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Everything you need to know about taking a mental health day

Have you ever woken up too exhausted to get out of bed, only to have to rush out the door to make it to work on time? Or perhaps anxiety has taken over and the thought of facing the world today of all days just makes it worse. You might consider calling in sick during times like these, but then you have to deal with the guilt of pulling a sickie when you’re not physically ill. So where does that leave you, when exhaustion, anxiety, stress, and mental health fluctuations are part of being human?

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Taking a mental health day could be the answer. However, this concept is rather new and comes with its challenges – such as mental health stigma and not knowing how to address the subject. This Pacific Prime Dubai article covers all you need to know.

What is a mental health day?

In our increasingly busy world, it often seems like we’re supposed to deal with mental health in our own time and prioritize work and other responsibilities. But the reality is that mental health is just as important as physical health, and they both influence each other. Those already experiencing mental health symptoms who know they have no choice but to go to work or lie about being sick are stuck between a rock and a hard place – a challenging and stressful place to be. That’s where mental health days come in.

As the name suggests, a mental health day is a special day that you take off work to see to your emotional health. You could use the time to destress, recover from burnout, give yourself space to feel and heal, and more. Even though a mental health day might not alleviate symptoms or solve issues, sometimes the best thing you can do is put yourself first.

A crucial aspect of maintaining your mental wellbeing is knowing when and how to take a mental health day. This will also help you avoid a decline in your work performance, relationships, health, and overall happiness.

When should I take a mental health day?

Since we can often handle stress for lengthy periods, it can be difficult to know when we should take care of ourselves by taking a break. Even those who work for employers who allow sick leave for mental health issues are unlikely to take the time off for those reasons because of fear, shame, or guilt. Conversely, employees who work in companies that don’t allow for paid sick leave without a medical certificate are left with no choice but to take unpaid leave – which many don’t want to do.

Should I take a mental health day, you ask? Here are some signs that you can benefit from some time off.

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability/hypersensitivity
  • Higher anxiety
  • Disconnection
  • Constantly sick
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep issues
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increase in alcohol or substance use
  • Concerned loved ones/colleagues

Try to see your life as a combination of all the things that make you you, including your work, relationships, and hobbies. If you’re finding it hard to participate in anything that isn’t outright fun and enjoyable, you could be burnt out and in need of some rest.

While you might notice changes in the way you feel in some cases, other times they can seemingly come out of nowhere. You just open your eyes one morning and don’t feel right. Always listen to your inner knowing and take care of yourself in the best way you can.

How to take a mental health day

Once you’ve decided to take a mental health day, the next step is asking for it. Despite more people being aware of the need to destigmatize mental illness, many employers don’t yet realize how mental health challenges can affect their workforce’s wellbeing and productivity. Unlike taking sick leave, it’s best to schedule a mental health day in advance if you can.

This will help alleviate some of the stress since you can take care of the details beforehand. With that said, you can’t always predict when you’ll mentally need a day off. The next best thing you can do in this case is to call your line manager or colleague and let them know about your situation.

Carefully consider how you want to approach it

Both you and the person you’re speaking with must understand that taking one day off of work will have less of an impact on your efficiency than forcing yourself to work when you’re not mentally or emotionally prepared. It’s a good idea to simply request a day off to start, and have an appropriate answer prepared in case your manager asks more questions. For example, you could say “I feel like my productivity has reached a low and it would be really beneficial to me and my work if I could have the day off to rest and recharge”.

You also have to consider the overall workplace atmosphere to get an idea of how open you can be about your day off. Keep in mind that you don’t have to disclose any personal information about your mental health condition or details about your private life unless you want to. Spend more time on your request since that’s what will help you get the day off rather than disclosing your personal details.

What to do during a mental health day

Let’s say your mental health day has been approved. Now what? The way you spend your day off is the most vital part of the entire process.

Firstly, ask yourself “what is the reason I’m taking a mental health day?” Perhaps long hours at work have left you stressed and tired or looming deadlines are putting pressure on you. Maybe you’re experiencing troubles in your relationship, or don’t feel like you’re yourself. Getting to the root cause can help you deal with the symptoms and focus on what your body and mind really need.

Then it’s time to choose how you’re going to spend your day. For some, connecting with their loved ones offers the most benefits – especially if they’re missing out on quality time. This can include a day in nature together, playing board games all afternoon, cooking a meal at home, or having a movie night. For others, a day of proper relaxation could do the most good, with activities like a massage, self-care rituals, swimming, walking in nature, and catching up on sleep.

Or maybe all you need to do is have some fun. If that’s the case, spend your mental health day doing things that inspire you to laugh, play, and create. While fun is a very personal thing, some ideas to get you started include painting, playing board games, dancing, and going for a bike ride. It can help to think back to the last time you felt cheerful and relaxed and do something that makes you feel that way again.

Put your mental health first with Pacific Prime Dubai

A mental health day won’t make all your problems go away, but it can certainly help. It allows you to take a step back and gain some perspective on the situation. Don’t be surprised if it leaves you with more energy, inspiration, and an improved sense of wellbeing. Speaking of wellbeing, now’s a great time to check whether your health insurance comes with mental health benefits.

Whether you have individual health insurance in Dubai, international health insurance in Dubai, or other types of insurance, having access to mental health benefits gives you peace of mind knowing that your physical and mental health needs can always be met. As a reputable health insurance broker and employee benefits specialist for over 20 years, Pacific Prime Dubai has the knowledge and expertise to help you find the right plan for your unique needs and budget.

Contact us today for impartial insurance advice and a free quote or plan comparison.

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Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime Dubai
Jantra Jacobs is a Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She writes and edits a diverse variety of online and offline copy, including sales and marketing materials ranging from articles and advertising copy to reports, guides, RFPs, and more.

Jantra curates and reports on the results of Pacific Prime’s monthly newsletters, as well as manages Pacific Prime’s Deputy Global CEO’s LinkedIn posts. Complemented by her background in business writing, Jantra’s passion for health, insurance, and employee benefits helps her create engaging content - no matter how complex the subject is.

Growing up as a third-culture kid has given her a multicultural perspective that helps her relate to expats and their families while 8 years of working remotely have given her unique insight into hybrid work arrangements and enthusiasm for employee benefits.
Jantra Jacobs