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The Benefits Of Taking Time Off: How To Stop Feeling Guilty

Discover the art of guilt-free relaxation. Embrace the importance of taking time off and find inspiration to prioritse your well-being.

Despite knowing that rest is vital to our well-being, many of us tend to struggle when it comes to actually going ahead and taking that time off. The stress and overwhelm that can be experienced at the thought of the knock-on effects of taking time off, can be enough to stop us in our tracks.

So why do we feel so guilty even when we know we must stop and take time off?

We know what it’s like to have that voice in our heads that tells us we’re wasting our time and that we should be doing something more productive. But there are things we can do to let go of the ‘shoulds’ and ensure we are getting the rest we need.

Why Do We Experience So Much Guilt?

We find ourselves living in a world where we are rewarded for productivity. Success has falsely been linked to how much we achieve or how well we do the things we do. When we attach our self-worth to our productivity levels, we’ll likely feel guilty, or less than worthy, when we achieve less than we think we should.

Guilt is a complex emotion, and as much as we know we need to stop and take time out, doing so can leave us feeling uncomfortable and conflicted. Not completing the tasks we’ve set ourselves can cause us to get stuck in a cycle of rumination, berating ourselves for what we haven’t achieved.

It’s important to remind ourselves that rest and time away will serve to benefit us in many different ways. That sacred space is essential to enabling ourselves to recuperate, restore and ensure that we’re making our mental well-being a priority.

When feelings of guilt seep in, here are just some of the emotions we might find ourselves experiencing:

We Might Feel Anxious

Often, the strong emotions we feel about taking time off or being away from those who need us will leave us feeling anxious. Anxiety can leave us feeling on edge, worrying about what might happen if we aren’t there, and even causing physical symptoms that make us feel unwell. Anxiety UK tells us that physical symptoms such as butterflies in the stomach, increased heartbeat and perspiration, feeling sick and even shortness of breath, can all be caused by anxiety. 

We Could Feel Overwhelmed

We might feel guilty for taking time off…But we shouldn't
It is okay to be overwhelmed. Photo: Team Design

Sometimes, the thought of change can lead us to feel overwhelmed. Even though we’re aware of the essential role rest plays in our well-being, we may feel more comfortable keeping busy and planning out everything we intend to do that day. The guilt of taking time away from our everyday lives can cause us to feel like everything is getting on top of us.

We Might Feel The Weight Of Responsibility

If it’s usually our role to care for someone or we have work commitments, we may feel guilty that our time away could affect the well-being of a person or the success of a work project. Rather than experience this guilt, we might decide it’s easier to carry everything ourselves.

We Might Fear The Judgement Of Others

In our mind, we may have linked taking time off as being lazy or incompetent, even if no one else has judged us that way. We may wonder what our colleagues will think if we take time away, or we might worry about the things we’ll miss out on in our absence.

We Could Feel Like We Don’t Deserve It

In today’s society, we have been conditioned to feel guilty when we rest. We live in a world where we feel pressured by hustle culture and productivity is displayed like a badge of honour, so we may feel as though we haven’t worked “hard enough” to deserve rest. But rest is essential to our body’s health. We are always worthy of the time and space we need to rest and restore.

Rest Is Productive, Too

We might feel guilty for taking time off…But we shouldn't
We don’t need to stretch ourselves thin. Photo: Team Design

Guilt is a very valid emotion, but that doesn’t mean we ought to let it rule and determine our decisions.

When life gets tough, having the energy and capacity to deal with challenges that arise is key to helping us overcome them.

We don’t need to struggle on, stretching ourselves until we are stretched so thin that we might break. Rather than feeling guilty about what will happen if we take time off, consider what may happen if we don’t take time off.

Sometimes, that call is made for us. Life doesn’t always go to plan, and even with the best-laid plans, sometimes a curve-ball hits. When this happens, we might find ourselves in a position where we are forced to prioritise our mental health and well-being. It might take us longer to bounce back than if we had carved time out to rest earlier on. Rest equips us with the strength and energy we need to help us navigate life’s curveballs before they become a detriment to our mental well-being.

Please know you are valuable, important, and worthy of taking a break.

In a world that asks us to prioritise everything above our well-being, these might be words that we aren’t used to hearing. But they are important ones.

Moving Past The Guilt

Once we have accepted that rest is not a luxury, but a necessity in effectively navigating life and its challenges, how can we begin to move past feelings of guilt?

There is very little to be gained from beating yourself up and feeling guilty. So, when you decide to take that time off, commit to it and know that this time away is going to benefit the whole of you. 

Once you’ve made the decision, tell whoever you need to, as soon as possible. Often, the anxiety and anticipation leading up to asking for time off can put more pressure on us, so it’s always best to take action as soon as possible. Remember why you are asking, and trust that it’s a priority for your health above anything else.

When you decide to take time away, try to check-out fully. It can be tempting to keep one eye on things, but trust that you will benefit more if you can completely switch off. This allows you to return fully rested and recuperated, and you will be in a much better place to handle anything that life has to throw at you.

You Are Not Alone

You are not alone if you’re struggling to make yourself a priority. We are conditioned to choose keeping busy and productive over resting. And this often means our needs are compromised or neglected. 

Re-evaluating these takes time, but little by little, we can learn to take the time we need without struggling with feelings of guilt. Many of us already know that taking a break is one of the best things we can do for our well-being. Sometimes one of the biggest barriers between us and taking time off can be permitting ourselves to put our own needs first.

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Blurtitout employs stringent sourcing standards, using only peer-reviewed studies and academic research to ensure the accuracy of its content. For details on their editorial process, you can visit their website. This commitment to reliable sources is crucial in the health and medical fields. If you need help finding or interpreting these sources

  1. Anxiety UK. (2024). National charity helping people with Anxiety – Anxiety UK. [online] Available at: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/.
  2. Anxiety UK. (2023). About Anxiety – Anxiety UK. [online] Available at: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/about-anxiety-and-anxiety-disorders/.


Gemma is a freelance writer from the UK, specialising in writing for the wellness and personal development niche. She has a background in marketing and wellness, and loves to write about the topics she's most passionate about. Gemma loves all things to do with natural wellness, being outdoors, reading, and is passionate about travel.

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