Recent media attention has brought to light the sometimes controversial topic of mental health in today’s workplace. Maybe you’ve heard it on the news or read a blurb on social media. I’m talking about the importance of taking a mental health day away from work. However, the need for time off for mental well-being has not always been a benefit supported by employers.
With today’s constant need for stimuli from the moment you wake up, to the moment you shut your eyes at night, your body is in hyperdrive. In other words, your sympathetic system (fight or flight) is constantly on and the parasympathetic system (rest and relax) rarely gets turned on in its place. This inability to recoup and rejuvenate your body (and mind) outside of sleep can have detrimental health effects including:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Problems with digestion
- Feelings of nausea and nervousness
- Stomach ulcers and pain
- Reduced sex drive
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Muscle tension
- Mood swings
- Increased glucose production
- A compromised immune system
- Tightness in chest
These symptoms are a key sign of burnout. Burnout is considered the final phase of the stress spectrum in which mental and emotional stress can be accompanied by other noticeable stressors. Burnout has been described in many cases as immovable, numbing, disconcerting and life altering. This potentially life threatening stress can make all the difference in enjoying and thriving at your job. If left unmanaged or untreated, burnout can take a toll on your job satisfaction, performance, productivity and overall well-being.
Without the support of upper management for mental health days, employees are not just unhappy and unwell, but they also cost more to employ. According to the CDC, mental illness and substance abuse issues cost employers approximately $105 billion per year. Absenteeism, decreased productivity, reduced job retention and increased healthcare expenses are among the top costs for employers.
It looks like now has never been a better time to focus on employee well-being. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported experiencing a mental illness in 2016. In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
Although the question of taking time away from work to recharge has found its way to the limelight, the literature leaves little doubt to the need and benefits for this time to rest and relax for both employee and employer.
So it’s okay to take a day off because you’re burnt out. In fact, it’s necessary! Times are changing, and you must be willing to adapt to ensure you, yourself will not be the one who puts the final nail in your coffin.
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– CASEY EDMONDS, CHWC, CPT, CMS
Health Advisor | Email Casey