We probably don’t have to tell you that leaving work stress at the office can be hard. Even though we’ve stocked up on zen TED talks and tested out the latest calming fads on our free weekends (our latest adventure was taking a therapeutic sound bath), sometimes the only thing that can truly get our sanity back is a day to ourselves to rest, recharge and reflect.

But while taking a mental health day may sound like a great and necessary idea, getting up the courage to ask your boss for a day off when you aren’t sneezing or coughing can definitely seem a tad overwhelming. That’s why we asked the experts for their real world advice to help us persuade our bosses to let us have a mental health day. Here’s what they said.


1. If possible, plan in advance. “My number one suggestion would be to bring up the topic of mental health and associated days before you need one,” says career coach Makenzie Chilton. “Most HR departments and management teams will be open to having the discussion because they are aware of how having personal and mental health days benefit employees.”

2. Don’t be a Pinocchio. No matter how much you may think it will benefit you to tell your boss you caught a fluke cold, it’s always best to tell the truth (even if it is a little awkward). “If you’re truly feeling like you’re going insane, unable to keep up with work or just need a reset to get back to doing your best, tell them,” advises career strategy coach Leila Hock. “Approach with the attitude that it’s best for your team or company if you take a break, so you can do better work.”

3. Plan out the deets. It’s important to nail down exactly what you’re going to say (and how you’re going to say it) before you come face-to-face with your boss. For example, “You’ll get the best results if you phrase it as a question, but use the tone of voice of a statement so it’s clear you are taking the vacation day, but are asking him/her as a courtesy,” according to Thrivatize executive coach Suz O’Donnell.

4. Tailor your ask to your boss. “How to tell a boss you need a mental health day depends very much on the qualities of the boss,” says psychologist Dr. Charlotte Howard. “If your boss is business and numbers driven, then talk about your need from a productivity standpoint: ‘To work most efficiently this week I need a day off to rest and clear my head so I can perform my best. I try to stay on top of my emotional state to ensure optimal work performance.’ If your boss is right-brained or emotionally intelligent, you could soften your ask and try sincerity: ‘I’m really struggling and need a reprieve. I feel like I have to have a day to myself in order to keep going.’”


5. Block out your calendar in advance. Instead of having to frantically cancel meetings last minute, “Soften the blow of your absence by getting it on the calendar in advance,” advises career strategy and burnout coach Dana Campbell. Both you and your colleagues will thank you for it.

6. Call in reinforcements. While most days you can probably handle your workload by yourself, there’s no shame in delegating some of your work if you have to be out of the office for a day to recharge. “Your ability to create mental space is directly correlated to enabling others to cover for you so that you don’t have to be disturbed,” Campbell says. In other words, delegate, delegate, delegate!

7. Take a sick day. “If all else fails, take a regular sick day and be conscious to really take a day for yourself,” Chilton advises. “Don’t run errands, don’t check emails. Take a full day for self-care. Go to yoga, talk to a counselor or a coach, sleep in, take a warm bath, cook a healthy meal.” Not only will it help you calm your nerves for a day, but you’ll come back to the office rested, relaxed and ready to tackle your responsibilities like the #girlboss you are.

How are you keeping up with your mental health in the new year? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)