How To File For Stress Leave at Work in 2023| Full Guide

While people consider Giving birth and falling ill as good excuses to leave work early, they often forget about stress. Work stress makes it difficult to achieve goals and live up to your expectations. While some people are very good at balancing their work and personal life, stress remains inevitable. According to research, work-related stress accounts for the highest percentage among human beings.

There are many reasons you might face work stress. They include the inability to meet a deadline, workplace disagreements, toxic bosses, and unfavorable working conditions. If you are looking for good excuses to leave work early, consider work stress as one of them.

What is a Work-Stress Leave?

A work-stress leave is a duration an employee officially takes off work to recover from stress-related injuries, sickness, and other issues. There are laws guiding stress leave application, and these laws vary for different states. Hence, it is best to contact your state’s department of labor to see what applies in your state.

Note that: legally, the term “stress leave” does not exist. However, there is a provision for a “sick leave”. 

While there is no legal recognition of stress leave by the law, it becomes necessary when a few days of rest cannot correct your condition. Stress leave can last from a month to a few months and in rare cases if the employee can take up to a year.

When you notice the following signs, you require a stress leave.

  • The inability to perform your official duties very well
  • Work output drops drastically because of stress
  • Your personal life and relationship with your family are no longer smooth
  • You experience signs of anxiety or depression, as medically confirmed by the physician

Reasons You Should Apply for A Work Stress Leave

You can apply for a work stress leave for any of the following reasons:

#1. Excessive Workload

Having too many tasks to perform at a time can be overwhelming. It is one way you can easily feel stressed out at work. The pressure of keeping up a good work performance and the inability to say no to the excessive workload from co-workers and bosses you want to impress is a common stress triggers.

#2. Difficulty in Balancing Work and Personal Life

When you have difficulties balancing your work and personal life, then it’s time to apply for a tress leave. SometimesStep-by-Step, it can be so bad that you find work duties interfering with your personal life. Emails and calls and even official duties follow you home even on holidays.

#3. Toxic Working Conditions

Issues like bullying, gossip, and harassment (physical or mental) can create an unfavorable working environment. In most cases, feeling safe and happy at work depends on the surrounding people. Dealing with toxic co-workers more often than you should be one way to easily burn out.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to File for A Stress Leave at Work

It is essential to use your stress leave properly. It is a recovery period and you should not treat it as an ordinary holiday or vacation.

Work left is not just a good excuse to leave work early, rather, it helps you to recover fully from stress-related illnesses and injuries. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to file for a stress leave at work.

#1. See your Physician

Many employees take the symptoms of stress lightly until it gets out of hand. Waiting till you break down from stress can be dangerous and makes it more difficult to recover. Therefore, once you felt any of the symptoms of stress, you must see a physician as soon as possible.

When consulting a physician, ensure to be very honest about your condition and what you are feeling. It helps the physician to decide the best recovery method and treatment for you.

#2. Request for a Doctor’s Note to Enable You to Apply for Stress Leave

Many employees find it difficult to request stress leave a note from their physician. Don’t forget that your doctor has to assist you in any way they can to live a healthy life. They know how best to deal with this type of situation. When discussing your condition with the doctor, below are some of the vital points to discuss with him:

  • Be 100 percent open about how you feel and your symptoms
  • Listen to what your physician has to say
  • Always book follow-up appointments when the need arises
  • If there are any triggers to your stress, don’t forget to let the physician know about it

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#3. Discuss Your Predicament with Your Employer

Once you have a note from your doctor, the next step is to discuss your predicament with your employer. Many times when employees need some time off work, they don’t like to discuss it directly with their employers. Note that, stress leave is a common workplace situation and your employer may be very conversant with it. Therefore, you don’t need to shy away from discussing it with your manager or the HR team. Highlight the following points during your discussion:

  • Your stress level is affecting your general work performance
  • Your doctor recommends that you take some time off work to recover (show them the note)
  • Highlight the key vital details about your condition to your employer (no need to go into full details about your condition)
  • Be open and don’t be shy to tell them how you feel and the things that stress you

If you find it more comfortable to speak with a close friend or family member first, then do so. It is the best way to help you know how best to speak up about your feelings.

Many employees find it intimidating when speaking face-to-face with their employer. Therefore, they choose to cower from the situation. The case should not be the same with you, remember that as much as the work is important your well-being is also essential and key to meeting your goals. Stress leave laws vary from state to state and to reduce its implication on your job security, consider:

  • Communicate with your employer to assist the company in managing what they will expect
  • Have clear and upfront communication with your employers to enable them to make projections

#4. Focus on Getting Well

Once your employer approves your stress leave, the next step is to focus on getting well. You need to return to work as early as possible. The following tips can help you:

  • Switch off work mode. It is not advisable to keep answering work phone calls and emails while on stress leave. Hence, it is best to cut your work communications to the minimum. You can update your employer once in a while about how well you are recovering.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions. It is essential to heed your doctor’s instructions. Your stress leave period is not a vacation or holiday, it is a recovery period. As a result, treat it and work hard towards your recovery.
  • Address the root of your stressor. The best way to deal with stress is to address the root cause of your stress. Is it the lack of entertainment or sleep? Whatever the cause of your stress might be, it is best to identify and resolve them. Remember, stress does not improve on its own.
  • Take some time to pamper yourself and take care of your body. Stress can take a toll on you physically. So, take some time to pamper and care for yourself during your leave. Engage in light exercises, eat healthily, take plenty of fluids, consume foods that are rich in endorphins, and take plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Give yourself enough time to recover. It can take time to recover from severe stress and so, you need to be patient with yourself. The feeling that you might not live your normal life again is common in cases of severe stress. However, with time you will eventually heal, even though the duration of your recovery phase is uncertain. How long you will take to recover depends on your personality and how willing and enthusiastic you are about recovery. Always keep communications open with your close family and friends and don’t forget to communicate regularly with your physician.

#5. Getting Back to Work

Getting back to work after a stress leave can be overwhelming. Therefore, the best way to do it is in phases. Start by resuming only a few hours a week then move to a few hours daily. Watch how you feel about work and make the adjustments. Ensure to collaborate with your physician and your employer during this transition phase.

Also, it is common to have co-workers who will like to know why you had to take a stress leave. Remember that you do not have any obligation to go into details about your condition to anybody. You know your co-workers more than anyone else and so, the way you respond to them is entirely up to you.

How to Manage Stress at Work

Work stress is something that you cannot avoid completely. Consequently, managing work stress is necessary to protect your mental and physical wellbeing. Below are some things you can do to reduce stress at work:

  • Talk to your employer/manager about ways to improve your working condition.
  • Talk to your employer about overbearing workloads by relocating tasks you find stressful temporarily to others. You can also discuss reducing your work hours or switching to a position of lesser demands.
  • Making adjustments to your lifestyle can also help you manage stress better. Meditation, exercise, a good diet, and getting enough rest are a few adjustments you should add to your routine. Also, minimize the time you spend before electronic devices and stay away from toxic people.
  • Always have in mind that not all days will be smooth. Things may not go as so plan so just take your “chill pill” and take life one step at a time. If your condition continues to worsen, work for another boss.

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Is it Right to Take a Work Stress Leave?

When you fall sick at the workplace, an accident occurs, etc. these are good excuses to leave work early. What about when work stress takes a toll on your physical and mental health, is it right to take work stress leave?

The answer is yes. Sometimes, a work stress leave is the best decision you can make. Your situation may not occur to you exactingly that you require a “stress” leave. However, you may experience anxiety, burnout, and depression. Once any of these occurs, you need to apply for a leave of absence.

Check Whether You Are Eligible for FMLA

The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) applies to companies with at least 50 employees working within a 75-miles radius of the working environment. To be eligible for FMLA, you must have worked for one year as a staff of your company with over 1250 hours of work input to the company in the past 12 months. If you qualify for FMLA, you are likely to enjoy legal protection during your stress leave.

Talk with your HR and let him/her know you require an FMLA-approved stress leave absence. He/she will provide you with the forms you need to take to your physician. Verbally stating your stress is not enough. A recommendation that you take a work leave should come professionally from your physician.

The physician will interact with you to find out your condition and approve your stress leave request. It is essential to understand that not all stress conditions are eligible for FMLA. However, if the physician finds out that your condition is severe and will prevent you from performing your task diligently due to stress, then you will be FMLA-eligible.

Note that: the duration to return the FMLA forms to your HR is 15 days. Therefore, ensure you take it back to HR. you can also send your form through a close friend or family member if your condition does not permit you to go to the office during the period. 

It is important to understand that FMLA is unpaid work leave. Depending on your company’s internal policies, they ask you to make use of your paid vacation and sick leave up-front to enable them to pay you while you are on stress leave.

You may also be eligible for short-term disability insurance that allows you to get a portion of your salary while you are away from work. Check with your HR for your full benefits as a staff of the company.

What are The Common Factors that Will Make You Ineligible for FMLA?

The following reasons can make you ineligible for FMLA:

  • You work in a small company with less than 50 employees
  • You have not worked for up to a year in the company
  • Your doctor does not see the need for you to leave work


When considering good excuses to leave work early, don’t forget to include stress on your list. Stress can affect you both mentally and physically. So, it is vital to take care of yourself first before work.

In the long run, it is your health and safety that come before all else. Work stress leave is the duration of time that a company provides to help you take care of your wellbeing and recover from stress. Visit your physician when you notice any signs of stress. Remember that it is only a healthy mind and body that can focus and contribute their efforts fully at work.



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