I recently listened to Sas Petherick podcast on The nature of fear, and it struck a very personal chord for me. In the podcast she speaks of her brush with death due to an ailment passed down from her mother, which lead to her mother's death at the age of 53. This triggered a fear of dying in the same manner for her, and the podcast was all about how she overcame that.
My mum was 49 when she died, she had a heart attack but really what killed her was her cancer coming back for the fifth time. It's a long story, which led me to a fear of getting cancer at a young age or dying from it at some point. I found my self on my morning walk balling my eyes out at the truth of Sas's fear come home hard.
After letting it out and taking a breath, I sat back and realised I was ok, but I was still sad. And that was ok. I have lost my mum and on some days that comes crashing over me, a wave that hits me hard and drags me out to sea. And when that happens, I just need to let it take me. Sometimes when caught in a rip the best thing you can do is let go. If you fight it, you won't get anywhere. So I took the day off work. I let go. If I had worked I wouldn't have gotten anything done, not anything that I would have loved anyway. So I decided the best way to spend my day was to take a mental health day. I went to the beach and picked up seashells and took a time out.
It is crazy that in our world we allow for sick days for any illness yet there is still a stigma around taking a sick day for your mental health. If you are not in the right headspace there is nothing to say that it is any less important to take time out and rest then if you have a cold. If your mind is not focused, you won't get work done. So what is the point of sitting at your desk staring at the clock wishing daylight savings would start in the middle of the day so you can skip an hour of work?
Don't get me wrong I struggled with this when I worked a 9-5. I had a team that I was accountable for. I couldn't just take a day off because I wasn't feeling it. I even remember bursting into tears one morning on the way to work then wiping away my tears and opening that door with a smile on my face like I'd woken up in a Disney fairy tale. I felt guilty if I put my emotional needs before my teams. But here's the thing, you can't help others if you haven't first helped your self. Don't forget your own oxygen mask.
One day at my 9-5 I was having a terrible day. They don't come around a lot, but occasionally I just cry for no reason. This was one of those days. I woke up and burst into tears. But I got myself together; I had to go to work! I started doing my makeup, fifteen minutes went by, and I was a mess again. My partner wrapped her arms around me and begged me to take the day off. Just sit down and watch movies! No, I insisted I must go. The third time I broke down was when I was about to leave the house. I realised I just couldn't do it. I called my boss and said I'm sorry I'm not coming in. Then I emailed my team and was honest. "I can't come in today, I'm not in the right head space, but I will be back tomorrow"
I received nothing but positivity from my colleges for having the courage to be honest and take the time for myself. It was only after this day that I realised the value of taking that time if you need it. Any time I have tried to shrug off a feeling of sadness or non-motivation and just power through I procrastinate and dread the next task to be done. I can't focus and find myself zoning out wondering what on earth I had been doing for the last half an hour as I was on autopilot. Taking the time to stop and sit in that uncomfortable emotion allows you to feel it then let it go. Only once you have sat there with it can you move forward and your mood shifts to a place where you can face everything again.
So I encourage you. Take a mental health day. Fuck your boss. Companies make you think they will crumble when we are not there. Yet replace us in one second. Your state of mind is more important than the bottom-line. If you crash and burn because you had been running from your emotions so much that they have overflown in bouts of crippling anxiety, your work will be willing to replace you. You can't replace your sanity. One day won't bring a company to its knees, but it may just save you.
Call in sick. Fake a cold if you need to. Or hot tip… say you got food poisoning. NO ONE questions that. Do what makes you feel comfortable. Don't want to tell you boss it's a mental health day? Don't. But take it anyway. You have sick leave for a reason. No one had defined what sick means. Stay at home and watch movies all day. Take your self out to lunch or go for a walk. Just give yourself the grace of time out for you.
Life isn't always easy. Some times we need some space to get through a day that is a little harder than normal. That's ok.