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Do you ever feel that your work is interfering with your personal life? Your weekends are supposed to be relaxing, but you tend to think of solutions for the problem with which your team has been struggling. As you are writing an email to your boss for a day off, you unintentionally catastrophize all of the possible outcomes that might happen if you take that day off from work. You may even feel guilty for asking to take a day off because you have a mentality that “success comes from no rest, I’ve got to keep showing up.” If this sounds like you, this is your sign to reprioritize your mindset and not feel guilty about taking care of your own body.  

Imagine yourself as a car (quite hard to imagine, but try); when your car runs out of gas, the only way to refuel it is to either exit out of the highway or make a turn; some inconveniences come across just getting gas. However, if you try to keep going ignoring the fact that your car needs gas to keep going, your car will eventually break down and perhaps, cause more trouble in your day and damage to the engine. Like your body, listen to your body when it tells you it is time to exit and refuel. 

A survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Learn to Live suggested that at least 60% of American employees are worried that bosses would judge them for taking mental health days. Out of 2,000 employed working Americans, 57% mentioned mental health isn’t a good reason to take time off. Ultimately, this creates a problem of feeling overwhelmed and burnt out at work, worsening anxiety, and falling into guilt traps for PTO or sick days.

If you are experiencing similar issues and feel like you are part of the 57% of working Americans, you may fear the following things when considering taking a day off: 

  • Fear of falling behind at work 
  • Fear of being seen as less of a “hard-working” team member
  • Fear of being less relevant for the team 
  • Fear of being seen as “lazy” or needing an excuse to ditch work 

Whether you are worried and anxious about taking a day off and unintentionally feel guilty, here are some pointers for you to help you get over this guilt. 

  1. Remind yourself that you deserve a break. 

Work hard on the days you are supposed to be working, such as on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., whatever your schedule. Taking a break does not mean you are lazy or unproductive; it just means that you need time off to destress and everyone deserves it. Prioritize your mental and physical health because nothing else matters as no one will tell you when to stop working or pause for a break; it is up to you to acknowledge your health. That’s why companies implement sick and PTO days! 

  1. Have effective communication with managers and team members 

Inform your managers or team members beforehand that you are feeling overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter what it is at work, but everyone lives outside of work. If your personal life is giving you more stress and starting to intervene in your work life, it is time to let your managers know that you are experiencing something in life. Effective communication in teams and the workplace promotes transparency and creates a better work-life balance environment for all teammates. 

  1. Normalize the idea of saying “no.” 

For most people, saying “no” doesn’t come naturally. You may feel guilty for saying no to a specific task while you already have many different tasks on your plate. You are worried that you will be seen as “not a team player” in the team. The trouble is that agreeing to all assignments may lead to burnout and even lower job performance. To avoid taking that day off, it starts with how we communicate with our managers and team members. If your manager asks you for more, it is essential to elevate and reprioritize tasks beforehand. It is critical to acknowledge the other side; instead of saying no, ask your manager if you could have a few more days to complete this new assignment. 

  1. Work-life balance is not just a trend.

The topic of work-life balance has been widely discussed recently, especially during and after the pandemic. Work-life balance involves looking at how working individuals manage their time at work and outside of work. Having a healthy work-life balance helps reduce the chances of burnout from chronic stress and increase the likelihood of employees enjoying their job. 

All in all, when your rest days are anything but relaxing, it is time to shift the mindset a little bit. The internal fear of falling behind at work or being less than other team members is causing many American workers to worry about taking days off and ultimately worsening mental health. While there is no golden rule on implementing a healthy work-life balance as it varies for everyone. It is critical to have an effective communication strategy with managers and team members to avoid burnout and understand that it is worth taking a break sometimes as your body and mind will thank you later.


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Rene Cheng
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