What To Say To Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress (Examples) - Self Development Journey (2023)

If you’re trying to figure out what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress, this article is going to help.

Talking openly about stress, even to a doctor or mental health professional, is often incredibly difficult.

I’ve been on both sides of this conversation, so hopefully, I can provide some useful insights!


What To Say To A Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress

The first and most important thing is to be honest with your doctor.

This means being honest about how you’re feeling, both mentally and physically.

They need to know the whole story in order to best help you and are unlikely to sign you off for anything – let alone stress – unless they believe it’s best for you.

So, be prepared to talk about your work situation (if that’s the cause of your stress) in detail.

This includes things like how long you’ve been feeling stressed, what specific events or situations have been causing you stress, and how this has been impacting your day-to-day life.

If you can show your doctor that being at work is damaging your mental health, they are going to sign you off.

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Related Things you can say to a work colleague who is stressed at work.

Examples of What to Say to a Doctor When You’re Stressed

What you say is going to depend on you as an individual and your own situation.

However, if you’re really stuck as to how to approach this topic with your doctor, some examples of what you can say are:

  • “I’m struggling to cope with work at the moment. I’m finding it hard to concentrate and my performance has been slipping. Every day I go in makes me more anxious.”
  • “I’ve been feeling really run down and exhausted lately, even after a good night’s sleep. I feel physically and mentally drained, just at the thought of going to work.”
  • “I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping and when I am asleep, I keep having nightmares about work. It’s making me feel physically sick to go into work, and the mental anguish is becoming debilitating.”
  • “I find this hard to talk about, but I’m really at my wits’ end. My work situation has become overwhelming, and it’s making me sick with dread to go in right now.”

Anything along these lines will open up communication about how your work situation is causing you a great deal of stress.

In this day and age, medical professionals are more aware than they’ve ever been about the effects of stress and the importance of taking action early.

I would be very surprised if your doctor doesn’t suggest you take some time off after hearing you say something along the lines of what I covered above.

Can a Doctor Refuse to Give You a Sick Note for Stress?

No, a doctor cannot refuse to give you a sick note if you’re suffering from stress.

If your doctor believes that stress is the underlying cause of your current health problems and they feel that time off work is necessary for you to recover, then they will sign you off.

It’s also important to remember that your employer cannot force you to take a certain amount of time off or return to work before you’re ready.

If your doctor signs you off for stress, it’s up to you and your employer to come to an agreement about your return to work.

The last thing you should be doing is worrying about when you’ll have to return. When you’re signed off, you should be spending this time working on identifying and resolving the cause of your stress.

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Do You Have to Talk to a Doctor About Your Stress?

You will have to talk to your doctor about your stress and how it’s affecting your day-to-day life, yes.

You will not have to go into great detail though. It’s likely your doctor will refer you to a mental health professional specializing in treating stress.

But this is a good thing!

Take any help on offer. The sooner you get help for your stress, the better.

A mental health professional will be able to help you identify and resolve the root cause of your stress.

They will also be able to provide you with coping mechanisms and techniques to help you deal with stress in a healthy way.

If you’re feeling stressed about talking to your doctor about your stress, remember that they want to help you.

They are not going to judge you or think less of you – they will help you find the best course of treatment, and that should be your #1 goal right now.

How to Call Your Boss and Tell Them You’re Signed Off With Stress

When you’ve been signed off with stress by your doctor, it can be difficult and tricky to know what to say to your boss.

It’s normal to feel like you’re letting them down or that they won’t understand.

But here’s the thing: your employer is legally obliged to make sure your working environment does not cause you undue stress.

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If they are unaware that your work is causing you stress, they are not in breach of this duty.

But once you’ve made it clear that your work – if it is your job – is causing you stress, they’ll get on board helping you eliminate the things causing you stress.

Keep in mind that they want you to be healthy and happy, and for you to be able to do your job to the best of your ability.

Here are a few examples of what you can say to your boss without going into too much detail over the phone:

  • “I’m sorry to have to call and tell you this, but my doctor has signed me off with stress. I’ll be away for [X] days/weeks. I’ll be in touch.”
  • “I’m not feeling well today and my doctor has advised me to stay home. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
  • “I’m struggling to cope with work at the moment and my doctor has signed me off. I need some time to recover.”

Related Here are some examples of what to say when calling in sick with depression.

Your boss may want to know more about your situation, and that’s okay.

You can tell them that you’re receiving help from a mental health professional and that you’re working on resolving the issues causing your stress.

Tell them you’ll send them an email, this will give you time to put down on paper what you want to say.

Keep in mind that it will go on your file, so only say what you’re comfortable doing so.

How Long Should You Take Off Work With Stress?

This is entirely up to you and your doctor.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, it depends on the individual.

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If your doctor feels that you need time off to recover, they will sign you off for as long as they feel is necessary.

It’s important to remember that your employer cannot force you to take a certain amount of time off or return to work before you’re ready.

Only you know how you’re really feeling, and it’s up to you to communicate that to your doctor or therapist and work with them to determine how long you need off.

Going to your doctor is the first step to recovery for many people suffering from stress, I wish you the best possible recovery!

Image credits – Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

What To Say To Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress (Examples) - Self Development Journey (2)

Phil Ashton

Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.

(Video) If Work Stresses You Out - WATCH THIS | by Jay Shetty


How do I get a doctors note for stress and anxiety? ›

Contact your GP as soon as you know you'll need a fit note, and get the first appointment you can. Be honest and forward when answering their questions, so they can build a truthful picture of your issues. If your doctor decides your problems affect your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note.

Can my doctor write me out of work for stress? ›

To qualify for the stress leave, you must be suffering from a serious medical condition. Not all stress causes an FMLA-eligible condition. But, if your doctor agrees that you are suffering from a severe condition and that you are unable to work during this time period, you will be eligible for protected leave.

How do you tell your doctor you're stressed? ›

During your appointment:
  1. State your concerns plainly. It's important to tell your doctor all of your symptoms. ...
  2. Be as open and honest with your doctor as possible. He or she can't help you if they don't know everything that is going on. ...
  3. Refer to your notes. ...
  4. Understand the diagnosis process. ...
  5. Bring someone with you.
Jul 29, 2020

What to say to doctor to get FMLA for anxiety? ›

In order to qualify for FMLA for the purpose of care for your physical or mental health, you must show that you have a “serious health condition.” Often, this might include a condition which requires hospitalization or in-patient care for at least one night, treatments which require ongoing care and follow-up ...

Can a doctor refuse a sick note for stress? ›

Sick notes are discretionary. A doctor can refuse to give you a sick note if they feel you are fit to work. It helps to document when your symptoms started, what symptoms you have had, and how severe they have been to give the doctor a clear and accurate picture of your health condition.

How do you get a doctor to write you out of work? ›

  1. Take note of your company's policies. ...
  2. Make an appointment with your doctor. ...
  3. Place a request for the doctor's note. ...
  4. Ask directly for the note if you are admitted to the hospital. ...
  5. Complete any form your company requires on your return.
Dec 11, 2020

How do you tell your boss you're struggling with anxiety? ›

Budget more time than you think you'll need so that the conversation isn't cut short. Be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, share that also. As much as possible, come with suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you.

Is stress a reason for medical leave? ›

Yes. Assuming that you work for a covered employer and are eligible for FMLA leave, you may take leave if you are unable to work due to a serious health condition under the FMLA.

Can you go on medical leave for stress? ›

In California, you may be entitled to protected job leave under state or federal law if your workplace stress impairs your ability to perform your job. This form of stress leave is generally unpaid. However, you may be entitled to paid leave under workers' compensation or temporary disability benefits.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling mentally and need time off? ›

Talking about your mental health doesn't need to be scary or over-complicated, you can start the conversation by simply saying, “I need to get something off my chest” or “I need to talk, do you have time to listen?” Just remember to tell your boss only what is necessary.

What is emotional stress leave from work? ›

Stress leave means taking extended time off work to recover from stress. People requesting stress leave in the United States will need to meet certain conditions defined in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Stress leave allows people to securely take time off work while recovering from stress.

How do you say you can work under stress? ›

How to answer “How do you work under pressure?”
  • Use the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. ...
  • Be honest. It's best to be completely honest when discussing your abilities in a job interview. ...
  • Stay calm and collected. Interviewers often observe nonverbal cues . ...
  • Mention your ability to manage stress.
Oct 7, 2019

What are 5 emotional signs of stress? ›

Mental or behavioral symptoms include:
  • Being more emotional than usual.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or on edge.
  • Trouble keeping track of things or remembering.
  • Trouble making decisions, solving problems, concentrating, getting your work done.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relieve your emotional stress.
Dec 29, 2020

Can you get FMLA for depression or anxiety? ›


An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition, or to care for a spouse, child, or parent because of a serious health condition. A serious health condition can include a mental health condition.

How can I get over my doctor's office anxiety? ›

7 ways to combat doctor's office anxiety
  1. Schedule at a good time of the day or week. ...
  2. Take a friend or family member with you. ...
  3. Control your breath. ...
  4. Try self-hypnosis. ...
  5. Mentally prepare ahead. ...
  6. Be honest about your anxiety. ...
  7. Have your vitals taken last.

What are good reasons to take a leave of absence from work? ›

Common reasons are childbirth, adoption, caring for an ill family member, serious health conditions or military leave. In cases such as these, employees may be entitled to leave by federal or state law.

How to get a doctor's note easy? ›

Getting a doctor's note for work is a simple process. When you visit your physician or clinic, simply let them know that you will need a doctor's note to provide to your organization.

What do I say to get a doctors note for work? ›

A doctor's note need to say that you were examined on a specific date and time together with the days that you will be absent from work. A doctor's note should include the date you saw the doctor, that you had a valid reason for missing work, any work limitations and if a period of absence from work is needed.

What does a doctor's note need to say? ›

It typically includes the date and time you saw a healthcare professional, any recommended or required limitations and whether an absence period from work is required. The limitations and absence requirements are especially important if you need to adjust your duties or miss multiple shifts or days of work.

Can I ask my doctor to take me out of work? ›

Most doctors won't tell patients to take leave (unless they're at serious risk of making their condition worse). Instead, they let patients set their own limits. Assume that your doctor is simply waiting for you to decide that you need a leave of absence.

How do I professionally say I have anxiety? ›

Scripts you can use with your boss

Lately, I've been experiencing stress and burnout and would like to request time off to manage my mental health.” “I've been struggling lately with personal stress. I know I've been distracted and unfocused at work as a result.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling emotionally? ›

How to Talk to Your Boss If You're Struggling Right Now
  1. Schedule a separate chat. Book some time one-on-one with your manager that's dedicated to catching up as a check-in outside of your routine work discussions. ...
  2. Get specific with your struggle. ...
  3. Come ready with an ask or suggested solution.
May 4, 2020

What to do if your job is affecting your mental health? ›

What to Do When Your Job Is Hurting Your Mental Health
  1. Know the ways that work can affect your mental health. ...
  2. Pinpoint exactly what is making your mental health worse. ...
  3. Change your perspective on your career. ...
  4. Consider consulting HR or your manager. ...
  5. Know the careers where mental health issues are common.
Apr 8, 2021

How to write a leave of absence letter for mental health reasons? ›

Leave of Absence Example

I am writing to formally inform you that I will need to be absent from work for a period of time. Therefore, please accept this letter as a formal request for a leave of absence. work on [date]. The reason for my requested absence is [medical/personal/academic/family/mental health].

How do you ask for time off for mental health examples? ›

How to Request a Mental Health Day
  • Plan What You're Going To Say. It seems like an obvious tip, but in the moment, if you're nervous about what you're asking for, any preparation you've done will come in clutch. ...
  • Keep It Simple. ...
  • Ask in Advance. ...
  • Don't Explain Yourself.
Sep 24, 2022

How do I tell my work I had a bad mental health day? ›

"You can say to your boss, 'I'm taking a day off from work. I'm feeling flat and tired and need a mental health day,'" Dr Burgess said. "If asked you can be quite vague about your personal circumstances. You don't have to talk about anxiety and depression."

How do I say I need a mental health day at work? ›

“Recently I've been having a hard time with my [condition] and am going to take a sick day today to try and rest up. I'll be back tomorrow.” “I'm feeling burnt out, and am planning to take a sick day today to take care of my mental health. I'll be back in the office tomorrow, thank you for understanding.”

Can you get a doctors note for anxiety? ›

It is possible your doctor or therapist will give you a sick note for depression, stress, or anxiety. Once again, some employers may require this. However, it is important to note that your doctor cannot discuss your health with your employer without your written and documented consent.

Can an employer fire you after stress leave? ›

Can I be fired while on stress leave? Stress leaves are protected by law. Employers do not have the right to fire you while you are on stress leave.

How can I say I have stress? ›

You can talk about the feeling of being stressed by saying you are stressed out or wound up. These are both quite informal expressions so if you want to be more formal, you can say you are under a lot of pressure/stress.

How can I improve my ability to work under pressure? ›

In this post we offer tips to help your team maintain composure and cope better with stress and pressure in the workplace.
  1. Maintain control and focus. ...
  2. Create a plan. ...
  3. Evaluate your priorities. ...
  4. Avoid procrastination… ...
  5. 5. … ...
  6. Break down tasks and simplify. ...
  7. Communicate effectively with your team. ...
  8. Execute the plan.

How do I ask my doctor to leave? ›

Dear (Name of the concerned person), I am writing this mail to request you for the approval of my medical leave due to my (Diagnosed illness)'s surgery. As per my doctor's request, I would require a 3-week leave which includes the surgery procedure and the post-surgery hospital stay.

Do I need a doctors note to be off with stress? ›

Do employees need a sick note for stress-related absence? If an employee is signed off work with stress for a period of more than seven consecutive days, including non-working days such as weekends, they will need to provide their employer with proof of work-related stress from a medical professional.

What is leave for health reasons? ›

If an employee is sick and unable to come to work, he or she may call in sick. To seek a leave, it is usually necessary to compose a leave application letter. In the event of a long-term absence due to illness, a medical certificate from a certified doctor or medical practitioner may also be necessary.

How do I talk to my boss about medical leave? ›

To take FMLA leave, you must provide your employer with appropriate notice.
  1. If you know in advance that you will need FMLA leave, you must give your employer at least 30 days advance notice. ...
  2. If you know you need leave less than 30 days in advance, you must give your employer notice as soon as you can.

What is leave of absence for medical reasons? ›

A medical leave of absence is an extended leave for employees that cannot work due to a serious health condition. These could be physical, mental, or the need to provide care to a family member. These leaves are usually unpaid. During this time, the employee's job is federally protected.

What to do when signed off with stress? ›

But from someone who has been where you are now, here are some tips on how to best manage this time.
  1. Switch off completely. First things first, stop feeling guilty about work. ...
  2. Maintain structure. You may want to climb into bed and stay there forever. ...
  3. Be social. ...
  4. One thing at a time. ...
  5. See your doctor regularly. ...
  6. Get outside.
Feb 4, 2021

How to easily get a doctors note? ›

Getting a doctor's note for work is a simple process. When you visit your physician or clinic, simply let them know that you will need a doctor's note to provide to your organization.


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