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How to tell your boss you need to take a mental health day

If you’re like most people who work a full-time position – you’re working a minimum of 42 hours per week. That’s a lot of time spent in a place, environment and culture that can really influence not just our physical but our mental health as well.

Whilst we don’t usually bat an eyelid at calling in sick when we have the common cold, a migraine, gastroenteritis or a specialist’s appointment – calling in sick due to mental illness tends to really cause us further and unnecessary distress. Well, after the year 2020 has given us, now is the time (more than ever) to slam the breaks and really give ourselves the extra TLC we deserve, including a mental health day. 

Even though taking a mental health day should be encouraged in order to reduce fatigue, burn out and stress, sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to ask our boss for a day off to tend to our mental health.

To make it as easy as asking for a sick day off for physical ailments, here are some tips worthy of considering when you’re wondering how you can tell your boss that you need a mental health day.

  1. Open and effective communication   

    Communicating to your boss that you need a mental health day doesn’t have to involve overshare. We simply don’t have to explain the nitty gritty parts of our mental health to our employers, but we do need to make sure we communicate in a way that is clear, understandable and firm when negotiating our needs. Using I statements such as “I need a mental health day as I am feeling stressed due to heightened workload”, are a great starting point. Whilst you don’t have to elaborate or explain to your boss what you mean by that statement, it is something to consider letting your boss know your plans around it – simply informing them that you plan to focus on x task specifically upon your return or explaining that a day off may help you recharge enough to reach a certain deadline at work are some good points to consider. It’s important that through open and effective communication, our bosses are informed of implications to their workplaces and also the benefits of promoting mental health and wellbeing.
  1. Be clear about the why

Employers love a win/win – who doesn’t really? To help achieve a win/win, it may be worthwhile to consider explaining why a mental health day is important. If we look at it via the lens of physical illness, we would totally feel comfortable to say “I need a day off to go to a specialist appointment, or “I need a day off to rest my back as it is intolerable at the moment”. When asking your boss for a mental health day, it is so important to let your boss know if there is something you personally need to address in order to keep you from being distracted, in order for you to go to a mental health related appointment or even to simply apply some true selfcare as a form of burnout prevention.

  1. Be true to yourself

When it comes to unpacking just how to tell your boss you need a mental health day – it’s so important to be curious about why you specifically need the day off. When we acknowledge our feelings and bodily responses and learn to be true to ourselves, it naturally gets so much more bearable to have to tell our employers that we need a mental health day. Spending some time engaging in self-reflection and exploring the main reasons as to why you need the day off and how that would truly help you makes it so much easier to stick to your plan and to tend to your mental health.

Noosha Anzab is a clinical psychotherapist & psychologist at LysnLysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

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