We need to have the conversation about taking a Mental health day off from work. This is when you take a leave from the office on a day you’re feeling down and can’t carry on at the office. It’s the same as taking a leave when you have a fever or a back injury or loose motions. (Or is it?)
There are plenty of blogs written about this topic. Many progressive workplaces are waking up to the need to allow such off-days and the change is welcomed by everyone.
But I want to talk to you, the person who actually should benefit from this change. I want to ask you if you really have taken a day-off on one of those sad days. Those days when you wake up and just don’t want to get out of the bed. You don’t want to bathe, get ready and the thought of going to the office makes you sick. Those days when you can’t focus your mind and can’t get any big thing done. When the tasks on the list and hours on the clock, both seem never-ending. I want to talk about those days.
To be honest, I am speaking from experience. I have had such days (more than I like) and I can bet that you have had them too. It is true that people who are working in soul sucking jobs will have more of these ‘downer’ days throughout their careers. But even those who are in absolute love with their job can also have such days every now and then. This is because Interest and Energy are cyclical. They come and go. That is their nature. So even if you love your job but haven’t taken a break to relax or re-evaluate your life for a long time, chances are that your mind will force you to slow down by going into a dull mood. Ignore it for too long, you will find yourself slightly depressed.
So we have established that such days are a reality and that everybody gets them from time to time. Now let us explore what you should do when you find yourself in such a situation. While writing this post I did a little research and got to read what advice others are giving.
I got to read things like “Men are never conditioned to take it easy or talk about their feelings” or “the boss would never understand or will perceive you to be weak if you took a day off because of bad mood”.
Truth? Both situations are incorrect.
Men are perfectly capable of talking about their feelings, we just find it easier and more logical to look for the cause of bad feelings instead. Once we know the cause we can get to work to resolve it. We get into do-mode. But if the do-mode does not work we never shy away from sharing our struggles with a loved ones. Ask any man and he will tell you that there is at least one person in his life who he confides in and seeks support from.
Also, bosses know how that their team members are people too. And if you can have a man-to-man with the boss and tell him that today you need to take a breather. You need to get into a clearer HeadSpace, the boss will not have a problem with that.
So we know that there is no outside influence that stops us from taking time-off on our dull days. No one stops us then what is the problem?
We ourselves. Admit it man, don’t you tell yourself that you can’t “afford” to take a leave today? That you “have” to work today?
Getting real about the root cause
On those mornings when you’re struggling to get yourself to work, you know that you must resolve whatever is making you feel bad. But taking a mental health day off is never on your list of options. You either underestimate the bad feelings by convincing yourself that distraction will make them go away. Or you overestimate them by convincing yourself that “this is how it is” and nothing can be done about it.
This behavior is common among men. If something requires a big change in our thoughts, actions or lifestyle, we face a great resistance to make that change. Even if it’s for our own personal growth or achievement of our goals. That is the escapist nature in many men. This escapist nature is the very reason some long-pending task or challenge manifests itself into an anxious day or depression that goes on for months.
I am going to say something paradoxical now. If you find yourself in the midst of an unbearably ‘sad day’, you most likely have been avoiding some big task or some big challenge that is likely to change your life in a meaningful way. In that case, the only way to get out of this persistent sad feeling is to face that challenge, overcome it. (whether you fail or succeed). But you won’t be able to do it today. Today you MUST take a day off and rest.
Think about it – cars break down when they are being pushed beyond their limit for a long time. When a car breaks down, you have to do its repair and maintenance first before you can take it for another ride. That’s the same with your positive mental outlook. If you are experiencing strong negative emotions, even if you know the root cause, you first have to do some remedial work on your psyche.
You might get some relaxation from chilling at the house with nothing in your schedule. You might get clarity by doing a little bit of journaling about your goals and vision. You might get encouragement by catching up with close friends and talking about your challenges. Or you might see the whole thing in a different light by meditating for half the day.
But taking a mental health day off is a necessity, not a luxury. If you don’t, it’s only you who will bear the consequences and no one will even know. (I know it’s a little harsh of me to say, but it’s true)
Think of it as a necessary step towards your goals. Think of it as recovery. Do it.
After you have allowed yourself some time to get into the right mindset, the next thing you have to focus on is that long-pending task you were avoiding. You have to make sure that you deal with it.
Think of it from this angle. Problems will never end. Life is a series of problem after problem after problem. But when you solve one problem, you can get around to facing a bigger, better and much more meaningful problem. You solve enough of them and your life changes for the better. The quality of a man’s life can be judged from the quality of his problems.
The suffering that comes from useful work and from victory over real difficulties brings with it those moments of peace and satisfaction which give the human being the priceless feeling that he has really lived his life – Carl Jung