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How to Talk to Your Boss About Taking a Mental Health Day

There is no doubt that the last eighteen months have had a significant impact on our mental wellbeing.

There is no doubt that the last eighteen months have had a significant impact on our mental wellbeing. For some, the pandemic has been a mental health wake-up call; for others, an opportunity to dive deeper into nurturing their mental healthiness. We’re seeing a rise in celebrities advocating for their own mental health – Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Emma Stone, The Rock are all paving the way to normalize and prioritize caring for one’s mental state.

So as we return to “normal” work-life after enduring the collective trauma of a pandemic, I want to offer you tips on how to request a mental health day from your employer.

Mental health seldom gets the same respect as physical health. Struggling with mental health still has a stigma. But mental health is part of your overall health and arguably more important since we all rely on our minds to be able to get us through most (if not all) work-related tasks. Failure to proactively address mental health issues means; eventually, you won’t be able to perform at your best.

Here are some reasons for taking a mental health day:

  1. When you are feeling extreme depression or anxiety
  2. When you have experienced a death, a brutal break-up, a car accident, etc.
  3. When you’ve been neglecting your self-care (note: neglecting yourself due to your weekend decisions is not adequate, power through or take a sick day instead.)
  4. When you need to attend appointments to care for your mental health.

How to Make the Request

  1. Be clear with yourself first. What is affecting your productivity and performance? Is it exhaustion, family issues, medication changes, debilitating anxiety, or depression? Once you are clear with why YOU need the day, it is easier to communicate that to your boss.
  2. Assess your company culture. Is your employer or workplace culture open to the idea of mental health days? If asking and explaining details will ultimately create more stress, it’s better to take a sick day without explaining your mental health needs. ‘I’m not feeling well, and I’ll have to take the day off, but I’ll be back tomorrow,'” is enough. If someone presses you, simply explain you’d rather not talk about the details, but you’re okay. That’s a legitimate response, but we tend to think we need to over-explain.
  3. Frame dialogue as a ‘win-win.’ If you feel comfortable with your supervisor, frame the request for a mental health day regarding a ‘win-win’ for both parties involved. Explain what can be gained from a day or two off – increased productivity and concentration, stamina, a friendlier attitude, better mood in general? Framing the request as a ‘win-win’ shows your ability to mentalize and increase approval chances.
  4. Finally, make a plan. What will you do to make the best of your time off to ensure that you DO return to work rejuvenated? You can plan this ahead of asking for time off, or once your request has been approved, you can schedule any necessary appointments. But make use of the time you have to tend to what you are mentally and emotionally need.

I hope you courageously advocate for what you need from here on out. You are more than worthy and deserving of time to care for your wellness!



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