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  • How to Ask your Boss for a Mental Health Day

    Do you ever wake up feeling just — off? You’re not sneezing up a storm or coughing up a lung, but still, you don’t feel like yourself. You’re exhausted after a full eight hours, your body feels heavy and sluggish, and your irritability is at an all-time high.

    You start to question, “Am I coming down with something?” The answer is yes. To quote Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’ve got a case of the “mean reds” and you are in desperate need of a mental health day. We live in a work culture that strongly promotes productivity, so asking for a day off can be a daunting task, regardless of whether you are feeling physically or mentally unwell.

    Many people fear that they’ll be punished or stigmatized for requesting a mental health day, so they fib a sinus infection instead. Going with a classic sick-day excuse is fine, but it could leave you feeling guilty or even worse — you get more sick days than you bargained for because your boss is worried that you might be contagious.

    When asking your boss for a mental health day, there are a few things to consider:

    1) Don’t lie, but don’t overshare.

    When requesting a day off in general, avoid going into specific detail. You don’t have to fabricate an elaborate tale to sound more convincing. In fact, your efforts will probably have the opposite effect. At the end of the day, whether you are missing a day of work due to an unmanageable panic attack or because of projectile diarrhea, that’s nobody’s business but yours, my friend. When in doubt, you can simply say, “I’m taking time off for personal reasons.”

    2) The nervousness is inevitable.

    Speaking to your boss one-on-one about anything will make you anxious. After all, you’re not confiding in a parent or a best friend. This is your superior and you don’t want them to question your commitment to your job. A good boss will respect your honesty, transparency and advocacy for your own well-being.

    3) Don’t make a habit of it.

    Everyone can get to that point of burning out, and everyone deserves the opportunity to rest, refuel, and recharge. However, mental health days should not be taken advantage of. Mental health days should not be a monthly or weekly necessity. If you feel this way, sometimes a bigger change is needed to overcome the issue.

    4) If you’re a leader, lead by modeling self-care.

    Being both a business owner and a parent, I’ve recognized the importance of implementing self-care into our workplace, company policy, literature, and culture. As leaders, we have the power to set important precedents for coworkers, clients, friends, and family members. If mental wellness is encouraged in the workplace, employees won’t feel ashamed or embarrassed for taking a mental health break.

    The encouragement of wellness in the workplace truly starts with us: the bosses, the parents, the mentors, and the leaders. If we nourish ourselves and our families in terms of our mental and emotional needs, we can create happier environments in our schools, in the home, in the public sector, and in the workplace.