What’s Trending: Mental Health Days

What’s Trending: Mental Health Days

What’s Trending: Mental Health Days
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sometimes, work gets the best of us, to the point in which there is nothing left to give. This is far from ideal but, for many, a constant reality. Companies know that this isn’t the best, as tired and unhappy workers are unproductive, and have tried to correct this with programs and benefits that incentivize work-life balance

That’s how mental health days started taking hold of the company benefits package, but is it okay to take mental health days? Can you take them anytime? Are there wrong ways to use them? And what are unhappy leaves?

Read this brief article to answer all your doubts.

Verywell Mind

Mental health is health, and as such, it affects different aspects of life. Work is no exception. To combat poor mental health, companies have begun implementing programs with mental health days, when employees can call in sick to take an unscheduled day off. 

In a medically-reviewed article for Very Well Mind, Elizabeth Scott, PhD, writes about how a mental health day can help your mind, but it might not be enough to prevent the whole problem.

A mental health day may treat the symptoms but won’t alleviate the problem. Mental health is not just stress, even though stress may be a crucial part that deteriorates your mind barriers. Stress can become unmanageable, especially if you or a member of your team deals with depression or anxiety disorders—which can cost up to more than a trillion dollars globally in lost productivity each year, according to WHO.

So, is this when you should take a mental health day? Well, yes and no. The benefits of a mental health day are to help you clear your mind and relax before going back fully recharged to your daily responsibilities.

“Taking a mental break from work and spending some time on self-care can sometimes give you the mini-break you need to head back into things with a clear head.”

Okay, so you’ve determined that a mental health day would do you good, how can you ask for it? According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, you are protected under “reasonable accommodations” at work. 

If you wake up feeling overwhelmed, you can ask for it as a sick day; no need to give unnecessary explanations. Or if you can feel the way things have taken a toll on you, you can schedule it as time off. The point of it should be for you to stay away and get your bearings back.

Fast Company

In an article for Fast Company, Art Markman has a more conservative approach to mental health days, including the new concept of “unhappy leave.” The basics are knowing your employer’s stance on mental health leaves and when to use it.

Markman points out that not every stressful moment can be paused for people to get a mental health check. He writes that some jobs or workloads have a higher toll on the body and mind. 

Taking a mental health day is perfect for getting back on track after you’ve experienced increased pressure, but you should know when to take it. Sometimes, in the middle of a project, taking a day off can increase stress rather than relieve it.

“Work that is demanding may just tax your thinking capacity, or it might involve stress related to avoiding a potential catastrophe.”

The author accentuates the importance of the environment in a job, as toxic environments are one of the leading causes of stress at work. But even a great job can make you suffer if there’s another thing bothering you, like persistent mental health issues or temporary personal hardships that have you at your wit’s end. In dire cases such as these, the best course of action for you should be to work with a mental health professional to find coping strategies.

New York Post

Now, Alexandra Klausner’s article in the New York Post tackles the “unhappy leave.” The unhappy leave is a new term coined by Pang Dong Lai, a Chinese supermarket chain, that functions as a version of ten mental health days. The idea is that if people are unhappy, they get to say they won’t attend work, and management can’t refuse.

Klausner draws some points from Fast Company’s article, emphasizing that sometimes things are a little bit more complicated and that a break might not always be the best answer, especially when you’re dealing with burnout.

“When you begin to feel signs of depression and anxiety that are directed specifically at work and seem to be caused in part by your treatment at work or your feelings about work, you’re experiencing burnout.”

Burnout goes beyond feeling tired and anxious over whatever goes on in your life. It usually starts at work, but it can bleed over. Sadly, having a mental health day won’t help much then, but you can always go to a professional.

The takeaway

Mental health is something you have to work on every day, and though a single day can help you regroup after a stressful workday, it won’t do magic. Still, you should know your stress levels, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed and this is a benefit that you have in your current company, you should use it to your advantage. If things are becoming unbearable, or if stress has turned into burnout, depression, or anxiety, you should seek a professional opinion.

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