For the third year in a row, Bustle's Upstart Awards are honoring young women who are doing incredible things in the realms of business, STEM, fashion and beauty, the arts, philanthropy, and beyond. Want to be an Upstarts honoree one day? Read on for career tips, insights, and inspiration to help get you there.
As you may have imagined, workplace stress is the number one cause of stress of people in the United States, and it's only getting worse every year, says recent research by the American Institute of Stress. The research found that 46 percent of people attribute their stress to their workload and 28 percent attribute it to the people with whom they work. Further studies that focused on attitudes in the workplace as a result of this stress found that 25 percent of people have felt like screaming out because of job stress, 14 percent wanted to hit a coworker (but didn't — phew), and 10 percent reported being fearful of violence from a stressed out fellow employee. In other words, the average American worker is stressed AF.
Stress can be devastating on both the mind and body. But while this is the case, and the statistics point to this as being a reality, not enough companies offer mental health days to their employees. Instead, they offer sick days that, if you choose, you can use as a mental health day. "I see using mental health days as a form of self-care," Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist from Envision Wellness, tells Bustle. "Making a plan (and sticking to it) for how you'll use them is key if you don't want them to go unused."
Unfortunately, there's still stigma surrounding mental health, so people prefer to turn a blind eye to it or ignore it. Although some companies do understand the importance of taking a mental health day to regroup, clear your mind, and focus on what's truly important, it's not the case with all companies.
Here's why you should absolutely be taking advantage of mental health days — even if it means turning your sick days into ones focused on self-care and recharging.
An exhausted brain can't fully function and even the most obvious or routine things you do can be totally forgotten. Then, before you know it, you're sitting at your desk realizing you didn't brush your teeth and your shoes are mismatched — the latter being very Punky Brewster of you, but still... it's not good.
"When you notice yourself forgetting simple tasks... or are constantly tired, this is time to take a mental health/personal day," life coach Nina Rubin tells Bustle.
You simply can't be bogged down in an office all the time. It's not just that it's psychologically unhealthy, but your body needs the outdoors to work properly and keep your mind in a good place.
"These days can go towards an R&R day at home, a spa day, a stay vacation, or used to extend a long weekend for a little getaway," Martinez says.
Besides, have you been looking for a reason, any reason at all, to have a spa day? Well, here you go: Your mental health day.
Although taking a day or two for your mental health isn't going to revamp you the way a week or two of hanging out by the beach might, you'll still come back feeling recharged.
"You'll benefit from being refreshed and others will notice you showing up brighter and happier, as opposed to downtrodden or disgruntled," says Rubin.
According to the American Psychological Association, taking time to recharge will have a very positive effect on your stress. While it may not erase it entirely, it will bring it down quite a bit. Once it's down, then it's up to you to maintain it at a healthy level, because excessive stress is far from healthy.
According to 2017 research by analytics firm Flurry, people spend five hours a day on their phone. While not all of that is likely to be work-related (hello, Instagram!), if you work an eight-hour day, you have to assume that the majority of it is spent on the computer. So, basically, I'm going to tell you something you already know: We all spend far too much time staring at our phones and computer screens. Which means that taking a day or two to totally disconnect is exactly what you need.
Disconnecting from all of it, as Martinez points out, is a great way to recharge your batteries and get yourself on the road to a less stressful you.
If you're constantly stressed and anxious about work, then you're constantly disgruntled, Rubin points out. If this is the case, then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that your relationships, romantic or otherwise, will suffer. In other words, work stress can affect other parts of your life.
Even if you're not a big fan of your job, you probably still want to be, at the very least, a decent employee. When you take a mental health day, you allow your body and mind to recoup, and your productivity will benefit from it.
"You'll be a better employee and coworker when you are focused, and not distracted or overly tired," says Rubin.
The number one reason why you should take your mental health days? You deserve to be happy. You deserve to love yourself and love your life. It's as simple as that.
"Self-love is all about building your self-esteem and self-image," psychoanalyst Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. tells Bustle. "The idea is to use your ideal self as your guide, not expecting to reach it, but to give you direction and a hopeful outlook. We often depend on others for validation, but it’s important to have your own internal compass."
We spend a third of our life working, according to World Health Organization, aka roughly 90,000 hours of work in one lifetime. But, tragically, a poll by Ocean Village found that people spend only 115 of their days laughing. Those are some pretty eye-opening stats, but they only show how important mental health days are. So don't be afraid to take a break, breathe, and have a day for yourself. The office will still be there tomorrow, I promise.