One morning about 7 years ago, I woke up feeling exceptionally sad and had an epiphany: "I don't have to go to work - I could give myself permission to take a sick day for emotional wellness." This made sense given that I had grown to recognize emotional wellness as an important area of health. Why not use a sick day? So, I tried it and it worked! Resting for a full day helped the sadness pass and prepared me to go to work refreshed the next day. Ever since, taking a sick day for emotional wellness has become a part of my healthy workstyle.
How do we justify a sick day for emotional wellness?
One of the reasons we don't take sick days for our emotional wellness is that we judge our negative emotions like we shouldn't have them. The problem is this just isn't realistic. Sadness is a part of the holistic picture of life. I have experienced a lot of loss in my life and as recently as six months ago I experienced a big loss that I am still recovering from. So why wouldn't we allow a sick day to release feelings of grief just as we allow a sick day to release a virus from our bodies? The reality is that trying to push through and work during a day where our emotions are on high alert is never a productive day. We only attempt and pretend to get work done, or worse, try to suppress our negative feelings (which always leads to physical illness). Instead, we can take the gentler approach and accept that any work we'd accomplish on an exceptionally sad day is pretty low in output and quality. So ultimately, it is better to give ourselves what we need: an entire sick day. Then we come back to work ready to be fully productive.
Would we abuse sick days for emotional wellness?
Using myself as an example, I'd say no, we would not abuse sick days for emotional wellness if we are otherwise happy and enjoying our lives and work. After taking my first sick day for emotional wellness, I felt I had permission to do it again the next time I woke up feeling deeply sad. It turns out that about once a quarter I need a sick day due to emotional sadness, which feels right doesn't it? Most companies offer 5 sick days per year.
What is the protocol for a sick day for emotional wellness?
Here is how my most recent sick day for emotional wellness looked: I woke up at my usual time and decided I needed to take a sick day. I had two commitments with other people in my schedule to manage. For my morning commitment, I texted the person I was designated to meet and let her know I was not feeling well and inquired about rescheduling. She was compassionate and totally fine. For my late afternoon phone meeting, I sensed I would be ok to keep it, and I did. After making these decisions, my sick day protocol began:
Crawled under the covers and went back to sleep.
Woke up about noon.
Ate a bland breakfast/lunch of sick day comfort food.
Tended to my emotional wellness in a few activities: re-listened to part of an Audible book that inspired me around overcoming obstacles, texted a few mentors and friends with a question for their feedback about my sadness, and journaled about my feelings.
Took a business call from my bed.
Treated myself to a bland dinner.
Went to bed early.
This is one simple model and should be modified to meet your needs on a particular day with the aim to bring you back to emotional wellness. This in essence includes: rest, self care, and healing practices. What works for you? I would love to hear your stories of sick days for emotional wellness!