About a year ago I was working with my friend and health coach, Michelle Cady of FitVista, on a sort of health reboot. I was super overextended from working full time, going to coaching school at night, working on business ideas, being in a relationship, and generally trying to keep up with friends and maintain a social life. In the midst of all of that, I was trying to fit in exercise and eating healthy. I was on a vary obvious road to burnout (even if I couldn’t see it at the time).
At one point during our conversations, Michelle said, “You know, Carolyn, you should really take a sick day. Like a fake sick day, when you’re not actually sick.”
Michelle’s idea behind this was that often our bodies come crashing down when we’ve overextended ourselves and are exhausted. As a result, we get sick and all we can do is watch Netflix and sleep - and aren’t able to take time to do the things we really want to do outside of our day jobs. Michelle said she used to go through cycles of burnout when she worked in finance. Every 5 weeks or so, she’d have to completely block out her calendar for a weekend and do nothing so she could rest and regroup. She pointed out that she saw some of the same burnout warning signs in me: I was working really hard, was tired all the time, and I had all of these ideas for my business that I couldn’t really focus on because I was so exhausted. So she wanted me to take a sick day when I was feeling good and could make time for some of the things I couldn’t seem to get to in my busy life.
I had to admit she had a point and took her up on the challenge.
I picked a day where I didn’t have any client calls and called in “sick”. I was extremely nervous leading up to it, but man did it feel good the day of. I slept in, I sat on my couch, I lit some candles, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I took myself out to lunch at a coffee shop, brought my computer, and wrote some more. I brainstormed. I got my creative juices flowing. Between coaching school at night and my full time job during the day, I’d been feeling so stuck and wasn’t getting anywhere with my coaching business ideas. So during my fake sick day, I purposefully made time for it. And the best part was that it was during the day while everyone else was at work. I didn’t have to prioritize business planning over doing what I wanted in the evening with my friends or boyfriend. I didn’t have any distractions and I made massive progress on my ideas for my business. It was amazing!
I am now a total fake sick day believer!
I bring this topic up because this is self-love month here at Compass Maven. All month through Instagram, Facebook, and my blog, I’ve been talking to you about taking care of yourselves, loving yourselves, and focusing on your own needs for a while. I’ve suggested setting up some times throughout the week to have a date with yourself. I gave a bunch of different ideas in my Art of Self-Love blog post the other week and I think taking a fake sick day takes self-love to another level.
I think saying to yourself, “You know what? My company will live without me for a day. My boss will get it. People get sick, it’s fine” is completely acceptable. You’re not using that day to go interview (unless that’s really what you’d like to be doing on your fake sick day - then by all means go for it). You’re using that day to recharge and get back in touch with yourself. You’re using that day to do what your soul needs right at that moment. Maybe that is having a spa day. Maybe that’s sitting on your couch coloring or crafting. Maybe it’s finally setting some time aside to work on your side hustle like I did and make some progress.
If you’re constantly trying to slot stuff into 30 minute to 1 hour blocks of time here and there, it’s really hard to make progress.
So once in awhile, it is important to give yourself a day to rest and do things that make you happy and make your soul feel alive. Think of it like “preventative healthcare” as Michelle puts it. “Just taking that one day can give you renewed energy for 5-6 weeks and reduce your likelihood of getting sick.”
That one day can have a drastic effect on how you make progress, how you take care of yourself and ultimately how you show up every day.
Given that many of you reading this are likely headed for total burnout, I want you to take a sick day before that burnout happens.
Some of you are not planners and you can just decide “Okay I’m going to take a sick day tomorrow. Done!” If that’s you, go for it! I’m not like that, but I support you!
For those of you who are planners like me and tend to worry a bit about what your boss will think, I want you to look at your calendar over the next 2 weeks and pick a day where you can skip work. Now if you’ve just come back from vacation for a week and can’t quite do that, then it’s okay to look at the next 4 weeks. But I guarantee that over the next month there is at least one day - if not more - where you can miss work.
While I know this idea might make you feel a bit squeamish (it definitely made me feel that way at first), I promise you, the world is not going to end. Your company is not going to stop because you didn’t go to work. Just because you are taking some time for yourself, doesn’t mean you are any less stellar of an employee. Arguably, it will probably make you an even better employee when you go back to work since you’ll be full of renewed energy. Plus, if you work yourself to the bone and end up getting sick for real, you’ll be way less productive for a longer period of time than if you take the time to regroup before you actually get sick.
So look at your calendar, pick a day and mark it down. Make sure you don’t have meetings that day and take care of any necessary responsibilities before you leave work the night before. Then, that morning, call/text/email your boss, tell them you are sick and don’t go to work.
If you need a permission slip, here you go! I’m giving you permission!
Give yourself the day to just decompress from work, your commute, running around between client meetings - whatever your day-to-day stressors entail. Do something outside of your daily routine. If that means sitting in bed and watching Netflix, that’s cool. But I really urge you to take some time and think about a project, or a passion, or something that you haven’t had time to focus on in a while. Find some way to bring it into your day. Do something that you’re going to thank yourself for later on.
Throughout your fake sick day, start to notice how you feel as you do the things that feed your soul. Take note of the excitement you feel when you have a new breakthrough idea for your side hustle. Or notice the endorphins you have after that 10am workout class that you can normally never make it to due to your work schedule. Notice how rested you feel the next morning when you wake up. Then use what you learn that day about how you want to feel moving forward. Start to make decisions in your day-to-day life that bring about those feelings. You'll feel better in general when you do this. Also start to notice when these feelings are NOT showing up in your daily life. That might be a sign it's time for another fake sick day to regroup and reset.
Sometimes just removing ourselves from the grind of our work lives and giving ourselves license to focus on something completely different will get us back in touch with what matters most to us. And it just might help keep us from having to take a real sick day too.
So what are you going to do during your fake sick day? Let me know!