While the pandemic caused concern among millions of Americans for various reasons, research shows that more women than men worried about issues such as the illness infecting them or family members, the negative consequences on their financial well-being, and potential job loss.
Before the pandemic, women were already reporting higher levels of stress than men. After more than a year of lockdown, homeschooling, and job loss, the mental health toll on American women is in the spotlight more than ever before.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million adults in the U.S. over 18 suffer from anxiety disorders. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men. What's worse, only about 37% of those suffering from the illness receive treatment. Many of those suffering from anxiety — the most common mental illness in the U.S. — also have a "co-occurring" disorder such as stress, ADAA reports.
One of the treatments for stress and anxiety may include time off from work. The Cleveland Clinic recommends that women experiencing such issues should make a "personal wellness plan with built-in periods of recovery and self-care" to heal.
"Chronic stress builds up so that stress seems like a normal way of life for some women," says Cleveland Clinic. "Oftentimes, women are so busy that they do not take time to slow down long enough to think about how stress is negatively affecting them."
Common sources of women's stress, according to the clinic, include work overload, long hours, tense relations at work, and an unfulfilling position.
3 steps for requesting time off to manage stress and anxiety
- See a doctor. You must see a doctor before you request stress leave. First, be clear about your symptoms and how you're feeling emotionally and mentally. Don't be shy about providing details, as this gives your doctor a clearer picture of what you're experiencing. List the things that trigger your stress and explain how work is making you feel anxious or stressed. Based on your conversation, the doctor will then assess whether you need time off."If you're spending the majority of your time focusing on your mental health and you're not getting better, it's time to consider taking a medical leave. I always emphasize to people this is not a moral failing. This is a medical issue that can get better," says Dr. W. Nate Upshaw, a board-certified psychiatrist.
- Know the laws in your state. If you decide that you need time away from your job to deal with your anxiety and stress, it's important to know that laws regarding stress leave can vary from state to state. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you are entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if you work for a "covered employer," which means there are at least 50 employees, among other things.
- Understand the alternatives to the FMLA. Suppose you're not covered under the FMLA, which provides up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. You may still be able to get stress leave from work by taking personal days or a medical disability leave offered by your employer. You will need to check with your employee benefits department or an HR representative to get the specifics of what is available.At the same time, be aware that employers can ask for a doctor's note or medical certification when a worker files an FMLA request. Or, a company may require a physician's note for a sick leave request.