Wednesday, March 3rd. The proverbial “breaking point” for me. Let’s talk about the metaphorical mental cocktail that I’d been perfecting for some time. Take one shot of 14-month isolation, mix vigorously with equal parts government mandates, and fancy bar graphs depicting deaths per million. Add one teaspoon of a vitriol presidential election for flavor and garnish with a lawsuit from an unhappy customer who just wants to have a wedding during a global pandemic (I own a wedding venue as a side gig).
Once I had perfected its potency, I took a big swig on March 3rd and then stared at my computer screen for 15 minutes before realizing that I simply could not work that day. The laptop was closed. Not a word was spoken to my colleagues. I simply got out of my chair with no real plan. As a PM, not having a plan is kind of a big deal. Engage cerebral autopilot.
Walk to car.
Place keys in car.
Don’t stop driving.
During the pandemic, my wife pointed out that “It’s Fine” had become a bit of a daily overindulgence for my vocabulary, brutally forced into my subconscious after months of throwing my hands up in the air at every mention of the word COVID or lockdown. It was my feeble attempt at trying to brush it all off.
I started using this phrase mostly as a joke. “It’s Fine.”
Another six months of lockdowns? It’s fine.
My favorite restaurant closed again? It’s fine.
We are facing our 4th lawsuit in three months. It’s…fine?
You get the idea. I had hit a point where I simply needed to disengage and shut down for a bit. To quote the IT Crowd, I tried turning it off and then back on again. It had taken months for me to finally come to the realization that things weren’t okay, and honestly, that’s okay. We all know that times are rather strange right now. Like a three-year-old throwing a tantrum, I refused to submit to the notion that this was the “new normal.” As a coping mechanism, I hid behind words like “it’s okay” or the all too classic meme.
This is fine. Everything is fine.
The truth is, I was not okay. I needed a day to reflect. To shut down and perform a hard system reboot. Clear the cache and start fresh. Once I had committed to taking a much-needed mental break, it was remarkable how simple and effective it was at getting me back into the right state of mind.
Here are a few takeaways when it comes to taking a mental health day:
- The most important thing is to actually take a mental health day! You should budget out at least two mental health days per year. Give yourself a day for yourself. It is not being selfish with your time. Of the 365 days out of the year that you pour your energy into others, it is okay to give yourself some love. I am a budgeting nerd, and I’m taught that the key to a successful financial strategy when it comes to saving is to ALWAYS pay yourself first. The same applies to your PTO days. At the start of every year, block out two days set aside for you. Your future self will thank you for it.
You owe it to yourself, friends, family, and co-workers to bring to the table the best version of you possible, fully refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
- Embrace alone time. Push back the temptation to catch up with someone. I know that PTO days are precious, but so is your mental well-being. This day is about getting yourself into a good state of mind, free from distractions and honestly mental thought. Part of the cognitive reset is in not engaging in communication. I highly recommend doing floatation therapy. Basically, you go into a dark room that they fill up with salt water, and you float for an hour in this kind of eerie tranquility. It’s a great way to reset the senses and come out feeling refreshed.
- Get off the grid. Turn the cell phone off and do not go near it for the day. If this feels impossible to you, then that is a major indicator that you are in desperate need of some distance from the screen. I went to Ireland for my honeymoon back in 2015 and was forced to deal without a cell phone for two weeks. Honestly, it was amazing, and believe it or not, my life did not fall apart because my “influencer” status responsibilities were being neglected.
- Find a place of seclusion. It could be your favorite trail or maybe a trek in the woods. Get away from the busyness and absorb stillness.
- Find yourself a position at a company that truly values your mental health days. Find a place where they not only allow it but push for it. Those are the places that truly care. We often think that we need to justify PTO or vacation days with a goal or objective. It’s okay to tell someone that you simply “took a mental health day”. We need to break the negative stigma surrounding the term mental health day anyway. Call it what it is. You need a day for you-no real plans. Just a day to reset. And If you just so happen to be looking for a great place to work that values your mental health days, you should check out BizStream. We are hiring 😊