The Happiness Connection  

Mental cold-and-flu season

Even though the days are beginning to get lighter, it is still cold-and-flu season. A time when the number of people suffering from these afflictions is high.

A friend told me a few weeks ago that she felt compelled to show up at work, even though she was coughing, sneezing, and had a temperature. Not surprisingly, she was immediately sent home.

When I asked her why she didn’t call in sick, she said she felt it was important to show her boss how sick she was, so he didn’t think she was faking.

I understand her worry. We live in a world where judging the actions of others is rife.

When I taught at a prep school in England, sick days meant having to call my head teacher. I used to try to sound as sick as possible, or make my husband call for me, for fear he wouldn’t think I was sick enough to stay home.

Traditional work place culture has led us to believe you are a better person if you soldier in to work and spend an unproductive day spreading germs. The sicker you seem, the more noble you are perceived.

It seems that humans have evolved to be suspicious and judgmental. Why that is may be a topic for another day. Today, I want to make a different point.

If you are physically ill, you may have a temporary bug, an injury, or a long-term condition. All are very different ways of being unwell, but all are equally valid.

If you accept that physical illness presents itself in different ways, isn’t it likely that mental illness does the same? A physical cold will only last a few days. Perhaps you can suffer from a mental equivalent.

A friend with a young child was struggling last week. My heart went out to her. I can remember how difficult it was to be desperately tired, mentally depleted, and still need to find the energy to care for a youngster.

Having the ability to call in sick from one day of motherhood would probably have made all the difference to her mental health.

When I was a teacher on Vancouver Island, we had a set number of sick days per year. If you didn’t feel well enough to teach, you would call the substitute teacher line and then go back to bed.

I rarely took days for physical sickness because I was rarely physically unwell. I did, however, take some mental sick days.

At this time in my life, there was no hint that I was going to develop clinical depression. I instinctively knew though, that the best thing I could do for my students when I was suffering from short-term mental illness, was to have a day off.

Even as I type the words short-term “mental illness” I feel the stigma that we attach to it. Why should having a mental “cold or flu” be any more shameful than having a physical one.

Everyone has times when they know they are under par mentally and emotionally. This shouldn’t be something we attach a stigma to.

Don’t buy into the old idea that illness must be seen to be believed. You don’t know everything about another person, and they don’t know everything about you. Let’s move away from the idea that people are trying to manipulate life to escape working.

Mental illness is about more than long-term recognized conditions. It is also about fleeting occasions when you struggle with your mood.

Events in your life can force you to your knees and make you susceptible to catching a mental cold or flu.

On those days, find time for self-care. Reach out to a friend or family member for support, take a mental sick day if that is available, or do something that restores your energy.

It is time to remember that what is good for our bodies is good for our brains. Likewise, what is good for our brains is good for our bodies.

It’s time we saw mental health in the same way we view physical health. Winter is also mental cold-and-flu season.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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