What are the steps and how to get a stress leave from work?
Feel like you're sinking fast? If you're contemplating a "stress leave" from work, then the chances are high that the psychological demands of your life are fast exceeding your ability to cope.
If you're suffering mental health challenges, set aside any shame - you are not alone. More than one in five Americans experience a mental illness during any given year. Take care of your psychological needs with a reprieve from a stressful job if you need one. Focus on taking care of yourself.
Below are the steps you need to take to file for a stress leave at work successfully:
Step 1: Make an Appointment With Your Healthcare Provider
Many employees procrastinate seeing their doctor. Don’t be one of them. Waiting until your stress escalates could affect your ability to recover. So, if you think you are experiencing symptoms that may require a stress leave, then go and book an appointment with your clinical psychologist, social worker, counselor, psychiatrist, or family doctor. Your role is to describe your symptoms honestly. The diagnosis is up to them.
During the consultation, don’t hold back on what you are feeling. Stating exactly your feeling will help the healthcare provider make the right diagnosis and provide recommendations for your recovery.
Step 2: Get your healthcare provider’s note for stress leave
Many feel uneasy about asking their doctor for a note for your time off request. You shouldn’t. Remember that your doctor is here to help you. They have the experience and training to deal with situations like this.
Be upfront about your stressors and how your work environment affects your mental and physical health (including migraines, tension headaches, worsening of any autoimmune conditions, etc.). Also, let them know what makes your symptoms better (including coping efforts, medications, or therapies you've tried) or worse (drug, alcohol, or food abuse, risky behavior, and thoughts of self-harm).
Step 3: Inform your employer
By this time, you should have a note from your doctor stating that you qualify for a stress leave at work. How will you tell your employer? Many employees don’t feel comfortable explaining to their employers why they need some time off work. Remember that stress leave is a very common situation in the workplace. And chances are, it’s not your employer’s first time dealing with it.
Many employees find it easier to speak with a close friend or family member first as it helps them to verbalize what they are feeling.
Don’t feel intimidated when talking to your manager, face to face. Your wellbeing is much more important than work. After explaining your situation, discuss with your employer the amount of time you need for time off and the sick leave note from your doctor.
Step 4: Focus on yourself and your recovery
Now that your stress leave is approved, it’s time to talk about recovery so you can get back to health in no time. Below are some of our tips:
Disconnecting from work – avoid answering work emails and phone calls whilst on sick leave. Remember that this is a period of recovery, so keep your work-related communications to a minimum (preferably to occasional updates about your condition to your boss).
Address the root cause of your stress – is it the lack of sleep? The absence of entertainment? Whatever your problem is, it is best to identify the root cause and then resolve them.
Take care of your body – stress can affect you physically. While you are on stress leave, take good care of your body. Exercise lightly, take long walks, eat balanced meals, drink lots of water, and eat nutritious foods.
Be patient – it took time for severe stress to set in, it takes time to cure it. You might feel that you’re never going to live a normal life again. But just be patient. You will eventually recover, but there is no guarantee as to when.
Step 5: Retrieving your job
Returning to work after a stress leave can be an overwhelming experience. It’s easier to ease back into things, and start working a few hours a week, then move on to a few half days. As you’re getting back into the swing of things, you can also try working remotely. You can find on our website a request letter for work from home to send to your boss.
Monitor your feelings and make adjustments as necessary. Work closely with your doctor and employer during this period of transition.
Step 6: Managing stress at work
Again, stress at work is inevitable. Because prevention is better than curing it after the fact, we’ll talk about how you can minimize the amount of stress you feel at work:
Ask your employer to reduce your current workload by temporarily reallocating tasks you find stressful, switching to a less demanding position, or reducing your work hours.
Change your lifestyle by exercising, meditating, improving your diet, reducing the time you spend with electronic devices, avoiding toxic relationships, etc.
Working from home, as previously mentioned, can be a great way to mediate work stress by helping regulate your environment. Acknowledge that you will have rough days. Not everything will go according to plan. Just take a step back, relax, and accept things as they are.