Top Signs It’s Time to Take a Stress Leave From Work
Is stress keeping you up at night? Do you find yourself unable to concentrate on your job because your stress levels are becoming unmanageable? If so, you might need to take a stress leave from work.
What is stress leave?
Stress leave refers to a lengthy period of time off work for you to recover from stress-related problems. In the US, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, with job security guaranteed.
It’s important to note that stress leave is not available to all employees — there are specific criteria that both a company and an individual must meet.
How do you know if you’re eligible for stress leave from work?
FMLA applies to companies with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the office. As an employee, you would need to work at the company for at least 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours to qualify for stress leave. However, the best way to know whether you are eligible for stress leave from work is to check your company policy.
Why do employees take stress leave from work?
At this point, you might be wondering why people choose to take stress leave from work, and the main reason is work-related stress. Even in the most positive work environment, stress can build up and eventually affect your job performance and quality of life.
For example, here are three main reasons why work can be stressful and ultimately lead to a stress leave:
- Workload: When you have too many things to do, it can trigger stress. Maybe you have trouble saying no to your boss or coworkers when they ask you to do something beyond your usual responsibilities. If this is the case, it can cause stress in the long run.
- No work-life balance: Cell phones introduced a previously unknown level of convenience for people. But they also allowed everyone to take work home. Most people check their emails and texts the moment they wake up, which makes it easy to feel like they never left work.
- Office issues: If you work in an office, you know that gossip, bullying, and harassment unfortunately occur. This kind of toxic environment can quickly and significantly increase stress levels.
Perhaps you experience some of the triggers of stress in the workplace, and your stress levels are starting to become unmanageable. If so, it’s time to consider what warning signals your body is sending you to show that you need stress leave from work.
What signs indicate that you need stress leave from work?
If your job is too demanding, you have no time for a personal life, or your workplace is toxic, you might find yourself feeling more and more emotionally drained and less able to manage the stress in your life.
If you reach this point and think that stress leave from work might be necessary, be aware that you will need to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare provider as well as your HR department. It’s therefore essential to try and take note of your symptoms and how you’re feeling. Specifically, try to consider both the emotional and physical signs that stress is having on you.
1. Emotional signs of stress
Some of the emotional signs of stress include anxiety or restlessness, irritability, constantly feeling on the verge of tears, and a lack of motivation. These symptoms can work their way into your personal life, making you withdraw and isolate yourself, which makes it even harder to work through the stress. You might even turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relieve the tension.
2. Physical signs of stress
Some of the physical signs of stress include insomnia (and other sleep problems, such as frequent nightmares), headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, digestive upset, and changes in appetite. These physical manifestations of stress can all affect day-to-day life, making you feel even more stressed out.
What are the side effects of letting stress build up?
Human beings are designed to handle a certain amount of stress to escape dangerous situations. When under pressure, the body releases hormones that increase your heart rate and get your muscles ready to fight or flee.
But this stress response is only supposed to last a short while. Being chronically stressed can negatively impact your health. All the systems of the body suffer when stress levels are left unchecked. For example, here are six side effects of stress.
1. Immune system
Stress stimulates the immune system, which can help you heal wounds and fight infection. However, people who are chronically stressed have weaker immune systems and are more prone to illnesses such as the flu and colds.
2. Muscular system
In times of stress, your muscles tense to protect you from injury. Once the stressful trigger has passed, your muscles will relax once more. However, in someone who is constantly stressed, the muscles don’t relax, which quickly leads to headaches and back and shoulder pain.
3. Digestive system
In stressful situations, the liver produces extra glucose to give the body an energy boost. If you are stressed all the time, your body may not be able to handle this extra glucose, which can eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Stress can also upset the digestive system, resulting in diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and stomachaches.
4. Reproductive system and sexuality
Stress can cause loss of libido in men and women. Chronic stress can cause irregular periods, heavier periods, and more painful periods in women. In men, it can cause erectile dysfunction and impotence.
5. Respiratory system
In stressful situations, your breathing rate increases in an effort to move oxygen-rich blood around the body. But for people with breathing conditions such as asthma and emphysema, stress can make it even more difficult to breathe properly.
6. Cardiovascular system
When you are under stress, your heart beats faster. This process is an effort by the body to get more oxygen to your muscles. However, this raises blood pressure as well. Chronic stress can overwork your heart and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
To try and avoid these outcomes, it might be a good idea to take stress leave from work.
How do you take stress leave from work?
There are three main steps involved in taking stress leave from work: consulting your doctor, getting a doctor’s note, and informing your employer.
Don’t just try to power through. If stress is starting to have a detrimental effect on your personal and professional life, make an appointment with your doctor. During your appointment, be upfront. Your doctor is there to help you, not judge you, and they can only make the right recommendations if they have all the information.
If you feel like stress leave might be helpful for you, don’t be afraid to tell your doctor. Be as open as possible, and explain as clearly as you can what situations and events have triggered your chronic stress. Communicate that you think you might need some time off work.
Once you have a note from your doctor, it’s time to inform your employer. It might feel awkward, but just remember that stress leave is not uncommon. The best course of action is to speak to the HR team and give a few details about your condition, explain that your stress levels are negatively impacting your job and that a doctor has recommended stress leave.
If you are worried about talking to your employer, try speaking to a friend or family member first to practice verbalizing your feelings. Once your employer approves your request for stress leave, there are a few simple things you can do to start destressing.
How can people destress naturally?
There are several simple, effective ways to lower your stress levels. Once you are on stress leave from work and have the time to unwind, try the following seven things to start relaxing.
Go for a short walk
Walking helps to clear the head and boost endorphins. To get more bang for your buck, try to walk in a park or elsewhere in nature, which can put your body into a meditative state.
Breath is an important tool for nourishing the body. However, because it is something you do automatically, it can be easy to forget to focus on it. Deep breathing exercises help bring about a state of calm. In addition, breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure, which is usually increased in those suffering from chronic stress.
Reduce screen time
Uninterrupted screen time has been linked to stress, poor sleep, and depression. Try to take breaks from screens during the day, and avoid them altogether for about an hour before bed.
Purchase a plant
Research has shown that being around plants can stimulate the relaxation response. So, go to your local nursery, get a plant, and put it somewhere you can watch it grow and thrive.
Turn on some music
Classical music slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. However, any music that you enjoy will release feel-good chemicals in your brain. Putting on some great tunes during your stress leave from work may be just the thing you need to relax.
Repetitive motions (like those involved in sewing, knitting, and making jewelry) can soothe anxiety. If you need ideas on what to craft, check out Pinterest for some fun DIY concepts.
Studies suggest that CBD helps reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. For example, in an animal study where rats showed signs of stress (such as an increased heart rate), CBD helped decrease their tension. According to research, CBD may also be helpful for insomnia, which is another symptom of chronic stress.
Don’t neglect your mental health
Work is important, but your mental health is more important. If stress is starting to negatively impact your personal life and your job, consider speaking to your doctor about stress leave. Doing so will ensure you get the time you need to relax and recover. That way, returning to work is easy.
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