Should You Get Time Off For A Broken Heart?

heartbreak leave
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Mar. 10 2023, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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There are certain conditions that are difficult to work under. You get paid time off when you’re sick because it is difficult to stay productive while fighting off an illness. You get bereavement time so that you are given space to process through the death of a loved one, and you get vacation time in order to have healthy breaks from work. Yet there are some conditions that make it harder to work and you have to do it anyway, like heartbreak.

Research shows that heartbreak can greatly affect our brains and bodies, causing us emotional, mental, and even physical distress. This pain can even be debilitating for some. Considering how much pain heartbreak can cause, the idea of getting “heartbreak leave” from work has been thrown around in recent years.

Here is what exactly happens to your mind and body during a breakup, as well as what experts have said about getting heartbreak leave from work:

What happens to us during a breakup?

Woman holding herself
Source: Pexels

According to a recent study, social rejection can cause people physical pain. Participants in the study were asked to look at photos of their recent ex-partner who broke up with them, which caused the areas of their brain connected to physical pain to activate the same way as if they were being hurt.

The pain of a breakup isn’t felt purely when triggered. Some of the impact is indirect. Jennifer Kelman, licensed clinical social worker and life coach, said in a statement to Healthline that heartbreak can lead to appetite changes, lack of motivation, weight loss or weight gain, overeating, headaches, stomach pain, and a general sense of being unwell.

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In addition to the physical impact we might feel, we also have to worry about our mental states. Bonding with someone forms a connection, and when that connection is severed unexpectedly, it causes distress in our lives. Breakups can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.

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What The Experts Say About Heartbreak Leave

Imagine you’ve ended a relationship on a Sunday evening and are in really bad shape over it. The last thing that you want is to wake up in the morning and go to work like normal. In the same case as sick time or bereavement, you would be able to use “heartbreak leave” in order to grieve.

It may sound weird to us in the United States, but professionals in Germany are given heartbreak leave, as well as those who work at companies in Australia and Japan. The idea surrounding heartbreak leave is that employees cannot give their best effort if they are distracted by their internal struggles.

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Olivia James, a London-based trauma therapist, explained to Refinery29: “During acute heartbreak, an employee may be more reactive, absent-minded and less able to handle confrontation. They may burst into tears at the slightest thing or snap at a colleague or a client. Our capacity to deal with stress and conflict tends to be lower. This can lead to more guilt and shame, which compounds the suffering.”

While it seems beneficial from an employee standpoint, companies are less likely to adopt heartbreak leave because they need their employees working. However, mental health issues are becoming more serious amongst the FMLA. Mental health problems are considered a serious health condition and can be cited as a reason for needing time off.

Whether or not heartbreak leave is adopted in the US, if you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or physical pain from your breakup, consider being honest but vague with your employer in order to request time off. Break-ups can seriously affect your health, so taking the time to mourn is important.

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By: Camryn Quick

Camryn Quick is an up-and-coming journalist currently based in New York City. Coming all the way from South Carolina, where she studied Mass Communications, she is finishing up her Masters in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she is specializing in print and concentrating on arts and culture reporting. While in school, she has covered the arts and culture beat for the Mott Haven Herald and Hunts Point Express in the South Bronx, mainly writing pieces about the arts-oriented businesses and nonprofits in the area. She has also reported for the NY City News Service, covering 2021 election day in the South Bronx.

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