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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.