Stress leave: How to spend your time when signed off work

Getting signed off work with stress can be both daunting and liberating. The frenetic pace of the daily grind has momentarily stopped, offering you a chance to pause, reflect, and prioritise your mental health. Recognise this break as an opportunity not to fix yourself, but to gradually recharge your physical and mental batteries.


As you embark on this journey of self-care, consider these guiding principles for spending your time when signed off work with stress.

Guiding principles for spending time off

1. Resist the urge to fix all your problems

Your initial impulse might be to dive headfirst into fixing everything that led you to this point, but instead, decide that the only goal for right now is to slow down. Once you are properly rested after a week or two, you will begin to evaluate your situation with a clearer mind. Otherwise, you are forcing yourself to problem-solve when you are at your most stretched, anxious and exhausted.

2. Ease into your time off

Take the first few days to transition from the fast-paced work environment to a more relaxed state. Imagine that it's the weekend and allow yourself to enjoy simple activities like tidying up if you find it enjoyable or taking leisurely walks - embrace the freedom to step outside, reclaim your rest, and slow down.

3. Leave the house

Don't spend your weeks lurking inside your home. Even if there's a fear of being seen - remember, you are not under house arrest, you have been signed off work to improve your mental health. Plus, taking a walk and spending time outdoors have positive effects on your mental health.

4. Indulge in enjoyable activities

Use this time to engage in activities that bring you joy and make you lose track of time. Whether it's reading a book, listening to music, or practising mindfulness exercises, focus on things that contribute positively to your mental state.

5. Release the work guilt

You may feel guilty about taking time off, especially if you're concerned about your colleagues. However, it's essential to remember that your well-being is a priority. If your entire team is stressed, it's indicative of broader workplace problems, and that does not fall on your shoulders.

6. Consider a phased return to work

As you prepare to return to work, remember that a phased return is not only normal but often recommended. Don't feel pressured to jump back into a full workload immediately. Gradually reintroduce yourself to work responsibilities to ensure a smoother transition.

So, how would you like to spend your time?

Here are some ideas to get you inspired:

Nature walks

Spend time outdoors, going for long walks in nature to rejuvenate your mind and body.


Reach out to friends and engage in social activities.

Events and classes

Attend classes during the day to learn something new and break the monotony.

Revisit hobbies

Pick up old hobbies that once brought you joy, providing a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Explore new hobbies

Trying something new can be invigorating and provide a fresh perspective on life.

Meditation and mindfulness

Introduce meditation or mindfulness exercises into your daily routine to promote mental clarity and reduce stress levels.

Regular exercise

Incorporate light exercises into your routine, such as yoga or gentle stretching, to promote physical well-being and release endorphins.

Healthy eating habits

Pay attention to your diet, ensuring you nourish your body with nutritious foods that support mental health.

Artistic expression

Explore creative outlets such as painting, writing, or crafting to express your emotions and channel your energy into positive and fulfilling activities.


Maintain a journal to document your thoughts and feelings. Reflecting on your experiences can provide valuable insights and facilitate emotional expression.

Career counselling

Use this time to reflect on your career goals and consider seeking professional guidance or career counselling to explore potential changes or improvements.

Online courses

Explore online courses in areas of personal or professional interest, providing a sense of accomplishment and mental stimulation.

Support groups

Joining support groups or online communities where individuals share similar experiences can provide a sense of belonging and understanding.

Hot baths or spa days

Treat yourself to moments of relaxation, such as hot baths or spa days, to alleviate physical tension and promote overall well-being.

Catch up on sleep

Ensure you are getting adequate and restful sleep, as it plays a crucial role in mental and physical recovery.

Organise and declutter

Use this time to declutter your living and working spaces. A tidy environment can contribute to a clearer mind and reduced stress. Start with small, manageable areas, and gradually work your way through.

Community activities

Consider volunteering your time to a local charity or community organisation. Helping others can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment, contributing to your overall well-being.

Gardening or nature exploration

If possible, engage in gardening activities or simply spend time connecting with nature. Being outdoors, surrounded by greenery, has a calming effect on the mind.

Explore books and literature

Immerse yourself in books or articles that bring joy or relaxation. Whether it's fiction, self-help, or poetry, reading can be a therapeutic escape and an opportunity for personal growth.

Expressive writing

Engage in creative writing as a form of self-expression. Write about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. This can serve as a therapeutic outlet for emotional release.

Brain-boosting activities

Stimulate your mind with puzzles, crosswords, or other brain games. These activities not only provide mental engagement but also offer a sense of accomplishment.

Therapy sessions

Consider seeing a therapist to explore and address the root causes of stress.

Acknowledge small wins

Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Recognise and reward yourself for progress made during this time of self-care and healing.

Last reminder… Take all that pressure off

The list above is your inspiration, not a checklist. Remember, the only goal is slowing down, therefore, planning and executing a two-week ‘rest-athon’ would have the opposite effect.

Pick and choose the ideas which feel interesting and enjoyable to you, and allow yourself plenty of blank space in your schedule. Proper rest and a couple of well-rounded activities will contribute to a more resilient and balanced state of mind, helping you to return to work again with a clearer perspective.

Seeking out therapy

As a therapist, I am dedicated to helping individuals regain their peace of mind.

If you're struggling with your mental health during your time off, or feeling apprehensive about returning to work, please don't hesitate to reach out and schedule your free telephone consultation.

The free 30-minute telephone consultation is an opportunity for us to get to know each other and find out if hypnotherapy is the right choice for you, and you're free to take your time to make an informed decision. Your journey to healing starts with a conversation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 4QH
Written by Abby Corfield, BSc, UKCP | Accredited Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist
Surbiton, Surrey, KT6 4QH

I specialise in anxiety-related concerns, including self-esteem, confidence, public speaking, imposter syndrome, and perfectionism. If you're feeling stuck or overwhelmed, I can help you find a way forward that works for you. I am a professional, accredited, and insured hypnotherapist. I offer a free 30-minute phone consultation.

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