I’m Not Coming in Today: Why you need a guilt-free mental health day

Ever have one of those work days when you’re just downright CRANKY? Nothing seems to go your way and the smallest things irritate you and you can’t believe what you just said to your coworker and banging your head against a wall doesn’t sound so bad right now and …


It happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to. As the famous Dr. Phil always says, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Taking mental health days by staying home from work is a good practice for you AND your company … and everyone else in your life. When you recharge, you bring new energy back to the office along with improved levels of productivity, creativity, and motivation. Everyone wins. And more importantly, if you don’t–everyone loses.

When you take a mental health day everyone wins. And more importantly, if you don’t–everyone loses.

Think of it this way … if you start noticing signs that you need a break and you don’t take one, that can lead to a worse problem that takes much more than one day to bounce back from.

“Both physical and mental states of unwellness typically require longer than a single day to recover from, not to mention the use of other resources such as medication and doctors’ visits.” – Dr. Jacqueline Brunshaw

If you spend weeks more stressed than usual, tired, irritable, and just not your best self, you cost the company and yourself everyday.

Look for these signs to know when to take a mental health day:

  • Irritability
  • Misplacing things
  • Forgetting to do things
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Overreacting to small stressors

Once you know you need one, take it. Here are some tips to make it count:

  1. Plan in advance if you can: Sometimes we wake up just knowing we need a day, but if you can plan it, even better. That way you can prepare such that nothing is falling through the cracks, people expect you to miss work, and you can also perhaps choose a slower day with no meetings. Then you can also plan what you will do on your mental health day to make the most of it.
  2. Tell the truth: To have a guilt-free mental health day (which is the only kind that will maximize the benefits), you should tell your boss, manager, team that you are staying home to take a day for yourself. If your employer doesn’t support mental health days, you may want to reconsider your employer.
  3. Leave work out of it: Promise yourself that work will not creep into your mental health day. No work emails, no catching up on that one project, NO WORK.
  4. Figure out what activities work best for you. Here are some suggestions: catch up on sleep, read, spend time outdoors, catch up with an old friend, get a massage … you’ll learn over time what works for you.
  5. Enjoy it!

If you’re a hard worker, you may have trouble at first relaxing into your mental health day. The best ways to combat this are to prepare (plan, delegate), tell the truth, and then commit to not working. Be okay with the discomfort at first and then it will fade away.


  1. http://news.nationalpost.com/health/taking-a-mental-health-day-making-the-case-for-staying-home-from-work-for-your-mind
  2. http://www.wikihow.com/Take-a-Mental-Health-Day-Without-Feeling-Guilty
  3. http://stress.about.com/od/managetimeorganize/ht/When-And-How-To-Take-A-Mental-Health-Day.htm

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