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I was recently asked this question by a client of mine. My answer was, “absolutely!” We’ve all experienced burnout from work, school, family and other stressors. Sometimes, we just need a break and there is nothing wrong with admitting that and taking ac-tion on it. If you work fulltime, you typically get sick time and vacation time but Ameri-cans are notorious for not using either. Based on recent statistics, Americans on average take 16.2 days of vacation a year. Back in 2000, we took on average 3 weeks of vacation (npr.org). Looking at sick time, studies show that 69% of Americans don’t take sick days (alternet.org). Those are some eye opening numbers!

I was recently asked this question by a client of mine. My answer was, “absolutely!” We’ve all experienced burnout from work, school, family and other stressors. Sometimes, we just need a break and there is nothing wrong with admitting that and taking action on it. If you work full-time, you typically get sick time and vacation time but Americans are notorious for not using either. Based on recent statistics, Americans on average take 16.2 days of vacation a year. Back in 2000, we took on average 3 weeks of vacation (npr.org). Looking at sick time, studies show that 69% of Americans don’t take sick days (alternet.org). Those are some eye opening numbers!

What about mental health days? Well, there isn’t a lot of research out there to find these numbers. However, I would imagine the number is low. Lower than taking sick time and vacation time. With 1 in 4 people dealing with mental health issues and 1 in 6 taking prescribed medications, why are we not taking more mental health days? The answer is stigma. This word packs a lot of punch. In American culture, mental health carries a lot of stigma. A lot. We’ve probably all heard words and phrases like “She’s totally crazy” or “You’re mentally ill and cannot hold a job” or “Just snap out of it already, you’re fine.” These are common stigmas that produce fear for those who are living with and trying to manage their mental illness.

Mental health awareness and education has made some great strides over the last few decades but there is also much more progress to be made. One way to help with that change is to take a mental health day without strings attached. No guilt. No fear. No regret. We are humans, not machines. It’s OK to need to take a day off here and there to decompress and to regroup ourselves and to do so without judgement. The judgement part will lessen with more awareness to mental health, which will continue to take time but you can start with yourself. Allowing yourself to take that day off for some self-care. The ultimate goal is to feel refocused, re-energized and motivated. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

When you think of taking a mental health day, you may automatically think mental illness, which this does not have to be the case. Taking a mental health day does not necessarily mean you have a mental illness. If you found yourself thinking this way, this goes back to the stigma associated with mental illness.

As I mentioned earlier, you may need a mental health day due to burnout or stress from work. Stress and burnout effects both our mental and emotional well-being and both fall under self-care. Taking a mental health day is a form of self-care and is something you have to decide whether or not it will be beneficial for yourself. Often, it can be stressful to think about taking some time off. We start to think about the work that may pile up while we are gone or the emails we will have to respond to, etc. But, if you look at the bigger picture, taking that day off could really re-energize and motivate you to come back to work, refreshed and ready to be productive.

Erin Pawlak, MS, LPCC
Therapist and Adolescent IOP Director

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The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.