Why You Need to Take a Personal Day Once in a While

Do you ever get anxious or stressed and really feel like you need a day off? Yet, you're leery of doing it—you don't have any symptoms of illness, not even a cold. If so, this is a common predicament. Many people feel guilty about taking a day off when they aren't physically unwell.


In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Travel Association's Project Time Off, 55 percent of Americans chose not to use all their vacation days in 2015, forfeiting their time and losing valuable benefits. This is unfortunate because there are many good reasons to take a day off from time to time. In fact, it can be argued that it's healthy for both you and your career.

Increase your productivity

When your alarm goes off in the morning do you feel as if you just want to fling it across the room? But you don't do it—instead you drag yourself in to the office to work long hours or at a frantic pace day after day. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over time, you're bound to have trouble concentrating, ultimately having a negative impact on your level of productivity. Worse, it could affect the quality of your work as well. Not to mention it'll have an impact on relationships with your colleagues and maybe even customers.

A day away from it all won't be a miracle cure, but what it can do is alleviate some of the immediate stress and pressure. That 24-hour reprieve can do wonders for your psyche. When you return you'll have a clearer head and be ready to tackle the tasks ahead in a more productive way.

Avoid getting ill

Evidence points to people actually getting sick from stress, anxiety or just being overworked. Negative health effects can include frequent headaches and migraines, recurrent gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, depression and an increase in both liver and heart disease. It can also result in burnout, which can have numerous effects on a person's health.

Experts recommend that people who cannot afford to take longer vacations should take shorter ones or, at the very least, take some time off. They highlight employee health and overall well-being tends to improve when people take short reprieves from their work. And they come back rejuvenated.

Maintain good work-life balance

Everyone needs a good work-life balance. If you are bogged down with stress at work, it's eventually going to take a toll on your personal life. Then it becomes a vicious cycle because your home problems are likely to spill into work. Taking the occasional day off helps to offset both mental and physical stress. Plus, if you plan it right, you can spend some quality time—either with your loved ones or by yourself doing something you've been wanting to do for a long time.

What do you tell your boss?

OK, so you've realized there are some great benefits to taking a personal day, now you're faced with how to explain your absence to your boss.

  • Tell the truth. Outline the reasons why you need a personal day and how it would benefit the organization if you take one.
  • Choose a good day. Don't plan to bail on the day there's a team meeting, deadline or big presentation. Explain to your boss why the day you've selected won't adversely impact anything going on.
  • Leave it vague. While some bosses are understanding about needing a day to clear your head, others, not so much. In this case you might just have to leave it vague and say you have "personal issues" to attend to.

Some people do just fake illness, but this usually isn't the best way to go—the truth often surfaces and, if you have to tell lies to cover the original lie (i.e. if your boss asks about your symptoms or your doctor's appointment), this creates a sticky situation that could get you into trouble.

Bottom line: you shouldn't feel guilt-ridden over taking the proverbial "mental health" day once in a while. True, some people do abuse their paid time off, and this creates workplace problems. But if you're not one of them, taking an occasional day is good for both you and your employer. Be sure to save your personal day for a time you really feel you need it, not just because the weather is going to be nice or a new movie is being released. This way, the day you choose actually has meaning and gives you some relief from the stress. Then you'll come back refreshed, better focused and more energized.

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