Until I took my first mental health day, I had bought into the stigma that they are just an excuse to skip work and slack off. I had just turned twenty-seven when I started my company, and my future burnout wasn’t remotely on my radar. I was working full-steam ahead, running myself down as a result. When I finally took a much-needed mental health day, I realized what I’d been missing: my cadence, or a greater sense of my internal rhythm. I ultimately went back to work feeling rejuvenated.
Making time for your Emotional Wellness is something only you can do. Sure, your tribe of supporters can help you stick to a healthy schedule, but only you can manage your calendar in a way that allows for the practice of self-care every single day. And only you can know if you haven’t done that—and if you’re starting to feel the effects.
Here’s your checklist to help you determine if it’s time to take a day off. I say any of these qualifies you for a mental health day. If you relate to more than one, consider taking more personal or vacation time.
1. You’re anxious. Maybe you’re too worried to concentrate, or you even have physical symptoms like chest tightness, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, or sweaty palms. If you’re feeling particularly uneasy and you’re having a hard time snapping out of it, it might be a good day to take some quiet time to yourself to nip a potential anxiety attack in the bud.
2. You’re Miss Testy. If you’re so on edge that you’re getting into it with your family, friends, or coworkers for no apparent reason, it could be that your nerves are fried or fired up and you’re mentally short circuiting. Spending a day off the grid could unwind some of the aggro tension.
3. You just can’t seem to perk up. If you’ve downed a cup of coffee, a latte, iced tea, and green tea, and you’re still feeling sluggish, then it’s likely time to step away from the hustle and the caffeine. When you feel like you’re moving in slow motion, take extra care to get hydrated . . . like a whole day minus caffeine and plus eight glasses of water.
4. You’re so tired . . . but you can’t sleep. The part of the brain that interprets our thoughts and feelings is very sensitive to the impact of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, stress can make it hard to sleep, leaving you exhausted in the morning. Sure, we’d all love another thirty minutes in the am. That’s not a reason for a mental health day, but true exhaustion is.
5. You’re constantly sick. One day it’s the sniffles, the next day it’s a headache. Maybe you just can’t catch a break when it comes to physical ailments. Or maybe you’re running yourself into the ground. Taking a breath and a day of will likely do more for your immune system than another Z-Pak.
Chronically feeling any one of these things is reason enough to pump the brakes and give yourself time to recalibrate. Of course, it would be nice if checking in with yourself was as simple as shaking a Magic 8 Ball and waiting for the answer to swim to the surface. But just like with an actual Magic 8 Ball, the results aren’t always clear. I just feel . . . off, you might find yourself thinking. That’s your “gut” talking.
Remember: Your brain will benefit from the new perspective, and your colleagues will appreciate not being exposed to any germs or bad vibes. I know I would. It’s your time to take, so take it. And set the tone for others around you to do the same.
Nicole Lapin is the New York Times Bestselling author of Rich Bitch and Boss Bitch. She is the host of the nationally syndicated business reality competition show, “Hatched.” She has been an anchor on CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg. Her latest book, Becoming Super Woman, is available now.