For many full-time employees, paid sick days are a huge benefit. In recent years, mental health days have become more normalized and paid sick days now cover the time which needs to be taken for burnout or stress, rather than for visible illnesses such as coughs and flu.
It is important that the two kinds of mental health days are separated, as one involves a diagnosed mental illness, whereas the other is related to the more colloquial use which covers using paid sick days in order to decrease stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed as part of your job. Around 18% of the population is likely to suffer from an anxiety or depression disorder and, if you are feeling higher levels of stress and anxiety levels on a regular basis, then you should consult your doctor sooner rather than later.
With around a third of all professionals admitting to suffering from mental health illnesses, you’d think that discussing mental well-being isn’t too much of an issue. But, over half of us have confessed that our job is one of the biggest contributors to our feelings of stress and even more employees are worried about taking a mental health day off work for fear of being judged, suffering repercussions or suffering from even more stress.
Mental Health Days Usually Aren’t Spontaneous
Generally speaking, taking a mental health day isn’t a spontaneous action. If you wake up in the mornings and get a feeling of dread about going into work, then don’t use this as a reason to call in sick. Anxiety and stress are very emotional and personal experiences, usually occurring when there is something within your world which you are wanting to get away from.
By calling in sick when you feel this way, you automatically create a habit of responding to anxiety and stress by avoiding the issues which need to be done. Your go-to response from stress shouldn’t be to run from it, as you will never be able to truly get over it. Instead, take time to think about what is causing you stress and, if there is something which needs to be completed or you are dreading, then taking a day off to further avoid it will only make this worse.
This doesn’t mean you should never take a mental health day off, but if after a long and stressful week you are feeling particularly run-down and know that your work will only suffer further, then take a day off.
Risk Of Burnout
Workplace burnouts are now officially recognised by the World Health Organisation as a current epidemic. When you are in an often non-stop cycle of worry and stress, then it feels as though you can’t break free from the slump and this is what is known as a burnout. Telltale signs of a workplace burnout include lack of focus, cynicism, feeling of resentment and physical exhaustion. If you are suffering from burnout, then your performance at work will take a huge hit, your personality may change somewhat and you’ll feel incredibly fatigued.
If you feel as though you are suffering from a burnout, then you absolutely must see a doctor, and/or take time off work to prevent it from going further. It is important that you notice a burnout early as, over time, it will make the rest of your health suffer. You may be worried about taking a day or two off sick now, but if a burnout progresses, then you can be looking at potentially weeks off of work.
If you are feeling stressed at work, then it is vital that you look after your health. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, or if you struggle sleeping when stressed, then rest instead. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and consider taking digestive health supplements, as your gut and brain are directly linked so when you’re brain is feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you may notice that you suffer from stomach or gut issues, too. Be sure to exercise regularly, get outside as much as you can and avoid caffeine, as this will only make you feel worse.
What Does The Law Say?
There is no legal difference in having a sick day off for a physical illness and taking a mental health day off. Legally, employers must protect the health and wellness of their employees and this also includes mental health well-being. Almost 20% of us have called in sick to work for feelings of stress, but 90% of us have given different reasons for our workplace absence, such as headaches and stomach upsets. Unfortunately, there is still a huge stigma surrounding mental health, which is why so many of us try to hide our real feelings of being unwell.