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a mental health break from work
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - mental health break from work

Should we ask our bosses for a mental health break every few months? In the last month, several celebrities have announced that they are taking a break after an intense working period.

Ed Sheeran, who has just released a new album and finished a lengthy tour, will be taking 18 months off, while Love Island's Maura Higgins is taking time out from personal appearances at clubs - where she earns thousands of pounds each time - because she is 'burnt out'.

While most of us probably can't afford to take more than a year off work or give up projects that could see us walk away with a lot of money, we might well benefit from taking a well-earned break every couple of months. Would our mental health benefit if our employers allowed a few weeks, or even a month, to unwind when we're feeling stressed, in addition to our annual holiday days? It's an interesting prospect.

The millennial workforce has already influenced businesses to offer flexible working in order to promote a healthy work/life balance. There's growing demand for it; 65% of office workers that don't currently have the option of flexible working revealed they would be more productive if they had this option, according to a study by The Brew. One in four people also said it would let them manage their mental health and overall wellness better. Perhaps a longer period of time off work is the next step.

Dr Paschos, a consultant psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health, tells that offering short-time sabbaticals could be a way to give employees a chance to reboot and appreciate their jobs more. 'Our brains need both rest and stimulation to function optimally,' Dr Paschos said. 'Boredom from a repetitive sedentary job and mental tiredness can affect work performance, motivation, productivity and eventually the mental health, personal life and physical health. 'Taking a break from work can be very advantageous, enabling the mind and body to recharge, refocus and can also inspire creativity. It also allows individuals to engage in hobbies and focus on personal goals. 'Returning to work after a sabbatical or time out may even feel like starting a new job, returning feeling energised and motivated, with a fresh perspective and ready for new challenges.'

However, money isn't the only obstacle to a mental health break. 'Time out is a great solution!' said Mel Pledger, a coaching expert and founder of the personal development programme, DNA Light Up. 'The ability to kick back, relax, breathe, reconnect with what makes us feel good, enjoy nature, connect with friends and families... but how many of us can actually do that?

'First off, how many of us have the opportunity to take time out from a pressurised job? 'And secondly, even if we can take time out, how many of us feel so consumed with guilt about taking our foot off the gas, that we've forgotten how to enjoy ourselves and take the time to relax?'

Natalie, 30, believes that taking time off work could actually cause her more stress and is worried about how it would make her look to her superiors. She said: 'As much as I would value the odd day here and there to properly step away from the manic pace of work, I think I would definitely feel some guilt. 'I would worry that I would miss out on important developments or opportunities.

'There would also be a part of me that would worry that my bosses would think of it as a weakness. Like if I need to take these breaks, then maybe I'm not capable of taking on more responsibility. 'I always like to give the impression that I can go above and beyond and cope with any amount of stress - so a mental health sabbatical might make me feel more anxious. I think that means that the culture of work and expectations would have to change dramatically to make this work.'

She's not alone in these fears. According to a poll by the charity Time to Change, which was released in 2017, only 13% felt comfortable talking about mental health problems in the workplace. Comparatively, 36% would be open to discussing any physical health concerns. This figure is especially worrying when you consider that one in four people in the UK will suffer from mental health concerns in their lifetime. Alex Lichtenfeld, the founder of the business development agency Client Matters, believes that although short-term sabbaticals can be helpful, it's more important to look at the whole picture. If the reason for your stress or anxiety is specifically caused by something in the workplace, a break will not magically resolve the problems. More often than not, you'll simply fall back into this negative pattern when you return.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - mental health break from work

'It is important for employees to consider the reasons behind wanting to take time off work, for example if they are finding work relationships challenging or a lack of good solid relationships are causing stress and anxiety, these issues will likely still be there upon returning to work after time off,' she said.

'In terms of taking scheduled breaks from work, some employers offer sabbaticals which often incentivises employees to work hard in order to "earn" that extended time off. 'Surprisingly, many employees also do not use their full allocation of holiday time. Employees often claim work is too busy to take time off, and feel pressurised to work longer hours to deliver results.

Holiday time is built into contracts for a reason, so employees should make sure they take it.' The problem with asking employees to earn additional time off is that it doesn't focus on the mental health problem. If you're already feeling burnt out, you're unlikely to want to work harder so that you can look after yourself. In fact, there's a risk that you may feel worse. However, bear in mind that if your employer truly values your work, they will listen to your concerns and try to find a way to accommodate or help you. This might not mean a full month off, but perhaps just a few days or a week, or even the option of working from home. And if your workplace won't help you, it may be time to move elsewhere. The most important thing to remember is that your health - whether physical or mental - should take priority.

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