When was the last time you took a day off? Was it because you had a cold or flu, or were you checking up on your mental health? It is often hard to view both of these check-ups as equal, but they are! Even though stress or anxiety isn’t crippling you with a fever and bad sinuses, it may be interfering with your ability to work and concentrate just as much if not more.

A lot of people have this barrier in their mind that has stopped them from taking days off to allow their minds to rest, or at least admitting to doing so. The western world has encouraged everyone to seem undefeatable, but it’s time we start talking about giving ourselves a break. It’s about breaking down the stigma. If people feel comfortable talking about mental health it will not be as taboo to ask for a day off in order to check in on yourself and what is going on. In fact, it will most likely increase productivity and motivation.

Mental Health Days in the Workplace

Many companies are beginning to allow their employees to take mental health days. With one in five people experiencing a mental illness in their life, it is important to allow these mental health days to qualify as sick days. With the competitiveness of the job market, fast paced projects, and pressures of deadlines and performance, it is all too easy to get wrapped up in responsibilities and neglect how employees may be doing.

Does this sound familiar: Allowing lists to pile up to the point where it feels more efficient to try and get organized by making more lists instead of doing things? Drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee hoping it will get you through a big presentation at the end of the week? Working twelve hours a day, because if you went home to have dinner with your family after a ten hour work day, your team would say you let them down? Realizing you have been looking at a computer screen, projector, or phone for the past eight hours and haven’t even seen if the sun came out today?

This lifestyle is unhealthy, it causes stress, anxiety, and can negatively trigger certain mental illnesses, sending people into a spiral of unproductivity, and probably bad work ethic. Many companies do not have protocol on mental health days, and may either expect employees to do it on their own or would prefer that employees work out their issues on their own time.

However, emphasizing the importance of taking care of yourself in the workplace, is proven to increase productivity and simply make the space a better community. These companies have begun to encourage mental health days:

  • Olark, a software company
  • CHG Healthcare
  • Aetna, insurance company
  • Lyft
  • Rent the Runway
  • Shine

If you really cannot afford to take an entire mental health day this week but you know you need it, there are alternatives to that. This could include encouraging your workspace to provide time during the day for mental health. Companies like Headspace have started products that focus on mindfulness for the workplace and these 10 minute breaks from screens for a quick meditation session with your coworkers can improve concentration drastically. Mindfulness activities are a great way to alleviate some stress during the work day in order to get your mind back on track.

Mental Health Days at School

Many school districts are beginning to allow and even encourage students to take mental health days. Most recently, Oregon signed a law that allows students to take up to five mental health days each year. This type of legislation is due to the rising suicide rates in young teens. Students are at risk and states are finally starting to notice.

This law states that the measures are in place to “empower” children to take care of their mental health. Utah also recently changed the wording of their absence rules to include days off are allowed for both physical and mental health. These laws are often inspired and started by teens themselves. The students have had to fend for themselves in these states to get what is best for their well being and that is simply unfair. Every state should begin to take action for mental health days and resources.

With constant conversations about climate change, mass shootings, and the unfamiliarity of the current political climate, coupled with growing up in an age of constant comparison via social media, kids these days are battling many struggles silently. There are so many questions they have but only so many that can be addressed. These obstacles can put quite a burden on young children and their ability to focus and learn in an educational environment. Which is why a mental health day here and there could be the best thing for their education.

In cities and states where these laws are not in place many kids are lying to get out of school when they face bullying or intense amounts of stress. Although, one worry that parents and faculty have is that students will lie about their mental health to abuse the system, it is more important to address the fact that if these rules are not implemented students will grow up thinking they must lie about their mental health. Taking mental health days are just as important as taking days off when someone is sick, it will allow people to address the problems that are keeping them from succeeding. Simply creating these days is beginning to educate young adults about the fact that their mental health matters and that not only do they need to take care of it, but they also have the right to do so!