Mapping Out Mental Health Days

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Pencil in time to unplug and regain mental clarity

A 2017 survey conducted by Bridge by Infrastructure, a talent management company, revealed that only a third of respondents are encouraged by their employers to take paid time off, and, even bleaker, only 11% are encouraged to take mental health days. Meanwhile, according to the Center for Prevention and Health, mental illness and substance abuse related issues cost employers more than $105 billion annually as employees look for negative outlets to relieve work-related stress.

As most employers reset the clock on vacation and sick days at the start of the year, it might be time to start treating your mental health more like your physical health and penciling in some of those days to support mental capacity. If you had the flu, or nasty stomach virus, your colleagues would thank you for staying home. Additionally, if you had a doctor’s appointment, you’d normally take a day or half-day to assess your physical health. However, if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or a peak of high-stress, why wouldn’t you also take a day to get well mentally so that you can come back and perform at your best?

If you are contemplating scheduling time on your calendar this year for mental health, here are a few situational ideas to help you use those days to regain mental clarity and/or practice some well-needed self-care:

For the Overworked. Perhaps you love your job so much, the thought of taking a day gives you anxiety that the place will go up in flames. However, taking a day of rest will do more to help improve your productivity than if you were to burn out because you did not. Therefore, take a day to relax and either binge watch your favorite show on Netflix, enjoy a calming bath, or dive into a new romance novel. Unplug from any sources of stress and try to avoid checking email or social media or taking any work-related calls.

For the Complacent. Feeling stuck in a dead-end position? Use your special day off to engage in self-reflection and consider your options for the upcoming year. Journaling, scrapbooking, or creating a vision board may help pull you out of a rut and start thinking through actions you can take to improve things for the better.

For the Overlooked. If you are often overlooked or passed upon for promotions and you have more degrees than all your bosses combined, you might consider taking a day to yourself to assess your next steps. You owe yourself that much. Try scheduling lunch with a mentor or coach to gain perspective, working on your resume or a new startup business idea, or attending a career networking event.

For the Underpaid. Tired of bustin’ your butt for pennies, or is your employer stingy with vacation or personal days? If your work can be done remotely, you might consider approaching your manager about options for telecommuting one day out of the month or week. This might allow you to still get work done and not miss out on pay while periodically working from a less stressful environment. You might also find energy to focus on you from the time gained not spent in traffic.

While these ideas may help you build your mental strength while you figure out what’s next, it is important to note that if you are exhibiting any warning signs of mental illness that could be causing serious problems in your ability to work or relate to others, you should consider being seen by a mental health professional. Immediate attention may be needed if suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others are present. Early intervention could help reduce severity and even possibly delay or prevent a major illness completely.

Ashlie James supports nonprofit, education, and faith-based leaders in creating thriving communities with strategic grant writing, consulting, and communication services. She is also the founder of Atlanta GLOW, a mentoring program for low-income women and girls, ages 14-25. For more information, visit www.ashliekjames.org and www.atlantaglow.org.

1 Comment

  1. Nichelle R

    February 2, 2018 at 1:14 am

    You have no idea how much I appreciate the Reminder. Thank YOU!

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