“Why Do I Feel Guilty When I Relax” | Tips to Break Free

Last Update on May 24, 2024 : Published on May 27, 2024

If you’ve ever settled in your bed with your favorite book, only to find yourself thinking a million thoughts about the things you “should” be doing, then you’re not alone, my friend. In our fast-paced life, relaxation often seems like a luxury more than a necessity. The moment you take time for yourself to relax, a voice whispers in your head reminding you of all the things you could’ve accomplished instead of relaxing. 

If this sounds even remotely familiar to you, then you might be living a strange experience – guilt when you’re relaxing. This feeling can be incredibly frustrating, but here’s the thing; relaxation is a necessary evil, the fuel that keeps our mental engines running. 

If you’re in this strange predicament, then you might also ask yourself, “Why do I feel guilty when I relax?”Shouldn’t I live in the moment, so why am I feeling guilty?” 

We often take relaxation for granted, but it’s a part of our self-care that is vital for our mental and physical health. When you relax, you lower stress levels, improve focus, and boost your overall well-being. But, in many cases, social pressure and others’ expectations can make you feel guilty for relaxing. 

So, let’s read about the reasons why you feel guilty when you relax and how you can break free of this guilt. 

Why Do I Feel Guilty For Relaxing?

1. The Hustle Culture

In this society, where hustle culture is boasted about, we often forget that busyness does not equal productivity. The moment you stop to just breathe, you’re faced with social media posts showcasing the “hustle and grind” lifestyle.

This kind of running about without accomplishing anything useful can make you feel like you’re being lazy and unproductive when you’re doing nothing but relaxing. 

2. The Trap Of Perfectionism 

If you’re a perfectionist who sets extremely high standards for yourself, then the moment you take a moment to relax, you’re filled with guilt. You feel the need to be constantly working to achieve your goals and fear that any moment of rest can prevent you from being a perfectionist. This kind of mindset can make it difficult for you to feel relaxed without feeling guilty. 

3. The Fear of Judgment 

Our society thrives on judging others and because of this, we worry about how others perceive us. The fear of being judged as lazy or a couch potato by friends, family, or coworkers can cause you to feel guilty for resting. This societal pressure can be strong and can shape what we feel about downtime. 

4. Toxic Work Ethic 

Having a toxic work ethic where you keep working and can’t seem to switch off can be another reason you feel guilty when you relax. It’s good to work hard to reach your goals, but it can also put your health at risk if you believe that you should be doing something productive all the time. 

5. Overly Committing to Others

To meet the demands of your life – personal, social, and work – you might over-commit yourself. This over-commitment can leave little to no time for resting and can create a constant state of busyness. And when you finally take a break, the list of unfinished tasks looms over your head, leading to feeling guilty for relaxing. 

6. Comparing Yourself With Others

Another reason you feel guilty when you relax is the comparison game you play. Social media, more often than not, can make you compare yourself to others, increasing the feelings of guilt. Seeing others achieving their goals and staying busy makes you feel that if you relax, you’re falling behind. This comparison game can put pressure on you to always be productive. 

7. Unrealistic Expectations 

There are times when you set unrealistic goals and expectations, even for relaxation time. I hear all the time that relaxation means staying in the moment and “achieving Zen”, but what happens if I don’t meet those expectations?

When you can’t meet the expectations you’ve set when it comes to relaxation – for example, feeling “Zen” – it can cut into your mindset and make you feel like you failed at relaxing. Eventually, this can turn into guilt. 

8. Chronic Stress

Another common reason you feel guilty for relaxing is the stress and anxiety you constantly live with. Chronic stress and anxiety can make it harder for you to switch off and just relax. Your mind stays in the “flight-fight-freeze” state, making it difficult to calm down, quiet your mind, and enjoy the relaxation time you’ve got. 

How to Stop Feeling Guilty For Relaxing?

Now that you know what’s causing you to feel guilty for relaxing, it’s time to see what to do to stop feeling guilty when you relax; 

1. Change your mindset:

Instead of thinking of relaxation as a luxury, think of it as a necessity; a part of your routine. Just like you focus on eating healthy meals and getting enough sleep, take relaxation as an investment in your well-being. 

2. Question your critic:

Guilt comes from within, so someone must be feeding the monster, right? When guilt surfaces, try to question it and challenge its authenticity. Is the guilt helpful, or is it cutting in your downtime? If it’s not useful, let it go. 

3. Schedule time for relaxing:

Instead of spontaneous bouts of relaxation, schedule time for this activity. Treat it with the same respect you give to any other appointment. Have a dedicated time in your calendar for relaxation, so that when you take time, it won’t make you feel guilty. Hey, it was booked in the schedule! 

4. Think about micro-relaxation:

You don’t need to take hours to relax. You can manage some guilt-free relaxation times throughout the day. Just a few minutes to get fresh air, do some breathing exercises, or listen to some soothing music – it’s all part of relaxation too! 

5. Turn off your phone:

If social media is making you feel guilty for relaxing, then set some digital boundaries or turn it off. When you’re on your downtime, keep your phone on silent mode so that you can reconnect with yourself without the added burden of guilt. 

6. Keep rewards for relaxing:

Another way you can stop feeling guilty for relaxing is to give yourself positive reinforcement. Reward yourself for taking time to relax. As a reward, you can treat yourself to a massage, spa, a long walk outdoors, or a calming bath. 

7. Define relaxation:

Many times, we try to relax by either doing nothing or over-exerting ourselves. To avoid this, define relaxation to yourself. This can mean reading a book, going for a walk, listening to music, or taking a bath to relax. Once you know what you can do to truly relax, you’ll do it without feeling guilty for it. 

Getting Professional Help…

If relaxation guilt is becoming too much for you and is interfering with your daily routine and well-being, then consider getting professional help and support. A therapist can help you figure out the reason you feel guilty when you relax and help you develop healthy strategies to break free of the guilt. 


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Wrapping Up…

Why do I feel guilty when I relax?” — it’s a common question and an even more common experience felt deeply by many. The reasons for your relaxation guilt can be related to social pressure, internalized thinking, and even cultural factors. Knowing that relaxation is more than just a luxury can help you change your mindset when it comes to relaxing. 

Try to reframe your thinking, set boundaries where needed, and stay kind to yourself. Relaxation is a necessary part of your routine; and important for your mental and physical well-being. 

If you keep running without refueling yourself, how will you maintain your health in the long run? Take care of yourself by refueling yourself with relaxing activities now and then. Once you do, see how amazing and fulfilling life will become for you! 

I hope this blog helped you understand why you feel guilty for relaxing and how to relax guilt-free. Let me know your thoughts and tips in the comments below. 

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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