habits.
If you’re simply exhausted, expect to take a couple of naps and putter around your home the rest of the time. If you’re stressed to the max, try to work in some meditation and yoga and book a massage.
When your workplace is stifling and you need to cut loose get together with friends, try a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or aerobics session to your favorite music or go to a concert or dance club.