Mental health conditions are becoming more and more prevalent in Australia, with reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicating that over 3 million individuals currently live with anxiety or depression alone.
Although mental health is a major part of our overall health, it can often be overlooked in comparison to other health indicators such as physical health. This trend has characterised the management of workplace injury and illness for decades, with people typically turning a blind eye to the impact that mental health has on their job performance and in turn, career.
Employers have in the past shown a tendency to focus more on physical health. When you factor in the stigma and misconceptions placed on mental health conditions, it can be hard for workers to seek help or report their concerns to their employers.
Thanks to increased awareness, mental health is starting to get more of the attention that it deserves in the workplace. A Safe Work report showed that mental health compensation claims can be some of the most costly in the Australian workplace, which has resulted in workplaces becoming more proactive about promoting good mental health at work.
It is likely that at some point in our working careers, we will encounter feeling mentally overwhelmed or overloaded. Whether it is work related, or due to factors in our personal lives, failing to take action in these times can have a severe impact on your work, and more importantly your overall long-term health.
Truth is, we can all benefit from a day to clear our minds and recharge our batteries. If physical health was impairing your work, you’d probably take some time off work to see a physician or to give yourself some time at home to rest and recover. The same should go for mental health. Here are some signs that might indicate when to take a mental health day:
1. When your work performance is affected
If you are stressed, burned out, or experiencing intense psychological symptoms, you may find it hard to maintain focus and concentrate on your job. You might not be able to complete tasks at the same speed or quality that you usually do, or find challenges more difficult than usual.
Your mental and physical health are very much interconnected. Taking a mental health day can improve your energy, motivation, mood, and your ability to manage stress. These benefits are likely to increase your overall productivity and performance at work, and can result in better outcomes in the long-term.
2. You’re exhausted but still have problems sleeping
It’s extremely common for people suffering from poor mental health to experience impairments in their sleep. Severe exhaustion can lead to either the need to sleep all the time, or the inability to fall asleep.
The average person needs seven to nine hours of sleep and sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on your cognitive, emotional and physical abilities. Being tired throughout the day is linked to reduced concentration, focus and performance at work, and a day to rest and recharge might be just to thing you need.
3. When you need to attend a medical appointment
Whether you need to see your doctor for a medical examination or schedule an appointment with a mental health practitioner, taking a day off to address your mental health needs is just as essential. It can often be difficult to schedule appointments around work and this should not be an excuse to put your mental health on the back burner.
Be sure to keep in mind that while you may not be present at work for this appointment time, making the effort to see a practitioner in the short term will provide benefits in the long term. This may assist you in gaining support for your mental health and reduce time off in the long term.
How to ask for a mental health day?
If you are looking to take a mental health day, employers will typically appreciate it if you schedule and provide notification in advance. However, should you find yourself dealing with a sudden requirement for a day off, taking a mental health day right away can set you on the path to a quicker recovery.
When you are asking for a mental health day, you don’t necessarily have to specify your situation to your boss – it’s perfectly ok to keep your message general and say you aren’t feeling at your best.
How to spend your mental health day?
How you spend your mental health day will largely depend the cause of your illness. Your goal should be to recover and feel less stressed or anxious by the end of the day.
While it can be tempting to spend your day off binge-watching TV, we recommend trying to identify the reason you’re feeling off and then make a point to address it. If you have been getting little sleep and you’re feeling mentally fatigued, use that time to help yourself recuperate. If your feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take the time to reconnect with hobbies and interests that are meaningful and productive – read a good book, go for a walk, or enjoy nature. If you have a medical issue and haven’t had the time to see a doctor, schedule that much-needed appointment for your mental health day.
When work and life stresses become overwhelming, consider your mental health in the same light as your physical health. Rather than toughing it out, consider the benefits of a day off and be proactive in using this day to address any contributing issues. Not only will this improve your short term and long-term health, but also your performance and productivity at work.
What does a mentally healthy workplace look like? At Recovery Partners, we can help you identify objectives and develop an action plan to create a mentally healthy workplace.
Our services are available in multiple locations nationwide. For more information, you can make enquiries here.
Alternatively, our consultants love to have a chat, so go ahead and give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789).
Related Article: Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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