Think about the last time you hurt yourself physically. Maybe you hurt your back, maybe you broke a bone. How did you handle it? Did you soldier on as though nothing had happened? Or did you stop? Stop and address the physical pain you were suffering? Maybe you stayed in bed while your back healed, maybe you went to hospital to get your broken bone looked at by a professional. In these types of circumstances, we don’t have a choice. We have to stop. And that can mean time off work, time away from your hobbies, and generally time off life.
But why does it take us to be in physical pain to do this? Why don’t we pay ourselves the same attention when we are struggling mentally or emotionally? We’re not talking above severe mental health issues here, but just needing some time off life to recoup and recharge when things get tough to protect our mental state. A duvet day.
Keeping going when you’re drained
We’ve all been there. For whatever reason, life gets too much and we find ourselves feeling utterly drained. It’s hard to get up in the morning, difficult to concentrate, and our patience is low. But we keep going. We think that we’ll get some time to relax at the weekend, but then the weekend comes and there are still things to do. Before Covid, weekends were often spent running around trying to keep up with modern life – shopping, events, taking the kids to endless activities and parties, visiting family and friends – generally chasing our tails. Even over the past year, when we haven’t been able to go out, it’s been hard to get time to look after ourselves due to the pressure lockdown has put upon us. The weekends often haven’t provided the release we’ve needed. The impact of keeping going is incremental and we often don’t notice it creeping up.
Why is it so hard to declare a duvet day?
For some reason, we find it so hard to tell those around us that we need some time out. But why? Why is it so much easier to say, ‘I’m going to need some time off because I’ve broken my leg’ than to say, ‘I need some time off because I’m feeling burnt out’? Partly because the effects aren’t visible so are difficult to explain, and partly because there’s a taboo connected to it. We’re scared that we’ll be seen as weak, that our boss will see us as fragile and it’ll impact our career, that we’ll be letting our loved ones down.
So we soldier on. And often we only stop when the effects of being drained and burnt out turn into physical pain – a sore stomach, muscle pain, panic attacks. By the time this happens, things can easily get out of control, resulting in the need for much more than a duvet day. You find yourself thinking, ‘If only I’d just stopped for a day or two, this wouldn’t have happened’.
So, next time you find yourself in need of a duvet day, think again about the last time you hurt yourself physically and had to stop. Did the world fall apart? No. Did you lose your job? No. Did family and friends step into help? Yes. Now try to convince yourself of this – your family, friends, colleagues and all those around you would rather you took a day or two to recoup, recharge and be back on form, than for you to start suffering from more complicated issues. Just like if you keep walking around on a broken foot instead of resting, the long-term damage can be serious. And your emotional and mental wellbeing is no different. The longer you carry on, the worse the effect will be and longer it will take to recover.
Do you find yourself dismissing your emotional and mental wellbeing? Or have you learnt to stop and rest when you know you need to? If so, how did you master this? We’d love to hear your comments below.