Mental Health Days

My thoughts on mental health days and why you should take them.

Even if the subject of mental health has had some momentum in the recent past, many people still feel unsure how to think about or deal with it.

The photo above shows the hand of a drowning person underwater, and I think it's a good depiction of what feeling overwhelmed can feel like, for example in the workplace.

Perhaps you have too many responsibilities, need to deal with toxic people, or you notice that you can't concentrate lately and are generally exhausted. Weekends are meant to be recreational, but you spend Saturday trying to switch off, and Sunday is the day on which you have to think about what day tomorrow is.

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I sometimes use words without thinking about what they really mean: recreational, re-creational, re-creation. Recreation is not merely resting, it's time you need to get yourself back together.

You're not per se sick, but you're certainly not feeling well. It's time for a break, not a planned one, but one you need to take care of yourself.

That's what a mental health day is for. You can't plan it like a vacation but should treat it like a sick day, and most importantly not feel bad about taking it. It's not your fault when you wake up and have the stomach flu. Likewise, it isn't your fault when you feel like you can't work today because you just… can't.

I remember how long it took me to allow myself my first mental health day - I used to feel like a failure even thinking about it.

If I would just pull my stuff together… If I just better planned my days… Everyone has a bad day now and then… I don't want to let my team down… I can't just take a day off without having a real reason...

There are many reasons you could tell yourself why you shouldn't take a personal day off - but there is one reason why you should: because you need it.

Your team can handle a day without you. Your boss doesn't care if you can't perform because you're sick or because you can't perform for any other reason. You need to heal either way. And if you're lucky, they do care about you and your mental health

Let me be clear: I'm not saying that your job is necessarily the driver for needing a mental health day. I love my job, work in a great team on an exciting product and still need a day to myself from time to time.

Here's the one advice that I tell everybody in my team that I feel needs to hear it (and one that I can actually apply to myself):

If you need a mental health day, take it and try not to feel bad about doing so.

At least in Germany, you don't have to state a reason for reporting sick.

However, if you need several mental health days in a month or so, there might be something wrong – not with you, but with your job.

Take care!