Why Restorative Mental Health Days Are Important for People with Chronic Illnesses in the Workplace

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Research shows a correlation between chronic physical conditions and mental health.  

Studies have shown that around 50.6% of people with mental disorders also have a chronic illness. At the same time, the challenges of a health condition can affect one’s emotional well-being. A cycle can also form wherein chronic illness can cause depression or anxiety which leads to decreased motivation, concentration, or energy. This then leads to less effort towards care for one’s body, which then leads to an increasingly worse physical condition.

Physical and mental health conditions, separate or combined, have a profound effect on the workforce. Aside from affecting personal productivity, they also contribute to increased health insurance premiums and medical claims, costing US employers billions of dollars a year.

Because of this, more companies and employers are incorporating ways to improve and promote physical and mental health in the workplace, including offering mental health days.

What is a mental health day?

A mental health day is a certain amount of time taken by a person to take care of their health and well-being. This is done as a break from the usual work routine to focus on oneself. Usually, this day is used to focus on relaxation and self-care.

Taking a mental health day can help one to feel recharged or rejuvenated, and it is best to be done deliberately to be most effective. Incorporating simple things such as these 12 tips for taking a restorative mental health day can make a difference in one’s well-being as it can help people hit the pause button and focus on getting back to their normal selves. Implementing good habits can help improve one’s outlook and mood. 

Why take a mental health day?

The daily stressors of the workplace can be a trigger not only for mental stress but also exacerbate physical symptoms, and start the cycle towards physical and mental health decline. So, while everyone can benefit from taking a mental health day, this is even more important for people with chronic illnesses. Here are some reasons why:

Prevent burnout

Burnout is defined as a state of exhaustion as a reaction to prolonged or excessive stress. This exhaustion can be physical, mental, or emotional, and can cause decreased productivity. While burnout can significantly affect everyone in the workforce, it can be more aggravating in people with chronic illnesses. Burnout can exacerbate medical conditions such as hypertension and heart disease, as well as contribute to the worsening of some mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. This affects one’s ability to complete tasks. Taking a break can prevent this and thus boost productivity.

Improve physical health

While mental health days use the word “mental”, these breaks are also an opportunity for a person to focus on health in general. For most people with chronic illnesses, stress can affect not only productivity but even survival. Already-limited energy from an illness can be used up more with increasing work stress, and this can create health complications. Stress can affect one’s sleep, digestion, blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart health. Thus, a mental health day can help avoid medical crisis situations. 

Decrease attrition

More workers are prioritizing their own health over jobs. A survey showed that around 50% or more of workers have recently left jobs due to mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily. A priority placed on health including having mental health days as a perk or benefit can help workers not only in managing their medical conditions but also decrease their stress and desire to leave.

Improve mood and focus

Overwhelming stress can affect one’s ability to focus, and learn, making it harder to complete tasks and lead to more stress. With chronic illness, there is added worry about one’s physical abilities and long-term situations that can affect the ability to focus on tasks. Taking a mental health day can mean refocusing on one’s medical conditions by practicing self-care or getting medical conditions checked. This can improve mood and attitude, and help a person become less distracted at work.

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Last update was on: May 20, 2024 9:00 AM

How does taking a mental health day help you?

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Coffee junkie. Spoonie. Writer about all things chronic illness and mental health. Friend of animals everywhere.

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Dr. Wilson graduated from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL. Dr. Wilson specializes in providing culturally competent and trauma-informed care to patients with physical disabilities. In addition to her private practice, she works as a science communicator, teaching health literacy to middle school and high school students in her local school district. 

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