Freelancers deserve a mental health day off

Have you ever taken a “sick” day when you really just needed a day off? We have a feeling you have. Even freelancers need a mental health day here and there. According to CBS MoneyWatch, playing hooky went up 10% last year, but is that all that bad? In fact, taking a mental health day off is even recommended.

Mental health days are legit

May is mental health month, and it's the perfect time to remember that a quarter of Americans suffer from mental illness. The majority of Americans are under stress at work, and freelancers are no exception.

The prevalence of conditions like depression and anxiety have garnered much-needed attention in recent years, with a focus on taking the stigma away from people silently fighting an invisible illness.

Dr. Bobby Kahlon, who’s been practicing medicine as a general doctor for ten years, says several conditions qualify for a mental health leave, including panic disorder, any type of anxiety, and PTSD. “These are chronic illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease,” Dr. Kahlon says. “It’s going to affect your work if you don’t take a day off.”

But what about those of us who aren’t diagnosed with mental illness but feel overworked and exhausted? Does taking a mental health day off apply in these cases as well?

3 reasons why freelancers should take a mental health day off

1. You’ll care more about your work.

According to ABC News, Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later than the English, the French, the Germans, the Japanese, and anyone in the industrialized world. And with today’s 24/7 email access, the work bleeds into personal time more than ever before.

People work overtime for many reasons, including ambition, pride in their work, pressure from their company, and the drive to maintain a particular lifestyle. However, if you let overworking go on long enough, a sneaky thing called apathy can start to creep in.

Signs of apathy include putting off work, letting things slide, missing deadlines and quickly scrambling through projects in order to catch up. At this juncture, you’re no longer invested in your freelance work. It's time for a break.

"Being aware of your mental state and proactively nurturing it will help keep you well and productive."
- Dr. Jacqueline Brunshaw, director of psychology at Cleveland Clinic Canada

How a mental health day off can help:
Taking an extra day to regain balance can be considered a preventative health measure. They help your mind recover and a frazzled immune system restore itself. You can avoid getting physically sick and be less susceptible to symptoms of depression. 

2. You won't crash.

We mean this both literally and figuratively. Contract work is demanding, and working long hours has been known to cause insomnia. According to, insomnia is one of the four signs that you need a day off ASAP. Continuing on without enough sleep can exacerbate stress, which then makes it harder to sleep, and the cycle repeats itself. It can also be dangerous. According to the American Psychological Association, “fatigue and sleep deprivation are correlated to mandatory and voluntary overtime and are also associated with work-related accidents in blue collar workers.” If your freelance work involves rideshare driving, keep this in mind before driving after a sleepless night.

“People call in sick when they have a cold or flu, but the mind needs care too."
- Adrian, freelance project manager in San Francisco

How a mental health day off can help:
While you may not catch up on your sleep in 24 hours, a mental health day off should help you feel up to 50% better, making you more equipped to handle the challenges and complications of a day on the job. Adrian, a freelance project manager in San Francisco, says he has taken a mental health day off only when he felt it was absolutely necessary and came back to work refreshed afterward.

3. You’ll use less sick time (and make more money).

Freelancers that are in tune with their mental health needs are more productive and have a better quality of life, and most importantly, if you're taking less sick time, you are making more money! If you take a mental health day off or two but still feel "off", it may be a sign that something else is going on. You may want to seek the advice of a mental health professional or try a mental health app

How a mental health day off can help:
Take some time just for you. It could mean getting a massage, reading a book, or spending time with friends. The common denominator is that it should help you recharge and regain perspective.