The Best Way to Ask for a Mental Health Day

It’s no secret that physical and mental health are closely related. Yet it still seems more socially acceptable to ask for a physical health day than a mental health day. Whether that’s because there’s more of a stigma associated with mental health, or because calling in sick for the flu or a cold is an established tradition, the fact remains that everyone needs some time to regroup once in a while. There’s no shame in that, but how do you go about asking your boss for this much-needed pause?  Here are a few tips that will help you get the time you need.

mental health day

Don’t be shy

If you slink timidly into your boss’ office and look down at the floor while you’re requesting a mental health day, you could get brushed off. If you don’t appear confident or make it clear your request is warranted, why should your supervisor take you seriously?  Look your boss in the eye, and state your case with self-assurance.

Frame the request properly

Employers love it when their employees are in top shape. Mental deterrents to productivity are no less obstructive than physical ones. Frame your request in a way that shows it’s beneficial to the company. So, instead of saying, “I need a mental health day so I can finally relax,” say “A mental health day would recharge me so I could be a powerhouse at next week’s presentation.” 

Limit the details

Although you want to be straightforward and direct when asking for a mental health day, there’s no need to go into specifics. Your boss doesn’t have to know you caught your significant other cheating or your dog died or the project you’ve been working on is frazzling your nerves. All she needs to know is if you get a day off to rejuvenate, you’ll return to work eager to excel.

Have a plan

If your absence is going to cause slowdowns or other major issues, your boss probably won’t grant your request, no matter how empathetic he may be. However, if you’ve talked to a coworker who is willing to cover for you, or if you’ve made arrangements to move your appointments to the end of the week, your manager will have no tangible reason to deny you the mental health day. His main concern is keeping things running smoothly, and if you’ve already taken steps to ensure minimal disruption, you’ve paved the way for a positive outcome for everyone.

Assess your organizational culture

A progressive, forward-thinking firm is more likely to perceive a mental health day as a legitimate reason for absence than a traditional, old-style organization. If you’re working for the latter, you may want to forgo the “mental health” part of the appeal and simply say you’re not feeling well and need a day off. 

You’re not being dishonest. As Dr. Jesse Viner MD, CEO, and Chief Medical Officer of Yellowbrick acknowledges, "Asking for a sick day to address a mental health concern is no different than asking for a sick day to address a physical health concern—either request may be brief and general." So don’t stress yourself out even more by agonizing over how to ask for an essential absence from work. You’re allowed to be as vague as you want to be.

Asking for a mental health day doesn’t have to be awkward if you take the right approach. Just remember you have every right to take some time to heal yourself, whether your wounds are mental or physical. Ultimately, getting the time off you need will be as beneficial for your company as it will be for you.

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