Have you ever taken a mental health day?
Being self employed allows for a pretty flexible schedule, but instead of making the most of that I typically make a detailed to-do list so that my work day is full. For me, the only difference between being self employed and going to an office is that I can work in sweats on my couch and can run errands in the day if I have to. Other than that, I keep a pretty tight schedule.
If I tell my husband that I don’t feel like going to work today, he'll often say, “Then don’t. You’re self employed, you can do what you want.” However, it doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong -- there are many unproductive days where I can’t say I got anything important accomplished, but I still “go to work”.
Many years ago, I worked at a hospital in Seattle and shared an office with a nurse practitioner. She was one of the most crazy (in a good way), interesting, and fantastic women I have ever met. One of the things she did on a fairly regular basis was take “mental health days.” She didn’t hide behind an “I’m too sick to go to work" story, she just said she needed to take a day off. On her mental health days, she would do things she loved like go hiking, make crafts, or watch movies.
My initial thought was, "Wow, it seems kind of irresponsible to take a day off when you aren’t really sick." Then I decided that sounded just like something my father would say, and I’d better explore this idea a little more.
Later, when I lived in California, I had a neighbor who was a successful florist who worked from home. She also took mental health days. If she didn’t have any parties or weddings to arrange flowers for, she would give herself a wonderful, relaxing day. She would have a cup of coffee on the front porch while reading a magazine, go take a swim in the ocean, meet some friends for lunch, and sometimes she would even go to the spa.
Watching these two women really made me think more about mental health days as a life strategy. They are two incredibly successful women who are always positive and cheerful. They are at the top of their game in their chosen professions and enjoy their lives to the fullest. Taking mental health days didn’t seem to slow down their career goals; in fact, it seemed to do the opposite, helping them to be the best at what they do.
From a health standpoint it makes a lot of sense. One of the number one disease-promoting killers that we face in our lives is stress. Stress can impact your health in a far worse way than a common cold or flu bug, so why would we not take a day off from stress when we need to?