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Mental Health Day Off from Work: When & How to Do It Right

11 min read
Last Updated on 23 April, 2024

It's common for people to take sick days to take care of their physical health, but taking a day off for their mental health still falls in the gray area. Not everyone is in touch with their emotions enough to understand that a break is needed.

According to a recent study by WHO, it is found that anxiety and depressive disorder cost the economy trillions of dollars in lost productive years. Even though many companies have policies for mental health care, it is still hard for employees to take time off for personal days.

This article describes the importance of taking a mental health day off without feeling guilty or hesitant.

What Is A Mental Health Day Off?

A mental health day off is a break from work or any responsibilities to rest and rejuvenate your mind. It means taking a break or minimizing any commitment or responsibilities that might drain your energy and instead focusing the time to spend on relieving stress, relaxing, having fun, preventing burnout, or doing absolutely nothing.

The Benefits Of A Mental Health Day Off Work - Why Is It Important?

Whether working from home or in the office, you must take a break when everything gets too heavy. The line between your professional and personal lives can get blurry if you ignore time for yourself or the time you need to recharge and rejuvenate.

Not taking time off from work can have negative effects not just on your mental health but physical health as well. Here are a few reasons why it is important to take a mental health day off from work -

Taking a mental health day off work can offer several significant benefits, contributing to overall well-being and productivity. Here are five key advantages:

1. Stress Reduction

A mental health day provides an opportunity to step away from work-related stressors and daily pressures. Taking time off allows you to decompress, relax, and engage in activities that promote relaxation, helping to alleviate stress.

2. Enhanced Focus And Productivity

Continuous work without breaks can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. A mental health day serves as a reset, allowing you to return to work with a clearer mind, improved focus, and renewed energy, ultimately boosting productivity.

3. Improved Mental Health

Mental health days are crucial in maintaining and improving overall mental health. Taking time off when needed allows you to address mental health concerns, prevent emotional exhaustion, and promote emotional well-being.

4. Prevention of Burnout

Overworking without breaks can contribute to burnout, negatively impacting physical and mental health. Regular mental health days are a preventive measure against burnout, helping you maintain a healthier work-life balance.

5. Enhanced Job Satisfaction

Prioritizing mental health contributes to overall job satisfaction. When you feel supported in taking time off when necessary, you are more likely to be engaged, committed, and satisfied in your roles, leading to a positive work environment.

Taking a mental health day is an important aspect of self-care, fostering a workplace culture that values the well-being of employees. It allows you to recharge, maintain good mental health, and return to work with a refreshed perspective.

Why You Should Never Hesitate To Take Time Off For Mental Health?


Mental health issues are as important as physical health, and taking care of them should be your priority. Like any other illness, even your mind needs time to rest.

However, it is often overlooked, and you might convince yourself that you don't need a day off or a break since you're physically fit to work. But that shouldn't be the case since physical and mental health in the workplace is equally important, and calling in sick shouldn't be an issue.

There is a limit to how much stress someone can handle, but if you pull through under constant pressure, feel overwhelmed, or cannot concentrate at work, that could be a sign that you have pushed yourself too far. It may be time to take a breather.

Again, when you feel too stressed, you and your work may suffer, potentially harming your performance and the work environment. Maintaining your health and well-being at work and home begins with knowing when to take a day off for mental health.

The consequences of going hard until you are on the verge of quitting or having a mental breakdown are real, and the cost is expensive to both you and your employer.

It is also crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

According to recent research ,it is found that more than half of employees in the United States don't feel comfortable to request their boss for a mental health day off. This is because they fear their employer will think less of them..

How To Know If You Need A Mental Day Off At Work?

"It's unfortunate, but not surprising, to learn that the stigma around mental health in and out of the workplace still exists,"- says Dale Cook, CEO.

Mental health is as important as your physical health. Work or personal life stress catches up sooner or later to the body mentally or physically. And knowing when to take a break is equally important.

Although work stress is a common factor, it shouldn't affect your work-life balance or health. There is a difference between stress caused by a minor inconvenience and chronic stress that drains your energy.

Stress is not just about feeling bored or lacking enthusiasm. However, it should raise your concern if you wake up feeling anxious, down, or depressed to such a degree that it impairs your functioning.

Top Signs You Need A Mental Health Day Off

Here are some of the signs that you shouldn't overlook and start taking a day off for your mental health -

  • If you're having a lot of sicknesses.

  • If you always feel exhausted.

  • If your workload makes you feel overwhelmed.

  • If you feel underappreciated.

  • If you feel like you have a bad day every single day.

  • If you become more indifferent towards your work performance.

  • If you feel anxious to go to work every day.

  • If you see a change in your eating habits.

  • If you feel disconnected from your co-workers and others around you.

  • If you notice that there is a change in your alcohol or other substance consumption.

If you are still wondering “if I should take a mental health day off from work?”, remember that the answer to that is always a YES.

Suggested Read: Ways to implement Mental Health Programs in the Workplace

How to Ask For A Day Off For Mental Health

One of the major problems when it comes to taking a mental health day off is how to ask for it. Often, you can feel hesitant to ask for a day off at work and feel awkward talking about it, especially if you are busy at work.

It's important to consider the company you work for and who you're asking when you ask for a mental health day. The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly fading, but not everyone is comfortable talking about it or ready to take care of their mental health directly.

Here are a few examples of how you can ask for a mental health day off -

  1. “Good morning. I’m having a hard time with my mental health and need to take a sick day today. I appreciate your understanding.”

  2. “I’m feeling burnt out and plan to take a sick day today to care for myself."

  3. "I’ll be back in the office tomorrow; thank you for understanding.”

  4. “I’m feeling under the weather today and taking a sick day. Thank you for understanding.”

  5. “I’ve had something come up and need a sick day today to recover. I will be back tomorrow.”

  6. "I am struggling with the weight of various issues in my life and need a day to take care of myself, regroup, and get perspective."

  7. “Work has been so busy lately. I need a day off. What day next week would work best, given the current schedule?”

5 Ways You Can Encourage Your Employees To Take Some Time-Off

Everybody needs a mental health day off. Taking sick leave when you're feeling extra weary should be a key factor in any organization's stress management plans or employee wellness programs.

Employees’ health is not confined to just physical but their mental health as well, and keeping an eye on your employees' health condition should be a priority to prevent burnout and high-stress levels.

Encouraging occasional mental health days off at work will benefit your employees and your work as well. When employees are emotionally exhausted, it takes a toll on their performance. So, instead of putting mental health issues under the rug, it's time you develop a more open culture around the importance of mental well-being.

Consider having burnout discussions instead of serious issues like anxiety if you are not sure of coming up with a proper solution. After all, everyone has experienced feeling burned out at some point.

Suggested Read :7 Effective Ways to Prevent Work From Home Burnout

Here are five ways you can help your teammates and employees break the stigma around and be more open about taking a day off for their mental well-being-

1. Be More Open About Mental Health


According to recent studies , even though many employees are on the verge of mental breakdown, they choose to go to work instead of taking a leave. It is due to the fear that their employers or colleagues might look down on them for mentioning workplace depression, PTSD, or other mental health concerns. Therefore, most people don't feel the need to take a break if they're physically fit.

You can break the stigma surrounding workplace mental health issues by setting an example. The best way to do this is to lead by example. If you insist on taking a day off, you should ensure that the leadership follows suit in the company. In doing so, the rest of the employees will feel motivated.

Suggested Read: 17 Ideas For Mental Health Awareness Month Activities In Your Workplace

2. Do Not Shame Their Day Off


You may sometimes get in more sick leaves from employees, or they may ask for more time off than usual. Then as an HR, what should you do?

The correct approach is you should develop a more neutral attitude and make them feel comfortable while communicating. You should avoid throwing overwhelming questions and overdue work.

Again, if the team gets confused by one of your team member’s random day off, don't let the leadership show that. Instead, try to look at positive ways to collaborate and work together to ensure that the work gets done in an employee's absence.

3. Encourage Rest And Rejuvenation


Taking a mental health day off is to relax. So don't worry about it and try to unwind. To achieve this, encourage your employees to take or make use of their pending paid time off. Create a more open work environment to make your employees feel comfortable. They will feel free to finally use their pending time off and do things they enjoy or relax.

For an employee, here are some suggestions for spending time on your day off:

  • Reading a book
  • Spending the day at home, doing nothing
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Doing anything that brings you joy

Studies have shown that there is a direct link between mental health and the immune system.

Suggested Read: 8 Ways To Help Employees Unwind On National Relaxation Day

4. Evaluate A More Flexible Work Culture Policy


Back-to-work culture can be overwhelming for many, post-pandemic. With almost everyone working from home for the past two years, many of your employees might feel left out. They may feel anxious about getting back on their feet and meeting new people.

Several of your employees might feel physically ill or emotionally drained upon returning to work. These could be some physical symptoms that they might need more time to recover.

To help them out, you can see if they are eligible to take another day or two off before returning to work. In fact, you can adopt a more flexible work culture policy by introducing a hybrid work culture, which can help people who are still experiencing anxiety.

5. Promoting Mental Health Awareness


According to the Centers and Prevention for Health, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers around 79 to 105 billion dollars each year. Even absenteeism plays a big role in reducing productivity and increasing health care costs. Thus, you can help your workplace be a safer place for your employees struggling with their battles and motivate them to open up.

Educating your managers and colleagues about the signs of mental health issues and how to respond to appropriately can be a good start. This is a key factor in your mental health awareness programs.

Speak more about issues like depression, traumas, anxiety, and other mental illnesses to make your employees feel included. Everyone struggles with some mental health issues, and it is healthy sometimes to take a break to deal with it.

Suggested Read : How Can Managers Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Summing It Up

Thus, mental and physical wellness go hand in hand, and you can only achieve total wellness by taking care of both. Although taking a day off from work to do nothing might seem strange at first, it will make you feel much better in the long run.

Once you take your first day off for mental health, it will become easier for you to do so in the future as well. After all, the purpose isn't to get out of work but to heal and return to work in a more relaxed, positive, and productive way.

I hope this article motivated you to take a day off for your mental health.

Frequently Asked Questions:


1. Is it okay to take a mental health day off at work?

Yes, taking a day off from work is okay to heal any mental health trouble. HRs and employers should normalize such a reason for taking leave.

2. Is mental health a reason to miss work?

Mental well-being plays a vital role, just like physical well-being. Most importantly, both of these aspects are interlinked. Hence, if you have disturbed or poor mental health, it is definitely a reason to miss work.

3. How long should a mental health break be?

The depth of a compromised mental health differs from person to person. It may take a considerable amount of time accordingly.

It may just take 15 to 20 minutes to rejuvenate, or it may also take an hour for some. Hence, the duration of a mental health break depends on the intensity of the mental distress.

4. What to expect from a mental health day off?

An effective mental health day off can help you destress, relax, better handle your emotions, and get a clearer perspective on your goals.

This article is written by Neha Yasmin who is a content marketer at Vantage Circle. A selenophile with a penchant for discovering great meals and drinks. Is a self-proclaimed binge racer with a knack for cooking in her spare time. For queries, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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