OPINION | Sick day guilt must be cured

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I am writing this from the confines of my bed as I cough up what I am certain are pieces of my lungs. Unsurprisingly for this time of year, the airborne disease of dread that has eluded cure since the beginning of time, flu, has struck.

Yet even as I barely cling on to life, I have one consistent thought that is keeping me from a fully restful road to recovery: work. What work is currently piling up as I lie here? Are e-mails coming in at the rate of my sneezes?  What will I do with all the work that will await me when I return?

I know - it's ridiculous in light of the fact that I have an assortment of drugs and syrups on hand to prove my ill health. But the sad reality is I am not alone in this unhealthy obsession. This phenomenon even has a name: presenteeism. It is said to be sparked by the fear that staying off work, even when sick, will be interpreted as a lack of commitment.

According to a study at the University of East Anglia, high job demands, stress, understaffing and job insecurity are among the main reasons people go to work when they are ill. Presenteeism however, also extends to other work and personal factors outside of health.

As I continued down the rabbit hole of studies, I came across an American one that quantified that as much as one-quarter (26%) of Americans admitted to going to work when they are sick, with 42% afraid they will have too much work to make up if they take a sick day.

We have become so consumed by our jobs, we are barely taking care of ourselves. While there are definitely social and economic reasons behind our unhealthy propensity, the reality is we will be replaced should we incur rigor mortis.

As women ( yes, I speak for all of us in this drug-induced state), we tend to be even harder on ourselves when it comes to any kind of attention to our well-being. But the truth is, self care is not a selfish act, it is imperative. You only have one body. Look after it.

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