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Mandatory Mental Health Days

Mandatory Mental Health Days

Exhaustion, tears, and tense lines across foreheads were daily revealing themselves to me as I checked in with my team.  I studied them in Brady Bunch boxes on zoom.  I could feel their frustrations, fears, and as we tally-marked our COVID way through March and now through April.

Our culture is built on principle of support and I felt I was failing in fully supporting my co-workers during this pandemic.  What could I do for them?  Deliver gifts, coffee, what?

I thought back to the last time I felt days comparable to these.  Days fluctuating on a spectrum in loneliness, self-isolation, and sometime paralyzing fear.  How did I cope during my divorce?  What do I wish I had done more of?  Less of?

Looking back to my divorce days I wish I had been more mindful that these were not normal days and I wish I had adjusted my expectations of myself accordingly. I just kept pushing and pushing myself harder. Mental health days and self-care were not part of my divorce vernacular.   These words should have been.

Mandatory mental health days.  This was the answer.  I issued the mandate that every three weeks team members would rotate a day out during the week to attend to their mental health.  As soon as I said it, happy tears appeared.

The week we started, my social media was filled with their pictures of outdoor hikes, relaxing poses with cute pair of slippers or a book for downtime.  Their gratitude for the permission to take a day off overwhelmed me.

They just needed permission.

I wish someone had given me permission to indulge in mental health care during my divorce.  I wish someone had forced me.  Better yet, I wish I had known how important this was – how important it is during times of chronic stress to put our mental health on the map.  I wish I knew then what I know now – which is I have the power to give myself permission.

Angela Dunne