So What If You Can’t Take a Mental Health Day?

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By Marianne Clyde

I’ve seen a flurry of articles recently about taking a Mental Health day from time to time.  I think it’s a great idea and can be rejuvenating and uplifting.

However, you can’t take a Mental Health day every time there’s a crisis. So what else can you do? You can create and establish tools that you hold within you to be able to develop a strong internal locus of control, so when the storm of circumstance blows in, while you might feel the wind blow strong, it doesn’t knock you off course.

A friend shared with me the other day about someone she knew who was betrayed by a business partner and lost one of his biggest accounts because the betraying business partner slipped right in and snatched it.

I observed another situation in which a large financial group swooped into a small town and bought one of the businesses, throwing the whole business into a tizzy, firing long time employees and choking the sales staff for higher profits.

There was a recently reported case in the news where one employee, apparently disgruntled with her boss, put cleaning fluid in the coffee, sickening a number of employees on the staff.

And, if you watch the staff changes in the White House these days, you’ve got to know that they must be drowning in a pool of stress.

Whether or not, you are predisposed to anxiety or depression, any of these situations would tempt you to call in for a sick day. But you can’t always do that.

It’s difficult to find any statistics on how many people actually take mental health days. I suppose many of us have and just called it a sick day or a personal day. But whether you do that or not, the fact remains that there are times when it’s important to recognize that your stress is getting out of hand and do something about it.

Watching the news, I see so much reactivity to recent events. Not just reactivity, but over-the-top reactivity–clearly based on strong emotion of the moment without thinking things through, or listening to the whole story, or trying to see things from all perspectives. This is the result of stress run amok. In an article by Prevention magazine a couple of years ago, the author discusses how stress can make your IQ go down.  This timeless article in Psychology Today explains what goes on when that happens. The parts of your brain involved in decision making, clear perception and executive functioning don’t work as well, when all the blood and oxygen flow is going to your amygdala, your stress center.

When this happens, it’s easier to get into “group think” or adopt an “us and them” philosophy.  These reactions are based on limited functioning of the prefrontal cortex, causing suppression of logic by the “powerful tunnel vision survival reaction of the amygdala,” according to the PT article.

This type of reaction is normal in anxiety-provoking situations, and the wise employer knows that it’s important to help employees find coping skills that keep this from happening, or he will have group panic on his hands.

When it seems like everyone’s getting fired, or someone is trying to poison the boss and you get caught in the crosshairs or when you find yourself dealing with a heart-wrenching betrayal, you must have coping skills in place.

Sure there are practical things you must do. Perhaps you need to file a lawsuit. You might need to put a guard on the coffee pot. And it may be necessary to change company policy or expectations about job performance. But there are also things you can personally do so you don’t run off half-cocked making poor decisions or having knee jerk reactions resulting in a need to clean up a mess later.

If you haven’t yet begun a centering practice like meditation, mindfulness, daily deep breathing exercises, or a gratitude practice, it’s never too late to start. These things, if done on a regular basis can actually change your brain. They can teach you to calm yourself and stand firm in your true identity, not thrown off balance by a crisis or even someone’s strong dissenting opinion. They help you learn to respect yourself and others in a way that helps you be more centered and become a better communicator, knowing that your opinion is just as important as someone else’s, not more or less, but equal. Those practices can make it easier to let resentments and grudges go, because they are stress based and unhealthy for you. When you learn to detach from drama, it becomes easier to see where you end and others begin, so you don’t get sucked in.

So, while you may not feel like you can take a mental health day every time things get crazy, you can create a space within yourself that becomes your own little oasis of calm. Just breathe and detach, before you respond, and save yourself a lot of grief.

Marianne Clyde is an expert in Mental Health in the workplace. Speaking to businesses and associations  about empowerment, team building and relationship networking, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in practice for over 27 years, energizing speaker and dauntless world traveler. She lived in Japan for over 8 years and has spent time in at least 20 developing countries, teaching about recovery from trauma, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships.

She has written and published numerous articles, appeared on radio and television worldwide, commenting on topics ranging from gun violence to having a happy marriage. Host and producer of her own TV shows, she has also hosted a call in radio show and has produced Moments of Mindfulness Meditation CD.

After launching 2 best-selling books, Peaceful Parenting: 10 Essential Principles and Un-Leashed: Practical Steps to Get Your Life Unstuck, she has now released her most powerful book to date, Zentivity™: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace. As chaos, reactivity and polarization reign, whether your workplace is in politics, business or home, she recognizes and advocates for mental health in the workplace.

A companion website is available along with the book at www.zentivity.guru to help readers establish strong new patterns of throughout and behavior.

Marianne is the founder of the Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy, in Warrenton, VA, winner of the 2017 Best of Warrenton award, and also the founder of Be the Change Foundation, helping underprivileged women create and sustain home – based businesses.