Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Let's Talk About Mental Health Days

I was talking to someone recently who had been advised to use up some of their accrued vacation time in the next few months.  Since I've been working a freelance life of late, let me tell you I totally understand that it can be very hard to take a day when there is always stuff to be done.  I wrote this post on a weekend which tells you how good I am at following my own advice. 

And for many of us who have bought into the work more, get more, because we only rest when we're old mentality, the thing that got you away from your desk was the prospect of going somewhere new.  Going to a new city, or just somewhere new in town, but something you couldn't do sitting at home.  In places where stay/shelter/whatever we are calling it orders are in place, it seems silly to say, hey I need a day where I can sit in essentially the same place I'm sitting now, staring at the same four walls I'm staring at now.  

You still need it.  And probably not just for a day, probably two or three, or maybe even a week.  I have essential workers in my life, and they are still taking vacation days, even if they can't travel to where they had hoped to travel. 

You may feel super privileged to be doing your job at home.  You may have lost your job or been furloughed.  You still need breaks.  Even if the break is from applying for jobs. 

While culturally we have accepted the idea of mental health days, I think we tend to think a few things about them.  You should only need one.  And you should probably only need it if things are really bad for you. 

Partially this is tied in with our thinking about mental health which is not great.  But also, hi, things are really bad.  I know sometimes we are asked to look at the bright side, to be grateful for all the things we do have. And hey, if your job and your health, and your loved ones are all doing great, then yes, things are good.  But, that doesn't mean your life has not been altered by this global event.  It doesn't mean that things aren't hard.  And it really, truly doesn't mean that you never get to have a day off that isn't a regularly occurring weekend or holiday (assuming that's how your job is structured.) 

To quote an ad slogan, you deserve a break.  Even if it means you sit in the same chair and talk to the same people you've talked to, you deserve a break from emails, or phone calls, or video calls.  Take the time.  Not to make the corporate overlords happy that you aren't hoarding vacation time.  Take the time because the corporate overlords gave you this time to make you a more productive human.  They didn't do it to be nice.  They did it because employees who burnout are less useful to them. 

And speaking as your pocket friend*, burned out pocket friends are less fun.  So do it for you, for them, and for me. 

*pocket friends are friends you know through the internet and therefore they are friends who live in your pocket, since many internet devices are pocket sized.