Wednesday, October 10th marks World Mental Health Day, which is a prime time to pause and take stock of your own mental health—and admit it if you need a breather. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health and prioritizing well-being can prevent us from feeling confident to ask for time off to recalibrate. To help you put in a work request for a mental health day (and feel more comfortable doing it), we’ve rounded up the best tips on exactly how to approach your boss.
Read this closely—you’ll thank yourself later.
1. Plan what you’re going to say before you say it.
It seems like an obvious tip, but at the moment, if you’re nervous about what you’re asking, any preparation you’ve done will come in clutch.
“It’s important to prepare what you’re going to say before you reach out to human resources or your supervisor,” mental health activist Dior Vargas suggests. “It’s important to be in the mindset that you are deserving of a mental health day if you’re overwhelmed. It also helps to word your request as something that would benefit the company. An example might be, ‘I wanted to discuss taking a mental health day. Since working on our current project, I’ve been feeling that my productivity isn’t at the level that I would like it to be at. Taking a day off would help me refresh and better achieve the goals I have for this position.’”
2. Be straightforward and clear.
To put it simply: Clarity is king.
“I think the first step is being clear with yourself about why a mental health day is needed. Is it exhaustion, family issues, [medication] changes, anxiety, etc.? Once you are clear with why YOU need the day, it is easier to communicate that to the powers that be,” Julieann Ipsan, LCSW-C, the therapist at the Frederick Psychology Center, told Bustle.
3. If you don’t feel comfortable citing mental health as the reason you need a day off, then don’t.
If the idea of talking about mental health with your boss is causing you more stress, then save yourself some hassle by not getting specific. “It is vital to assess if your company and work culture is open to the idea of mental health days,” Ipsan explained. “If asking and explaining details will ultimately create more stress, it’s better to take a sick day with no explanation of the mental health needs.”
4. Ask as soon as you can, and go in solving problems in advance.
While your concerns with asking might be more emotion-driven, your boss is more likely to think practically. Call in reinforcements with help from your co-workers if you need to pick up the slack while out, and let your boss know soon so they can restructure if necessary. “Soften the blow of your absence by getting it on the calendar in advance,” career strategy and burnout coach Dana Campbell advised Brit.co.
5. Remember that don’t owe anyone an explanation beyond the bare bones details—not even your boss.
It might seem easy to slip into a detailed description of your mental health status or feel pressured to explain your request with specifics, but you really don’t have to if you don’t want to. Ban.do’s founder Jen Gotch advised Well & Good to lead with a scientific approach if you’re concerned about keeping any particulars of your request private.
“The brain is the most complicated organ in the body, so it makes sense that all sorts of things could glitch out on all levels,” Gotch said. “That’s been a way for me to explain it to people where they don’t have to understand how it feels but rather just understand that it’s a physiological malfunction—and you wouldn’t deny other physiological malfunctions.”