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What Are Mental Health Days?

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Alexa Thelen, MA, LPCC, Outpatient Therapist, and Clinical Services Training Specialist. The topic of taking mental health days has certainly risen in popularity over the years. While they are a welcomed topic of conversation, mental health days are not new to employees. Employees have always been taking them, whether an employer has been aware of it or not. It may have been under a different reason like feeling unwell or tending to a family emergency.

What Mental Health Days Are

Mental health days are not a way to take the day off with the sole reason to "treat" yourself. In the name of self-care, they are a method of taking care of something that has been out of balance through a day off. That could be from the effects of burnout, stress, or anxiety. Some signs you may need a mental health day include if you:
  • Are unable to focus or concentrate
  • Are exhausted and can't sleep
  • Keep getting sick
  • Are feeling overly anxious or disconnected 
Essentially, a mental health day should involve tending to your physical, mental, and spiritual needs. A mental health day would, ideally, be partnered with other vacation days. A solo day off of work tends to not be enough to address the root of the problem. Related: 8 Simple Ways to De-Stress

Why You Need Them

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and stress can impact your physical health. Taking care of your stress levels should be a priority. If you don't take preventative action, the feeling of burnout can surmount.
Research shows that burnout can occur for an employee in any field if they do not take days off to rest and recuperate. When taking a mental health day, it is important to physically AND mentally distance ourselves from the work. Engage in self-practices that help fill up your cup and allow yourself to enjoy the break!
-Alexa Thelen, MA, LPCC, Outpatient Therapist, and Clinical Services Training Specialist. Your PTO is there for a reason. Use it. Pushing yourself to come in anyway because you feel guilty for taking the day off may cause your work to suffer, in addition to more stress.  What does filling up your cup look like? On a mental health day, participate in activities that allow for rest and rejuvenation. It should be about what you want to do, not what you have to do. Activities on a mental health day can include things like:
  • Taking a yoga class
  • Reading an inspirational book
  • Cleaning (if cleaning is therapeutic for you)
  • Spending time with a loved one
  • Catching up on sleep 
Whatever you do, make the day count. Only you know what self-care is appropriate for what you need, so take action accordingly and participate in a way that empowers and resets your perspective.  Related: Why Mental Health in the Workplace Is Important 

Change the Culture, Not the Policy

While mental health days are needed, the truth is employees need more than just a day off. While they make for a welcomed addition to comprehensive mental health strategies, the proposition of mental health days alone is not a single solution. Preventative measures are still a better effort to improve mental health in the workplace, including changing company culture. To truly help employees feel their best, the practice of incorporating mental health days in addition to company mental health strategies should be commonplace. The topic of taking a mental health day, in general, has added to much-needed mental health discussions. For that, Nystrom & Associates is grateful. Mental health overall needs to be a part of everyday conversations. We are all for opening up the dialogue. Check out our article on How to Build and Maintain Coping Skills for helpful information on coping with stressors in your life.  Need a little more help? We're here for you. Reach out and request an appointment or take a look at our providers

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