You’re stressed. The boss is really laying down the hammer at work, your coworker is falling behind on deadlines, and you ran out of your house this morning (late, again) with two different shoes on. Does this sound like you? Doesn’t it sound tiresome? Recognizing and acknowledging that you are anxious, stressed, or burnt out because of work (or especially while at work) can be, frankly, exhausting. I’m a huge advocate for mental health days, and I’m a firm believer that employers should help their employees place an emphasis on their mental health through different resources. Now, not everyone is so lucky to have that kind of support (or even the availability of that support); however, it’s important to prioritize your mental health, even in small ways.
There’s a stigma surrounding mental health – it’s like the aunt that no one wants to talk about. People get stressed and worried, and they lash out in different ways, but no one knows how to help other than to say, “watch your attitude”. Even in my own family, it was a hard thing to talk about because no one knew how to help. With a physical ailment, it can be somewhat simplified: go to the doctor. Let me lift that for you. Go lie down. With mental health, the onus often falls on the person affected to make it a priority and to work on themselves.
Prioritizing Your Mental Health
When was the last time you took some time for yourself? In order to take care of others, you first have to invest in yourself. There’s even an entire safety manual on airplanes that features that very idea. If you fly even twice a year, you’ll know what I’m talking about – put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with theirs. Now, take this idea, and apply it to your work life.
If you need a few more reasons to take a day, here are 3 solid ones:
1.) You’re not a robot, and you deserve it. Technically, this could be two reasons, but let’s face it, you’re probably exhausted. You feel physically fine, but your brain is simply done. You get easily distracted, and you catch yourself daydreaming more than working on that Excel sheet (even, and perhaps especially, if you love Excel).
2.) Better productivity when you’re back. By taking a day or two to disconnect from your job, you’ll be able to rest your body and your mind. This will make you a better employee and coworker by coming back more focused and rested.
3.) By prioritizing your mental well-being, you will be a better person. I honestly mean this. Your relationships and self-esteem will improve, and your stress levels will go down. This seems obvious, but stress is actually really bad for you. Don’t believe me? Ask the experts: “Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.” And that, my friend, is no bueno.
Ideas on What to Do During Your Day
The wonderful thing about taking a day for you is that you can take the day for just you. You don’t have to answer phone calls or emails. You can use a mental health day to ease some anxieties around life events – maybe you have some bills that need some attention, or maybe you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile. (Side note: Go to the dentist on the regular. You also don’t have to use your mental health day for it.) Sleep as late as you want or need. Eat the croissant.
Why not completely unplug? If you’re feeling frisky, use the day as a digital detox. Go ahead and explore your neighborhood. Go check out that tiny coffee shop across from your apartment; you know, the one that is owned by that Argentinian couple with the great burgers. What about the store that sells tarot cards down the street? You can find a quirky birthday gift for your cousin in there. You can go take a class in the middle of the day at your gym. The possibilities are endless.
What if you can’t take a day?
You may be thinking, “Okay, that’s all well and good, Katy, for those who have the ability to take a day. I work in retail/food service, and if I don’t go, I don’t get paid. What can I do about my mental health?”
Girl, I feel you. I worked in fast food all through college, and then worked retail for a few years before transitioning into an office job. I was stressed and could not prioritize my mental well-being because I was afraid of losing money. There were times where it would all come to a head because I was so stressed out that I would have panic attacks.
Thankfully, there are small ways to improve your mental health until your next day off:
- Surround yourself with good people (and animals). If your coworkers are awesome, hang out with them. If you have a fuzzy four-legged companion, snuggle them so hard on especially rough days.
- Take up a hobby that’s easy to do in small parts. While not everyone can commit to sailing or cage-diving as a hobby, there are lots of things that can be done on a bus commute or on a 15-minute break. Reading, knitting, writing, crossword puzzles… you get the idea.
- Relaxation exercises, like yoga and tai chi, are recommended by so many people for a reason. Obviously, they are not one-size-fits-all, so play with it a little until you find something that works for you.
Talking to those who can help with mental health
There are many, many resources available for those who need help. I find that if you’re not sure where you are, doing some research helps. Start with the basics. Talk to someone. Please please please reach out. Mental health is so important as it not only affects your work but your life.
If you feel weird about talking to someone, know that you are not alone. Sometimes it is enough to just sit with a cup of coffee or tea for a few extra minutes in the morning and let your mind wander. Take a couple of minutes and write your thoughts down. Stop looking at Instagram or Twitter for an hour; they only make you angry/depressed.
You have to remember that seeking help for your health is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. If you were physically sick, then you would go to the doctor, right? Take that same philosophy, and treat your mental health the same way.
Your turn, my dear: what are some small ways you try to improve your mental health? Share in the comments, and share this post with others who may find it helpful! Xx
Note that I am not a medical professional; I am only speaking from my experience. Please talk to a trained medical professional if you need help.