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I woke up this morning with a headache. Not a horrible-cannot-function headache, but a pain in my temples that could likely be quelled by a Tylenol and a large coffee. But it was a headache nevertheless, so I had a decision to make: should I suck it up, drag myself out of bed and deal with it, or grab my phone, send my boss an “I’m staying home today” email, and roll back over and go to sleep? Well, as that I’m writing this while sitting in my pajamas on my couch, you can reasonably assume I went with option two.
Now, given that I could have gone to work and functioned reasonably well, I’m not calling today a sick day. Instead, let’s call it what it was: a mental health day. A day when I just decided I couldn’t deal with the world, and instead took a day to stay home in no pants, talking to no one and doing nothing.
I understand that I am one of the lucky few that doesn’t have to take personal time off (PTO) or a vacation day when I’m sick or, as I am today, “sick.” At my office, we simply get to call in sick. I’m sure that there is some kind of limit this, but I’d don’t know what it is – hell, I never even use all of my vacation days. So I know that my being able to take a spur of the moment mental health day is a luxury, and it’s not one that I take for granted. I’m one lucky bitch.
But is a “mental health day” even a real thing? It sounds short of like a lame excuse to just stay home, doesn’t it? But, honestly, in my opinion, the mental health day is legit. I personally happen to suffer from anxiety that gets the best of me on occasion, but even if you don’t have a specific mental health condition, we all get stressed, depressed or overwhelmed sometimes. And when that happens, why wouldn’t/shouldn’t it be totally acceptable to take a day off to deal with it? If you’re physically ill, you take a day or two off to rest/medicate yourself until you feel better. So wouldn’t it seem that the same would apply your mental health? Sure, you could say that your regular days off from work could serve as your mental health days, but there are even expectations placed on those days. Places to go, people to see, things to do. So for many of us, the only way to take a day to feel better mentally is to do it unexpectedly. So here I am, home on a random weekday. But because I’d probably (rightly or wrongly) be viewed as crazy if I said I wasn’t coming in because I was depressed or stressed, my coworkers think it’s because I have a headache. But that’s neither here nor there, I guess.
So what does a mental health day consist of? Well, the biggest struggle for me about taking a mental health day, aside from the guilt of lying about it, is not doing anything. I’m a to-do list maker – hell, I even have to-do lists on my vacations. So as I spend the day in a house that could stand to be cleaned with a yard that needs to be raked, it’s hard to ignore those “should dos” in order to do what I “need to do” – which in my case is just chill the fuck out. But a mental health day looks different for everyone; as cheesy as it sounds, whatever allows you to reset your mind, body, and spirit is how you should spend yours. Maybe it’s taking a yoga class, reading a book, or engaging in another form of self-care, if you know what I mean, wink wink.
Does a mental health day solve all of your problems? Hell, no. I spent the day watching 30 for 30s until I finally forced myself to go to the gym, and while it was wonderful, my stress isn’t entirely gone. But it’s probably about 50 percent of what it was when I woke up this morning…or at least reduced enough that I feel like I can face the world – and my coworkers – the following day. .
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