Psychologist checklist to tell you if you need to a day off

Psychologist Dr Judith Locke shares what constitutes a valid reason for taking a day off work as a mental health day, but also the reasons that just won’t cut it. Here’s how to tell the difference. 

Deciding on whether to take a mental health day can be the source of enough anxiety in some people to warrant taking a mental health day in itself. The process of weighing up whether taking time away from work, for your mental health is justifiable or what exactly is worthy, is often a difficult judgement to make.

So, what exactly does constitute a ‘good enough’ reason according to professionals? Clinical Psychologist, Dr Judith Locke told body+soul that there are very real reasons not to head into the office for the sake of your mental health and some very real reasons not to take one.

If you answer yes to one of more of the below, a mental health day may be in order.

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

1. You are not in control of your emotions

“If you are emotional that day for whatever reason and don’t think you can get through the day without crying or getting upset and won’t be helpful to others you should think about taking a mental health day,” says Dr Locke.

She says that people need to look at whether going to work that day will be good for you or not. “Sometimes it is definitely better to take the day off to rest and be stronger for the next day.”

2. You are not capable of completing your job

“Sometimes due to personal issues a person may not be capable of doing the job, or they may not be sufficiently focused,” explains Dr Locke.

If this is the case often going to work proves futile anyway because the person can’t complete their tasks or responsibilities to their full capability, so taking the day to focus on the issue can often be a better option.

3. You really need a break

Everyone needs some time away from work, especially if the hours have been long, if you have been exceptionally busy in your role or haven’t had a holiday for an extended period.

Dr Locke says that “if a person needs a brief time away from the workplace to come back refreshed, particularly if they’ve been doing a lot of overtime” that taking a mental health day is warranted.

4. You have a mental health appointment

Because mental health is a priority, especially for those who do suffer from mental health issues, there may be occasions when mental health appointments will require a person to take a day off, or at least part of a day off work in order to attend them.

Although this can be a justifiable reason to take a mental health day, Dr Locke says that when possible to “try and organise with your mental health professional a sustainable time you can do like in the afternoon, so you only need to leave an hour early.”

When the reasons just don’t stack up…

Just as there are reasons to take a day off for your mental health, there are also reasons that don’t make the cut. Dr Locke believes the following do not constitute reasons to take a mental health day.

If any of the reasons below are what you are basing your decision on, perhaps you need to reconsider:

1. Overdoing activities not related to workplace (sorry, partying does not make the list)

If you have had a big weekend and aren’t feeling 100% on Monday, taking a mental health day is not justifiable says Dr Locke.

2. To ‘punish’ your employee

The majority of us have had those days at work where we might feel unappreciated, wronged or undervalued. But taking a mental health day in response to this is not a valid excuse for a mental health day.

If the workplace is causing the problem or negatively affecting your mental health, then Dr Locke says that you may need to may bigger decision about your workplace. “Often taking a day off won’t really help if this is the case,” she says.

Dr Locke says, if you are taking a mental health day as a form of ‘punishing them’ for what they did, that it is not a healthy approach. “You need better ways of overcoming past issues and often taking time away can exacerbate the problem”

Speaking with the workplace HR or seeking the advice of a psychologist to work through the problem is advisable.

How many mental health days is too many?

“I like to consider the ‘three rule’ – if you take three mental health days due to your workplace then you need to consider what you need to do to alter the workforce itself – what’s happening in the workforce, do you think it is a good idea to be in that job, or do you need to do something to change it or look elsewhere – because this can become problematic if a person is not addressing the problem.”

How to get the most out of your mental health day

Whenever you do decide to take a mental health day, Dr Locke says “stick with the decision and don’t spend all day thinking about it, if you are at home thinking about the workplace you aren’t having a mental health day!”

Try not to be too busy on those days – take some time to do things for yourself that will make you feel better.