Stressed? – It Might Be Time For A Mental Health Break

Studies show that job stress is the primary source of stress for Americans adults and that it has escalated over the past few decades. In the US the statistics from the Stress at Work (NIOSH report) that 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. 25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work, and 26% of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.

In Britain, stressed workers took 12.5 million days off last year, official figures have revealed. More than half a million people suffering from depression, stress or anxiety were unable to turn up for shifts as planned.

Health and Safety Executive stats show that work-related stress, depression or anxiety account for 40% of work-related ill-health and 49% of all working days lost, in 2016/17.over. And 5 million people are signed off work each year. What’s more surprising is that a large percentage of those are due to mental health problems.

The pressures that a policeman or teacher is working in inner-city experiences could be entirely different from those experienced by their counterparts in quieter rural areas.

The figures are shocking, but it is essential to keep in mind that stress is highly personalized and can vary widely even in identical situations for different reasons.  The severity of job stress depends on the demands and the individual’s sense of control or decision-making latitude he or she has in dealing with them. Some individuals thrive in the fast lane, having to juggle several duties at the same time and a list of things to do that would overwhelm many of us. These people would become stressed by repetitive work that others enjoy or who want to perform a task that is within their capabilities. The context in which stress occurs is important. The pressures that a policeman or teacher is working in inner-city experiences could be entirely different from those experienced by their counterparts in quieter rural areas. It is necessary to keep this in mind when the degree of stress in many occupations.

However, taking a mental health break is everyone’s right, but many of us fail to take the same care that we would for our physical health. Often this is because of the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. However, we need to there is no shame in prioritizing our mental health.

How do you know you need a mental health break?

If you are feeling tired or unmotivated, it might be a good idea to take a few days off to see if you feel any better when you rest and relax. A few days may be all you need to get yourself back on track.  It could be as simple as taking the time to deal with one issue at a time and reduce the overall level of stress. However, if you have been experiencing a number of the common symptoms of stress listed below for at least two weeks, it would be a good idea to see if you can get the support of your doctor to take some time longer time off work.

    Notice changes in your moods, like feeling low to the point that it interferes with your daily activities,
    Not enjoying the activities you usually take pleasure to the point that you stop doing them
    You are frustrated and irritable without a specific cause or getting angry at something that would not usually bother you.
    Feeling hopeless or pessimistic about the future or feeling as if you’re not doing a good job, questioning your abilities and achievements
    It is being in a constant state of fatigue, not waking up feeling refreshed even after an appropriate amount of sleep.
    You find it challenging to fall asleep or wake up in the night and can’t back to sleep
    Inability to fully concentrate, forgetting simple things.
    Feeling anxious to the point that the anxiety stops you from doing your usual activities
    You are having changes in appetite, either losing it or finding yourself eating more than usual.
    Pain including chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and headaches – which should all be consulted with your doctor.
    Immunity is low, and you catch every cold going.
    Wounds that don’t quickly and normally.

What should you be doing if you have been signed off?

The most important thing is to use the time to ease your symptoms, to rest and recover. Just as you would if you had a physical illness, you need to do things which are going to benefit your health. This may be different for everybody but what is critical is to be proactive regarding your emotional health. Visit your health professional, attend the recommended appointments to support your recovery (talk therapy, etc.), take any prescribed medication, and practice techniques that allow you to relax, such as meditation or yoga.

Having modest goals here is perfectly fine, and it is also important to know that if you are not able to carry out those activities on any given day, that is OK too.

Being active in improving your mental health is the best thing you can do. A few suggestions for improving your mental wellbeing during your time off include slowing it down and don’t feel as if you have any goal or deadline to meet. It is essential to see if you can reduce some of the things that are causing stress, such as spending a day sorting out all of your finances or housework. It may be time to work with a therapist to help you agree on some goals. If you are recovering on your own, remember to have a little plan every day that includes social activities and exercise even if it is hard. Having modest goals here is perfectly fine, and it is also important to know that if you are not able to carry out those activities on any given day, that is OK too.  You can always change your goal to something more achievable or try the next day again. Do small things liking having a long bath, reading, going for a walk or, catching up with supportive friends are all going to improve your emotional health.

How do you prepare to return to work?

Unlike the stories you read online many of us have to return to the job we’ve taken time off from and so here a few other things, you can try to improve your mental wellbeing to prepare for getting back to work (and that are supportive for your ongoing mental wellbeing).

  • Learn how to manage your reaction to stressors. Stress is part of life, and all of us will experience stressful situations. Being able to combat stress quickly will be helpful when you return to work. Mindfulness is an effective way to help you choose how you respond to unwanted experiences and learn the value of acceptance of things you cannot control. There a variety of mindfulness practices that you can learn, or you might find distraction techniques more helpful. Joining a course or finding a qualified mindfulness coach can help embed these techniques into your daily life.
  • Identify your triggers. By noting down things that worsen your mood or frustrate you, you will begin to see a pattern in what triggers your condition. You can then make an educated decision regarding whether the trigger should be avoided or confronted. For example, if you feel unusually anxious when you are sitting next to a person at your work, decide whether you should try to face the anxious thoughts or avoid the situations by moving seats. You can get help from a therapist if needed to support you to identify these triggers. This will be beneficial in both personal and work life, further allowing you to feel more in control of stressful situations.
  • Learning to become you own best friend will help you to value yourself. Try to avoid self-criticism, talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved one or a friend. Being hard on yourself will only lead to further insecurity. Actively seeks help to re-programme negative thoughts and learn how to focus on positive behaviors will support your recovery. Ensure you make time for relaxation and things that enjoy doing. It is important to understand your boundaries and learn to say NO in a compassionate
  • Take care of yourself fundamentals – sleep, exercise, and Exercise, a goods night sleep and eating a balanced diet are all good for your mental wellbeing. Looking after your body can help to lift your mood, improve your ability to focus and stay well
  • We are social creatures and being supported is a critical component of recovery. There will be some among your loved ones that understand your condition and it might be best to seek those people out during your time of recovery and actively avoiding people who add to your stress. That can include social media  – sometimes its best to disconnect from unhelpful information. Look for more positive news.

Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and needing time off is nothing we should ever feel guilty about. Seeking help while you are off to recover and prepare you to return to work are essential. Mental health matters.


Dr. Clarissa Hughes
Dr. Clarissa Hughes
Dr. Clarissa Hughes is the CEO and founder of The Little Breathing Space based in Göteborg, Sweden. She has a passion for working with busy business people through tailored mindfulness coaching to find their optimal stress levels and to be able to better navigate the demands of modern life skillfully. Her coaching empowers them to develop a higher capacity to feel clear-headed, confident and thriving in a life that reflects their purpose. Clarissa has been a senior manager in some of the world’s largest multinationals in the UK and Asia-Pacific for over 28 years. She suffered a burnout due to stress and found her way back to a calmer, more connected life through mindfulness. Clarissa is an accredited Breathworks Mindfulness practitioner, iRest Yoga Nidra teacher has experience and an academic background in human behaviour. She is a keynote speaker at leadership conferences, hosts the podcast ‘A Little Breathing Space’ and regularly appears in articles, podcasts, and radio interviews internationally talking all things mindfulness. Clarissa believes that mindfulness is more than daily meditation - it is a way of living with compassionate self-awareness so that we can truly thrive.

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  1. Regardless of what status we hold, life can get stressful at times. Sometimes we have to deal with financial setbacks, health problems, workplace challenges and all sorts of difficulties. But no matter what stress we might experience, we cannot allow it to make us crumble. Stress is a part of life. Stressful situations are bound to arise at some point. When they do, it’s up to us to continue thriving despite the added tension. No matter what stress and challenges life throws at us, we have to be mentally strong in order to be successful.

    “Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.”– David Allen

    “Don’t try to force anything. Let life be a deep let-go. God opens millions of flowers every day without forcing their buds.” —Osho

    In a year you’ll barely remember why you felt so stressed, so why stress about it now?