If you are frustrated because your young co-worker just took a mental health day, get used to it. Where older generations have adopted a “push-through-your-personal-problems” attitude, the younger generation sees work life completely differently.
As one millennial explained to me, “My generation is growing up understanding that mental health is as important as physical health. I would rather push through a work day where I’m physically not feeling well than a day when I’m mentally drained or overwhelmed.”
A millennial will use a mental health day (also known as a self-care day) to catch up on sleep, take a long bath, do yoga, see a therapist, go for a run, or practice mindfulness. Millennials view these days off as necessary. “Taking a day off for self-care or mental health can improve your job performance for rest of the month,” the millennial explained.
Millennials prioritize mental health
Unlike the Gen Xers in my generation who rarely talk about mental health, millennials have gone through the college years speaking openly about anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. “It’s not a taboo subject anymore,” said Mackenzie, the millennial daughter of Jenny Marie, a mental health advocate and blogger who writes for The National Alliance on Mental Illness blog. “I know a lot of people at work and friends outside of work who see therapists or take medication for anxiety and depression.”
Millennials, often referred to as the “anxious generation, grew up in a fast paced, always connected world where it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
“We are seeing a whole new generation who is coming up having been more exposed to these (mental health) issues than in their parents’ generation and want to figure out how they can stay healthy,” Michelle Riba, director at the University of Michigan Depression Center, said to Marketwatch.com.
How to Take A Mental Health Day
What that means for those in prior generations is that we need to better understand where millennials are coming from and their motivations. Rather than become annoyed or perplexed when they take a day off, and instead of looking at their downtime as lazy or not necessary, we should consider following their lead. When we need it, we, too, should take a day off just to regroup – without feeling guilty about it.
What this millennial way of thinking means for employers is a fresh look at employee benefits and the consideration of workshops on sleep, mindfulness, stress reduction, meditation and perks such as on-site yoga classes.
With information coming at us from every direction and pressure to be superstars in whatever we do, it’s easy to let stress take a toll on our mental health. I admire the millennials flooding our workplaces with a better understanding of what they need to do to be at their best. Now, let’s embrace their way of thinking and be good to ourselves.
Here are the 5 steps toward taking a mental health day:
- Schedule it now. Figure out a day to take off when it will least interrupt your work flow.
- Hold it sacred. Once you have a mental health day on your calendar, don’t let guilt change your mind.
- Plan your day. Decide the types of self care will you practice based on what will allow you to go back to work relaxed.
- Turn off your devices. A mental health day requires disconnecting from devices that connect you to your workplace.
- Reward yourself. At the end of your day off, use self talk to reinforce the benefits of your mental health day and recognize the positive emotions that will make you more motivated going forward.