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Why you may need a guilt-free mental health day

Give yourself a break

Have you ever laid in bed after pressing the snooze button on your alarm and thought, “I just can’t get out of bed today?” And no, we’re not talking about a spur-of-the-moment decision to skip your responsibilities and binge-watch Netflix all day. Taking a day to prioritize your mental well-being can be good for your health, especially when you feel exhausted and emotionally drained.

According to the American Psychological Association, ongoing job-related stress External Site can lead to depression, anxiety and many other health conditions. Luckily, more employers and schools are beginning to understand why you might need to stay home for the day — even if you’re not physically sick.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. If you feel like you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, it may be time to take a mental health day.

What is a mental health day?

Simply put, a mental health day is like any other sick day — you stay home from work or school to rest and recuperate when you’re feeling unwell. The only difference? You’re not physically sick or contagious with the flu. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t need the rest. When you’re feeling emotionally drained and stressed, taking the day off to clear your head can help you be more productive the following day.

So, how do you know if you should take a mental health day? Look for these telltale signs of burnout or emotional stress:

  • You feel exhausted all the time and have no energy
  • You’re less efficient at work or school
  • You have difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • You’re irritable or impatient with friends, family or coworkers
  • You’re not motivated at work
  • You get unexplained headaches or stomachaches
  • You have difficulty sleeping or a decreased appetite

If you’re experiencing more than a few of those burnout symptoms regularly, it’s time to take a break.

How to ask for a mental health day

Most companies don’t define how paid time off and sick days can and can’t be used — you just take them as you need them. But, it’s a good idea to communicate with your supervisor about what’s going on. Tell them you need a day or two of rest to recharge and recover from work-related stress or personal issues outside of work. Explain that by taking time to focus on your mental health, you’ll be able to come back to work with a fresh perspective and renewed energy — which will, in turn, make you more productive than if you’d pushed through your workload with no energy or motivation.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your boss, meet with your human resources department — especially if you need more than just a day or two to address concerns about your mental state.

How to spend your mental health day

Mental health days can be whatever you need them to be. Get a few extra hours of sleep, make yourself a healthy breakfast, go for a walk outside (or head to the gym) — just don’t take any phone calls or texts from work, and refrain from checking and responding to email. The whole point of a mental health day is to give yourself a break, so make sure you follow through. You can also try these ideas for self-care, or make an appointment to see your therapist.

Anything that gets you moving in a positive direction will make your mental health day worthwhile and beneficial. If you’re feeling guilty for taking the day off, remember that prioritizing your mental well-being is a perfectly legitimate reason to miss work or school.  

When a mental health day isn’t enough

While taking a short amount of time away from your responsibilities can be beneficial, feeling like you need a break every other week can be a warning sign. One in five Americans experiences some form of mental illness each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness External Site.

If you recognize the following symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, it may be time to speak with your personal doctor:

  • Constant worrying
  • No interest in daily activities
  • Intrusive thoughts or distorted thinking
  • Prolonged sadness
  • Loss of energy or motivation
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

There are many different treatment options for mental health conditions, including medication and therapy. If you don’t have a personal doctor or therapist, you can log in or register for myWellmark® Opens New Window to find one near you and make sure they’re covered under your benefits. If you find the wait times to see an in-person mental health provider are too long, try seeing a virtual provider.

Virtual visits are a standard benefit for most Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield members through Doctor On Demand® External Site. The service will help connect you with a licensed psychologist or board-certified psychiatrist, depending on the type of care you need.

And, if you feel you need immediate assistance and support regarding your mental well-being, call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 775-784-8090.