Say you woke up with flu symptoms this morning—fever, aches, a bad case of the sniffles and a cough that won't quit. Would you call out sick from work so you could have a day to rest and help yourself feel better?
We often take sick days when we're feeling under the weather, but what about when we're otherwise exhausted and drained or have been super stressed out lately? We take physical illness symptoms seriously, but we tend not to treat mental health symptoms the same way, even though we should. Ignoring those feelings can make things worse and make it hard for you to actually get your work done.
That doesn't mean you should call out sick whenever you're a little tired or don't feel 100 percent. But when you've been under a lot of stress and you're feeling run-down, taking a personal day to yourself—just like you would if you had the flu—can help you rest and decompress. Then when you go back to work the next day, you can actually do your best instead of using all your energy just trying to power through it.
What you need to remember: You're only human, and life doesn't always fit the expectations you have for it. Sometimes things go awry, and you need a day to deal with it. That might mean catching up on sleep, spending time with a loved one, curling up on the couch with your favorite shows, or even having a day outside at the park. It's about doing what you need to do to feel better and recharge your batteries.
Some tips for taking a personal day, guilt-free:
- If you can, schedule it in advance. If you feel yourself getting bogged down and tired, request a day off so that you can plan around it and not worry about how you'll get your work done afterwards, or about coming up with an excuse to tell your boss the day of.
- Consider the timing. If you're in the middle of working on a time-sensitive project, calling out may not be the best idea because it'll stress out your coworkers and it'll make your work harder when you return to work. Make sure taking off a day won't make things even worse.
- Figure out a plan first. When you know you're going to take a personal day, try to have a plan for how you're going to handle your work when you get back so you're not overwhelmed. That way, you won't worry when you should be focusing on feeling better.
Of course, sometimes working through bad feelings can help too—there's no one-size-fits-all approach to handling stress. The point is: don't be afraid to take a self care day now and then when you're struggling if you need it—you don't want to get so run down that it starts to hurt your health.
If you need help finding mental health resources, check out MentalHealth.gov.