In Defense of the Sick Day
Written by Kate Pierson
We all have those particularly stressful weeks at work. For me, this stretch happens around the same time each month: calendar-writing week. I have one week (maybe a week and a half, if I’m lucky) to plan, write, edit and schedule all social media content for five-plus clients before I launch into reporting mode all over again. This includes coordinating with account managers, getting client approval and, at the same time, training our new crew of interns in how we piece it all together.
Not too long ago, I was in the thick of one of those weeks. I saw the deadlines piling up, I was pulling strings to help out other team members and I had a handful of other social commitments I couldn’t say no to. I refused to delegate and push back, because I see a challenge and I think: this is how it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to work my ass off in order to be successful. So, I’ll just ignore the stress.
And then, it hit me like a brick wall. I was sitting at my desk, knocking out a few more assignments before a client call and suddenly I was hot, had the chills, felt fatigued and had a sore throat. With the influenza outbreak that had just hit, I knew this was not a good sign.
Two days later, I tested positive for the flu.
I was livid. I thought, I was first in line to get my flu shot! How could the flu invade my life on a week like this one? I don’t have time to pause. I don’t have time to be sick. I barely feel like I have enough time to live my daily life (which is nothing, considering I am single and have no children). How am I supposed to push everything back for the flu?
While lying in bed staring at my ceiling, I realized something very important: I have never, in the history of my work career, taken a day off or a sick day and not worked. I’ve taken time off for vacations and still found myself responding to emails. I’ve taken sick days and still plugged in from home. Even on weekends, I can’t help but check in on my clients’ social media pages. As it turns out, I’d never completely unplugged from my work before—and the flu forced me to do just that for four whole days.
Two thoughts came to me during this particular flu experience. (1) Wow, I really needed this rest and it feels amazing. I got to curl up with gluten-free crackers, cinnamon applesauce, Gatorade, and binge-watch an entire season of “Grey’s Anatomy.” (Nothing makes you feel more grateful to just have the flu than watching TV trauma patients come flying through the ER straight into the OR.) (2) When did it become okay for my wellness to fall behind in place of checking things off of my to-do list?
We live in a world where everything happens at warp speed. It feels like if we don’t keep up with the fast-paced growth everyone else is experiencing, we’ll fall behind or won’t be as successful. If you’re a 20-something woman who’s trying to get your career figured out, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Webinars about women in leadership, an extra assignment or certification that could earn you a promotion and the corporate ladder steps you just can’t master quickly enough.
The buzz of my work environment follows me home. When society is screaming for women to take on the world and make it their bitch, I get anxious that I’m not doing enough. I’m trying to make something of myself like all of the other amazing women I admire who are out there, making things happen.
The endless opportunities the world can offer us are bountiful. It makes sense that we often want it all. I want it all so badly that my health and wellness is often sacrificed for it. If there’s anything I’m known for among my friends and family, it’s that I put too much on my plate and don’t know when to slow down. The flu forced me to take the rest I desperately needed to take, and instilled within me an intention to put make my health a top priority.
When I came back to work the following week, I was so excited to be there (unlike when you come back from vacation and dread facing the reality that awaits you). I couldn’t wait to get back to my work feeling truly rejuvenated. Ultimately, that made a huge difference in the quality of my work and the quality of my life.
Something my flu experience taught me: it’s crucial to find the time to drown out the noise of your outside influences and pause. Make time for your health. Make time for your body and mind to rest. Turn off your devices an hour before bed each night. Make time for a weekly yoga class. Take at least one day each quarter and make it your “mental health” day. Do nothing that day except sleep, eat, and meditate. If you’re feeling ill, call in sick and trust your team at the office to have your back.
Your mind, your body and your kickass career will thank you for it.
Kate is a graduate from Florida State University and works as a Digital Strategist at an integrated marketing firm in Tallahassee, FL. Kate specializes in cross-generational communications and is working towards completing her Google Partner certifications. ?H?er life at any given time includes a good book, cold brew coffee, and cuddling up with her dog, Peppermint. Check her out on Instagram at @kepierson_.