By Linda Le Phan

No matter how much you love your job, going to work day after day can be taxing. Just as you would take a sick day to get over a nasty cold, taking the occasional mental health day can help you recover from stress, anxiety, or depression. The most important step is to recognize the signs that you need a mental health day and to give yourself permission to take the day off.

How to know you need a mental health day

Approximately 1 in 5 American adults experiences mental illness in any given year, with millions more reaching subclinical levels of stress, anxiety, and sadness that do not warrant a formal diagnosis. That means that nearly all of us will need a mental health day at some point (or, likely, many points!) in our working lives. Following are some common indicators that you need a mental health day:

– You dread going to work. More than 28% of people say that work is a significant source of stress and anxiety. While we all experience periodic stressors at work, it is important to occasionally check in with yourself about how your job affects you. If you find yourself dreading going to work every day, it’s time to take some time to recharge.

– You cannot shut your mind off when you get home. Whenever possible, it is good to leave work at work, allowing you to fully enjoy your home life. When workplace stressors take over your mental life, you need a break.

– You feel irritable and on the verge of snapping. Being snippy with your coworkers, spouse, kids, or other people in your life are sure signs of burnout. Losing your temper at work may have drastic consequences, so be proactive about taking time off when you notice yourself becoming very irritable.

– You have difficulty sleeping. Chronically high levels of stress hormones can seriously mess with your sleep. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep are signs that you need a mental health day.

– You just don’t care anymore. Feeling a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy may be a sign of depression. If you find yourself mentally checking out of meetings and doing the bare minimum to get by, it’s time for a mental health day. After all, severity of depression is associated with a significant loss of work productivity, even for individuals with minor depression symptoms.

How to ask for a mental health day

Give Yourself Permission

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to taking a mental health day is giving yourself permission to do it. Workers sometimes say that they feel guilty or lazy when taking a day off if they are not “really” sick. However, mental health is just as important as physical health! Taking a mental health day now can prevent more serious problems later.

Know Your Office Culture

Your approach to asking for a mental health day will depend on your workplace culture. In some offices, saying “I’m feeling burnt out and need to take a sick day to tend to my mental health” is perfectly acceptable. In others, that statement would lead to raised eyebrows. It is usually safe to take a middle ground approach: “I’m not feeling my best. I need to take a day off to ensure I can remain efficient and productive when I return.”

Plan In Advance

If you feel burnout on the horizon, planning a mental health day in advance is a great way to be courteous to the rest of your team. Schedule your mental health day for a time when you don’t have important meetings or deadlines so you don’t leave your colleagues in the lurch.

Change Your Workplace Culture Surrounding Mental Health

Nearly 70% of professionals do not feel that their employers do enough to prevent burnout. Being transparent about mental health challenges, particularly if you are in a supervisory role, may reduce stigma and empower other employees to discuss their own need for mental health days.

The bottom line is, if you need a mental health day, ask for one! Your supervisor’s response gives you a clue to the larger workplace culture and can help you make decisions about your longevity with the organization.

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Linda Le Phan is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.

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