It’s been a year or so since one web developer and one CEO showed the world that there’s another type of illness that must be acknowledged in the workplace context. In an exchange that quickly went viral, Madalyn Parker informed her team that she’ll be taking two days off to “focus on my mental health”, only to receive a thank you tweet from her boss, Ben Congleton. “When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover”, it said. “Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different”.
What a simple truth.
When it comes to work-related productivity, there isn’t any difference between physical and mental health. What’s more, these two support systems are necessarily intertwined – when one of them fails, the other one starts breaking down too. And, even though the National Alliance on Mental Illness warns that one in five Americans experiences mental illness every year, we, as employees, remain not only reluctant to recognize that we need help, but also hesitant to take a break and tackle these issues.
Here’s when to be decisive about it.
- You’re Drained But You Still Can’t Sleep
The more you work, the more you’re exhausted – it’s a basic cause and effect chain. But what’s odd is that sometimes, this excessive exhaustion cannot be cured with a good night’s sleep. On the contrary, in fact – the more tired you are, the harder it is to fall asleep. It’s a vicious circle that must be broken.
Bear in mind that physical tiredness triggers mental fatigue and the other way around. Both are detrimental to your sleep cycle, which in return wreaks havoc on the brain and immune system. Since everything is connected, the only way to break this vicious circle is to go back and fix the root problem.
Take a day off, but don’t spend it in bed. Instead of confusing your sleep cycle even more, get up early, snatch a short nap in the afternoon (not longer than half an hour or so), and return to the bed before it’s too late. This will recharge your batteries, reboot the immune system, and get you ready for more.
- The Anxiety Has Started to Kick in Again
Anxiety arrives uninvited when you expect it the least. Don’t allow it to settle down, get comfortable, and turn into panic attacks. As soon as your thoughts get riled up and your breath gets shorter than usual, take some time to nip it in the bud. Stay home, talk to your problems, and solve them peacefully.
Take that glowing ball in your stomach to the office, and it will only get bigger. Not only will anxiety continue to pile up, but it will also keep distracting you from work. Your performance will be slower and you’ll start making mistakes, which will inevitably feed your anxiety and make things even worse.
- Whatever You Do, Your Focus Betrays You
You can be burnt out or stressed out, and that thing that occupies your thoughts can be work-related or not. In either case, the consequences of such mental state will make your brain practically useless. Unable to shake it all off and simmer down, you’ll end up working twice as much for the same result.
Before you can turn on your laser focus again, you must take a pause to collect your thoughts and analyze them. To dig up whatever it is that keeps draining you from within, and to go back to your usual self. It’s a process that requires self-reflection, for which you’ll have no time if you keep working.
- You Keep Overreacting to Trivial Problems
In such a mental state, it’s really no wonder that you lack both patience and resilience. When something’s rocking your cage and draining your energy, you’re quick to snap at every minor issue. You’re losing control over your emotional responses, which clouds your judgment and makes you tick.
It’s time to retreat and regroup, to gather your strength and attack the day with newfound vitality. Cancel Friday and take a long weekend to nurture your happy hormones. Do yoga to relax and cook something wholesome and sweet. Come Monday, the worst challenges will once again feel minuscule.
- You Keep Floating Through the Motions
Here’s what we usually do when we can’t seem to focus on what’s ahead of us – first, we keep caffeinating ourselves, thinking that a hot mug of artificial energy will give us a much-needed boost; then, we plant ourselves in front of the computer, in hope that isolation will make us more productive.
Not only do these hacks don’t work, but they actually cause more damage than good. As a common replacement for a revitalizing diet, coffee provides us with a fake influx of energy, while isolation only puts more strain on our mental health. And, when they don’t help, we get frustrated and depressed.
The result is a day spent moving through the motions. If you feel disoriented, disconnected, and disinterested, a day off of work is no longer just an understandable precautionary measure. It’s a necessity. These signs may be a hint of clinical depression, so be proactive and put your well being first.
- Your Physical Health Is Suffering Too
We’ve already established that everything’s connected and that our body and mind work in symphony to achieve unthinkable things. In case your emotional self seems fine, but you’re missing every other day at work because you’re feeling sick, then you might also be a good candidate for a mental break.
Depending on what kind of a person you are, your underlying mental issues can manifest themselves in different ways. Just because you’re not snappy or sad, it doesn’t mean that something’s not bothering you. Your frequent headaches and nervous stomach are the tell-tale signs of stress as well.
The point is, don’t treat your mental health the same way the society does. Be a Ben Congleton, and recognize that this is the 21st century. And then, join Madalyn Parker and be brave enough to ask for some time off. It will help you recover your zest, and make you better, faster, and more productive.