10 steps to taking a guilt-free sick day

Does taking a day off to recuperate from illness make you terribly anxious? Try these tips to avoid that feeling.

Being a PR pro can be extremely demanding. It’s hard to turn ourselves off, even when we’re on vacation. No wonder PR is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful jobs.

When you feel what could be a sore throat or exhaustion beginning to set in, it can be pretty scary. You tell yourself it will go away. You get to bed extra early (seven hours of actual sleep instead of the typical five) and you head in to work despite how you feel. Unfortunately, that sick feeling doesn’t go away and you begin to feel pretty horrible, but the show must go on and there’s absolutely no way you can take a sick day.

There is simply no time to be sick, but do yourself a favor and take a sick day.

I’ve been there. I’ve gone to work sick and I’ve seen coworkers do the same. We push through and ignore our bodies for the sake of the team, clients or our ego. After all, things would simply fall apart or you could even lose your job if you took a sick day, right?

Often, we take our laptops home and leave our phones on, all the while stressing out about the fact that we’re sick. That’s the closest to a sick day many of us ever get. There’s too much to do and not enough time to ever accomplish it all.

I’m here to tell you that it’s time to get over yourself so you can take care of yourself. Your team, boss and clients will understand. They all have been sick before, and most have other responsibilities that cause their schedules to shift last minute.

Everyone gets sick. It can’t always be prevented, and sometimes you just have to disconnect and sleep through it.

Removing the guilt

Full disclosure: I take sick days and I still struggle with guilt. Even though I don’t have a boss to report to, I still feel like I’m being less than my best. I’m getting better at resting and delegating, but there are still times I can prolong an illness because I simply keep working.

Here are the steps that have helped me take sick days and make the most of them to get back to work and full health as soon as possible.

Step 1: Taking a sick day in PR is all mental. You have to tell yourself you deserve it, are entitled to it and, gosh darn it, the world will not go up in flames if you take it.

Step 2: Designate a point of contact for while you’re out of office. Continue to run step 1 over in your head and begin to create a plan of attack. Should you leave your laptop with anyone?

Step 3: Set up an away message. List the point of contact while you are out of office, and let people who email you know you’ll get back to them promptly when you return. Depending on what your company culture prefers, you may just want to say you’re out of office instead of out sick.

Step 4: Leave your laptop at work. This is going to be hard. Even if your team can access your email and information remotely, you must leave your laptop, or else you will be tempted to check your email.

Step 5: When you get home, shut down your phone. I don’t mean to put it on silent or vibrate. You must completely shut your phone down while you sleep. The pull of technology is just too tempting when you’re already feeling guilty for not being in the office.

Step 6: Sleep and hydrate. Repeat until you’re feeling 100 percent better. You don’t want to risk prolonging your illness or making someone else sick. Sleep and repeat.

Step 7: Do not check your email.

Step 8: Seriously, don’t even think about checking your email.

Step 9: Remind yourself not to feel guilty. Your body needs rest. You deserve to be at your best. Your team deserves to have you at 100 percent and so do your clients. You will be a better asset to your employer if you are healthy, refreshed and assured that it is possible to actually unplug if needed.

Step 10: Thank your coworkers for covering for you and get back to rocking your job.

A note about bosses

If you’re successful in PR, you’re probably a type A personality and an overachiever. These qualities are wonderful when managed appropriately, but they can be detrimental to your health if you begin to feel anxious and guilty for taking time to care for yourself. Be careful to remind yourself that there is only one you, and you are the only one responsible for your health.

If you find that your work culture does not support the idea of taking time to recuperate when ill or you find your team, leadership or boss intentionally makes you feel guilty for taking sick time, it’s probably time to add “job search” to your to-do list.

Do you struggle with taking sick days as a PR professional? Do you have any get-healthy quick tried and true tips? Share in the comments below.

Kate Finley is the CEO of Belle Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the firm’s blog.

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