Sitting among 30+ licensed school psychologists, and with one question, I turned a lively and interactive virtual meeting to a complete stop.
My question was, “Does anyone here take a day off for their mental health?”
I was expecting to quickly hear back from others, “Yes, of course!” But, the virtual room went silent and with no one else stepping forward saying, “Me, too,” I felt mortified. I remember thinking to myself, “Uh, oh, did I sound unprofessional? Do I not work as hard as others?
When the virtual room filled back up with noise, I heard no one else say that they take a day off for their mental health, but only if they are sick with a cold. This truly made me feel confused and alone.
Then, moments later when the conversation shifted, I received a private message from someone in the group. They shared with me that they could relate to me, but they were too nervous to admit it to the group. I immediately started to feel a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone, but I also felt frustration. Why wasn’t my question a longer and deeper conversation?
On occasion, I call out of work simply because my mind and heart need a break. While this often comes with strong feelings of guilt, stress, and shame, I have to remind myself that I am not failing others by taking a day off. Rather, if I don’t take the day off, then I am failing myself.
So why does it always feel harder to take a day off for my mental health than it does when I am physically unwell?
I’m wondering if these feelings of guilt, stress and shame I have when I do call out for a mental health day is due to the fact that society has yet to fully prioritize mental health. I truly was disappointed that day to not hear as many fellow school psychologist admit that they too take a mental health day off. Our field is demanding, and we too, deserve to practice what we teach our students.
This is a reminder to allow yourself time off, whenever you need it and without feeling guilt, stress and shame.
Give yourself permission to rest.