In honor of World Mental Health Day, let’s discuss prioritizing mental health and personal well-being. In a culture that advocates physical wellness as the pinnacle of health, it may not come as a surprise that many Americans allow their mental health to fall to the wayside. For years, the US work ethic has promoted a culture of sick days for the use of “physical illness or serious mental health disorders”2 as the norm. Though after two years in a pandemic-saturated, politically fierce, and socially-WOKE climate, the need for addressing mental health as a major component of overall wellness is finally being recognized. Perhaps the best defense, or more appropriately offense, in supporting your mental health at work is embracing the Mental Health Day.
The daily stress that is endured both in and out of work put an enormous strain on our psychological state, which can in turn affect us physiologically. It is no secret that compounded stress alone can lead to physical illness as well as emotional distress. Therefore, it is essential to take a break when you are feeling overwhelmed, drained, or just plain tired. The intentional act of taking a Mental Health Day allows you to recharge both emotionally and physically, which in turn “mitigates the effects of work stress”2 and should be considered a “preventative health care measure.”2
Employers that offer PTO benefits, especially those that do not distinguish between “vacation” and “sick” time, lead the way in promoting a healthy balance between work responsibilities and mental downtime. Though often stigmatized, the Mental Health Day is a day to take care of yourself – a forced break from responsibilities. In a 2019 national poll taken by the American Heart Association (prior to the dreaded Covid Pandemic even starting), 76% of employees “struggled with at least one issue that affected their mental health.”1 You are clearly not alone. Use those hours, use those days – mental health days count.
Enjoying some family downtime in the North Carolina Mountains! Being in the trees is my happy place.
If you are interested in reading more about the importance of prioritizing your mental health, please check out these references for more information.