“Why do I feel guilty for resting?” How to beat rest-guilt

Ever feel like you "should" be doing something even when you're relaxing? You're not alone.

“Why do I feel guilty for resting?” How to beat rest-guilt
Midweek in the office, and we often romanticise rest - “I can’t wait to do nothing this weekend”. But when the weekend arrives and we kick our feet up, that nagging guilt creeps in. You feel like you should be doing something. Whether that’s doing a wardrobe clear out or taking a peak at emails. This is what we call “rest guilt”: The voice in the back of your brain that tells you that you’re wasting of time and you should be doing something productive. But why do we feel guilty for resting when it’s a necessity for our wellbeing? And how can you shift the guilt of resting to enhance your productivity and creativity?

The “Busy Problem”

Society has long equated busyness with success, productivity, and self-worth: the more we do, the more we achieve. We're bombarded with messages and success stories about "hustling" and we glamourise being busy. This has influenced our collective consciousness which can lead to feelings of guilt if we’re not constantly being productive.
The busy problem is rooted in capitalist attitudes and and businesses constantly chasing higher growth and lower margins. Every year we need to be better, with higher output to constantly improve - or we’re falling behind.
And it’s not just our professional lives that are driven by the glorification of being busy. Even our personal time feels like a competition thanks to social media. Where snapshots of packed weekends and early morning workouts can make our quieter moments feel inadequate. But if we continue to try to match the image of the people we celebrate on endless feeds of social media, we’re going to burnout even quicker than we are already.

Why we feel ‘Rest Guilt’

Our brains are wired to seek validation through accomplishments. When we rest, the absence of immediate and tangible outcomes can mistakenly signal to our brain that we're being unproductive, which can trigger feelings of guilt.
This is exacerbated by societal pressures and the pervasive fear of missing out (FOMO) or fear of switching off (FOSO) on opportunities that might arise while we're taking a breather. If you’re constantly seeing people on your feeds getting promotions or having jam-packed weekends, it can feel like we need to match that schedule to keep up.
Why do we get our best ideas in the shower? Read more here.

Why rest is crucial for productivity and creativity

Your phone needs regular charging to function; and your brain is no different. Rest isn't opposed to productivity; it's an essential part of it. Research has shown the importance of rest for cognitive function, emotional well-being, and creativity. One study found that brief breaks from a task can dramatically improve your ability to focus for prolonged periods. That’s because during rest, our brains are anything but idle. When you’re bored or doing everyday tasks tasks like showering or walking, your brain is actively consolidating memories, making connections between ideas, and solving problems—processes critical for creativity and innovation.
So when you’re feeling guilt for resting, remind yourself that it’s part of your productivity plan. To function properly and perform at your best, you need regular rest and breaks. So how can you shift the guilt?
Did you know there’s 7 types of rest? Read more here.

6 ways to rest without feeling guilty

  1. Redefine reset as a necessity, not a reward: Shift your perspective to view rest not as a luxury or reward, but as a critical component of sustainable productivity.
  1. Practice resting: Similar to any skill, the more you do it the better you get at it. If you rest regularly, it becomes easier to do.
  1. Digitally detox: Commit to periods of disconnection from technology, especially during meals or breaks, to help quiet the impulse to always be “on.”
  1. Schedule or time block downtime: Treat rest as you would any important commitment by scheduling it into your day with the same respect as a crucial work meeting.
  1. Refresh your feeds: If your social media feeds are full of people who insist a 5am wake-up is essential for success, this is going to fuel rest-guilt. Follow accounts that celebrate rest and spread healthy and achievable messaging.
  1. Mindfulness and rest practices: Engage in mindfulness exercises like yoga and meditation or anything that works for you. These activities not only offer a respite for the mind but also teach it to be at peace with stillness, reducing guilt over time.
The guilt associated with resting can be deeply ingrained, fuelled by the societal glamourisation of working hard as a measure of self-worth and respect. However, by understanding the psychological roots of this guilt and recognising the critical role of rest in productivity and creativity, we can begin to reframe our relationship with downtime. Remember, embracing rest is not a sign of laziness—it's an act of self-care and a crucial investment in your long-term well-being and success.

Fancy time away from the screen?

Recharge your batteries by going off-grid for 3 days. Backed by science - you will feel more calm, relaxed and creative after your digital detox.

Book Your Digital Detox Cabin

Related posts

Benefits of boredom: why being bored is good for your brain Benefits of boredom: why being bored is good for your brain
FOSO: The Fear of Switching OffFOSO: The Fear of Switching Off
The ‘discomfort zone’: 7 ways to break out of your comfort zoneThe ‘discomfort zone’: 7 ways to break out of your comfort zone
5 ways nature can nurture your creativity5 ways nature can nurture your creativity
What is ‘social jet lag’? And how to beat it What is ‘social jet lag’? And how to beat it
Why you should try a ‘brain-dump’ before bedWhy you should try a ‘brain-dump’ before bed
Hustle Culture Myth: Why you should be less productiveHustle Culture Myth: Why you should be less productive