We all need the occasional “mental health day” off from work to reboot our minds and bodies, but what if you have already called in sick one too many times? Assuming you’re experiencing a normal ebb in the energy you have for work and not a more serious issue (like depression, addiction or abhorring your job, in which case you should consult a therapist immediately), here are some things you can do:
1) Incentivize yourself. Treat yourself to your favorite coffee or tea on your way to work. Make lunch plans. Schedule something nice after work, like a workout, a get-together with friends, or a pj’s night at home with a good movie. Remind yourself these things are better than the guilt of calling in sick, the awkward excuses that need to be made (or the fake cough) and the overwhelm of twice as much work the next day.
2) Use a mantra. Select a positive statement to get you moving (i.e., “When I do the best that I can, I am my best self”). Personally, I like Dory’s “Just Keep Swimming” from Finding Nemo.
3) Take it one step at a time. Baby steps. Get out of bed, shower, get dressed, have something to eat, make your way out the door, etc. I often find that once I get moving, I pull out of my funk and gain momentum. As a licensed mental health professional, I strongly recommend singing, “Put One Foot in Front of the Other.”
4) Make things easier for yourself. Take a cab instead of the bus. Skip the trip to the dry cleaner. Wear something comfy. Cross off a couple of things on your “To Do” list to lighten the load. Ask for the support you need from your partner, friends and family (even if it’s just a pep talk or a little prodding).
5) Shift into cruise control. We can’t run full speed ahead every day, and there are some days that require autopilot. As a therapist, these are days that I might make fewer enthusiastic interpretations or coaching suggestions for my clients, and might hang back and just listen attentively and reflectively. Often, these ebbs in my energy are opportunities for my clients to step forward and to make their own insights and direction. So, running at a slower pace isn’t always a bad thing as it can provide perspective.
6) Fly under the radar. If you are a little low in motivation, perhaps this isn’t the day to have extensive interactions with your boss or team. Use whatever flexibility you can to limit interactions (i.e., put on your headset, keep your nose in your computer, shut your office door, etc.). Keep interactions brief and cordial to make the day more manageable.
7) Do the work that is easiest for you. Perhaps today isn’t the day you are going to complete the big project, but keep in mind that anything you do at work (no matter how small) is more than what you would have accomplished if you called in sick. When my energy is low, I tend to focus on organization that preps me for days when my energy is higher. I might get some filing done, complete some mindless paperwork or make a supply run, rather than tackling something that requires more brain power or passion.
8) Be of service to somebody else. I love being a therapist because my work gets me out of my own head. I’m often surprised at how recalibrated my energy feels after a good session. Even opening a door for somebody, giving a compliment or offering support or mentoring to a less senior colleague can ignite your internal energy source.
9) Practice gratitude. Instead of focusing on all the reasons you really don’t want to go to work (the icky weather, the lame meeting, or whatever it is), focus on the good parts. You are alive. You have a job. You aren’t really sick, etc. Gratitude promotes positive thinking that attracts good energy.
10) Practice self-care. Practice a few minutes of deep breathing or guided meditation to revitalize yourself. Take breaks when you can at work. Get out of the office and walk around the block to clear the cobwebs from your mind. Get proper rest, nutrition and exercise. Consider a massage, mani-pedi or similar if within your budget. If not, choose self-care that is free, such as reading a book, taking a bubble bath, or practicing yoga. Refuel yourself so that tomorrow is a better day!
“Nothing will work unless you do.” — Maya Angelou
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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