How to Ask for a Mental Health Day at Work

Request the time you need to rest and recover without getting into details

Deanna Pai
Published in
5 min readOct 16, 2019


An illustration of cartoon office workers sitting on their office desks and meditating at their workplace.
Credit: Tera Vector/iStock/Getty Images Plus

AA few weeks ago, I felt — off. Not sick, exactly, but not like myself. I was unfocused. I was tired. I’d worked a series of six-day weeks, was drowning in emails, and couldn’t seem to muster up the motivation to do anything.

So I took a mental health day. I rewatched ’90s sitcoms. I caught up on my paperwork. I did errands I’d been putting off, like grocery shopping. And the next day, for the first time in weeks, I didn’t wake up feeling like I wanted to toss my laptop into the East River.

Mental health days are an increasingly accepted fact of modern work life — and are even becoming permissible for students in some school systems. It’s simply a day off to recuperate and recharge. The reason could be a diagnosable mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, but it could also be something more nebulous, like feeling stressed, exhausted, or burned-out.

I had it fairly easy: I’m a freelance writer, so I’m my own boss — and Boss Me decided that it was in my own best interest to cut Employee Me a break.

But for most workers, taking a day off requires someone else’s approval, and many — 55% in a recent survey — worry they’ll be punished for requesting one. While stigmas around mental health are slowly changing, their existence can make it daunting to flag to your workplace that your mental health needs tending to.

Here’s how to request your day off in a way that feels comfortable, protects your privacy, and won’t make your boss question your commitment.

Consider your company culture

First, take stock of how open-minded your company is. “How you approach the situation depends on the culture of your organization,” says the career consultant Latesha Byrd.

For example, do you work at a place that values transparency? Are managers generally flexible about employees arriving late or leaving early as needed?

If you have a feeling that a “mental health day” request might not go over well, opt for the classic sick-day excuse. (Unless you have a…



Deanna Pai
Writer for

I’m a writer and editor in New York City. You can find my work in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, New York Magazine, and beyond.