Here's the good news about mental health and the workplace: It's starting to get more of the attention it deserves. Thanks to pioneering journalism and stigma-busting public discussion of mental health issues by members of the entrepreneurship community, the toll starting a business can take on your mental health and the seemingly high prevalence of struggles with depression among founders are starting to come out in the open.
But while more and more people are willing to talk about and prioritize their mental health, many remain unwilling to actually even take the smallest steps to safeguard their sanity, reports Drake Baer on Business Insider recently.
"Lots of folks get cold feet when it comes to taking that needed three-day weekend," Baer writes before offering common excuses we give ourselves for not taking the time we need to maintain our mental balance--such as fears it will hold back our careers or misguided notions that those with a bit of scheduling flexibility (aka freelancers and entrepreneurs) don't need to take time to themselves in the same way regular employees do.
But the simple truth is almost all of us need to schedule special time to unwind and de-stress every once in awhile, according to a recent pieces on Fox News from health writer Laurie Tarkan. The article is a sort of guide to taking a mental health day, including suggestions on exactly how best to spend your hours off and how to update colleagues and clients on what you're up to.
Among her practical advice is a helpful list of warning signs that you're dangerously close to running on empty and it might be time for you to consider adding a mental health day to your calendar, gathered from workplace health expert Brandon M. Smith.
1. You have problems sleeping.
If "you're suddenly not sleeping well or have developed insomnia," Tarkan writes, it may be time to block out some time to recuperate and rebalance. With science showing sleep deprivation creates a host of negative effects, from decreased creativity to radically compromised mental performance (and that's not even getting into the physical problems it causes), attending to your body's need for sleep is always a good idea, but failing to get enough rest also exacerbates our tendency to get stressed out, so it's even more important to pay attention to if you feel your mental health is getting a little shaky.
Don't get into a cycle in which lack of sleep increases your stress and your stress makes it harder to sleep. Take a mental health day instead.
2. Weekends aren't cutting it.
You should already have periods for unwinding built into your work schedule--for most of us those are called weekends. But sometimes a couple of days away from the office each week no longer cuts it. "[If] you can't shake last week's stress--in other words, your level of stress is greater than your current stressors"--it's time to add an additional mental health day to your schedule before anxiety starts to pile up week after week, according to Tarkan.
3. You're not as nice as you'd like to be.
We're covered this one before as an early warning sign of impending burnout here on Inc.com, but according to Tarkan, the inability to be as nice to others as you'd like is also a good indicator that you're in need of a mental health day. Watch out if "you're snippy with your spouse, your kids or your co-workers," she writes.
4. You just don't care.
Ideally, no one should come in to the office just to make it through the day and earn a paycheck, but a lack of genuine investment and engagement in your work is an even bigger problem if the business is yours. When apathy starts to sneak in and you get your first hint of that "I just don't give a crap" feeling, think about taking some time to recharge, concludes Tarkan.
When's the last time you scheduled a mental health day for yourself?