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Feel Too Busy to Take a Break? 3 Tips for Resting Without Guilt


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Every time you try to relax you find yourself…

  • checking email;
  • getting a head-start on your next deliverable at work;
  • doing laundry; or
  • cleaning out your pantry.

Just thinking about taking time for relaxation and rest makes you feel guilty because you think you should be doing something more productive.  Let’s stop that, shall we?  Here are 3 tips for resting without guilt, so that you can stop feeling guilty and start doing what’s needed for your mental and physical health.

Resting Without Guilt Tip 1: Redefine Rest

The most important tip for letting go of guilt around resting is to re-think how you’re defining rest and relaxation in the first place.  Because this is the root of your problem.

Why Resting is So Hard

You live in a world that makes it difficult to unwind.  Your work is demanding, your calendar is filled, and there’s little time for rest.  Heck, you rarely have a few minutes to yourself to think straight.

But there’s more to it than that.  Productivity and achievement are highly valued by society.  Moreover, you’re biologically programmed for learning and growth, which has you thinking that you must constantly be striving to do instead of taking time for yourself.

So, you know you need to relax and stress over the fact that you’re not.  And you feel like you don’t have the time for resting because it’s not productive.  You’ve created a vicious cycle within your brain that you can’t win.

What’s the remedy? Reconnect with the purpose for relaxing in the first place using science to your benefit.

The Purpose for Rest and Relaxation

Let’s start by looking at some common definitions for (and reasons behind why you must) rest and relax. Resting is about being free from anxiety or disturbance and relaxation is about becoming calm and comfortable so that you’re not worried or nervous.

The point of resting is to give yourself mental and physical peace and relaxation so that you’re not stressed but are instead calm and at peace.  Resting is about investing in your own well-being – and not just your physical well-being, but your emotional and mental health as well.

The Benefits of Resting

The benefits of resting are numerous.  By regularly resting and relaxing, you’ll:

  • be less stressed and hence happier (with a more positive outlook); and
  • be physically and mentally healthier (and hence will get sick less often).

When you’re able to manage and reduce stress, it’s easier to focus on your work, be more present, and get more done.  Better mental and physical health means more energy and less exhaustion.

What all of this means for you is that you’ll be more productive in your work and in life by resting regularly.  Resting is an investment in yourself that pays dividends.

Using Science to Help You Rest

As I mentioned above, human beings are wired for growth and learning.  And we love to master things.  This motives us and makes us push ourselves.  But rest feels like you’re doing the opposite of mastering something, doesn’t it?  Because mastery is associated with hard work and pushing yourself hard.

And resting feels like doing nothing.  But you’re wrong about that.

Resting isn’t about doing nothing.  It’s about doing things that help to renew and fill you up.  Instead of focusing on how you’re resting, remind yourself that there’s a productive purpose for resting.  Resting is about making an investment in yourself so that you can do more, better.

[Recommended Reading: if you you believe that you can’t reduce your stress levels because it’s helped you to compete and perform better, read How You Can Reduce Stress and Anxiety Without Giving Up Your Lifestyle].

Where You Might Get Tripped Up

Tip #1 is obviously a mindset shift, which probably has you thinking “That’s not easy!”

You’re right.  Changing how you think isn’t easy.  It takes time and practice.  But it’s also 100% do-able.  The fact is that you’re brain is wired to keep thinking the same or similar thoughts.  The more you think something, the more likely you are to believe it and not change your mind.

That’s why mindset work can be so powerful.  Keep at it and remind yourself every day that resting is about investing in you – and there’s a productive purpose to it.  Don’t give up.  Write it down and post it somewhere that you’ll see it every day (maybe even several times a day).

[Recommended Reading: for more about mindset, read How’s Your Work Life Balance? Here’s How to Make it Better and How to Be More Self-Confident at Work by Changing Your Mindset].

Resting Without Guilt Tip 2: Rest Productively

Resting isn’t just about sleeping or doing something that involves little to no movement.

What it Means to Rest Productively

Resting productively is about pursuit of activities that are designed to renew and relax you.  Notice I said activities?  I’m talking about activities such as:

  • meditation
  • yoga
  • journaling
  • walking outdoors

Each of the above activities are things that you do, which means that your mind isn’t likely to categorize these as “do-nothing” activities.  Yet they will help you become more relaxed and rested.

Because these activities are more structured and can be scheduled into your daily routine, you’re less likely to feel as much guilt around them as you would watching television.  Choose one or two of the above activities to build into your daily (or weekly) routines and start doing them.

Create Productive Rituals and Habits

To start building into your daily routine some of the above habits (and make them more likely that they’ll stick), follow the following guidelines:

1.  Bookend Your Day

Start your day off right with yoga, a walk outdoors, or meditation.  And then end your day with journaling, gratitude, or by meditating.  This will help keep you feeling rested and renewed throughout the day and will also help you to sleep better at night.

2.  Calendar Rest & Relaxation

You have a calendar, so use it by scheduling regular time into your day and week for the activities above.  By doing this, you’re more likely to see it as a productive activity as opposed to something that’s a do-nothing waste of time.  Plus, you’re more likely to see it as a priority if it’s on your calendar.

3.  Take a Break from Electronics

Having your phone nearby or your computer open to email all the time sucks the life and energy from you.  Plus, it’s a distraction away from relaxing activities.  When you take time to rest, don’t have these around.  And even schedule time into your week for zero electronics to give yourself a break from always being “on”.

4.  Create a Not Now List

A not now list is the opposite of a to-do list.  Your to-do list should have only those things that are urgent priorities.  Anything that isn’t urgent goes onto the not now list.  The point of this is to keep a record of the things you want to get done in the future so that you don’t forget.  Schedule a regular time to check it (I recommend weekly) and only review it during that time.  You’ll be amazed how much overwhelm goes away by keeping a not now list.

[Recommended ReadingHow to Reduce Stress and Anxiety Naturally: 5 Simple Steps].

Resting Without Guilt Tip 3: Relax With People You Love

What better way to enjoy relaxation than by spending that time with someone you love?  Although it’s important to spend time alone, it’s also paramount that you spend time connecting with people you love.  And you can do this while relaxing.

Scheduling time for R&R with others will help make it happen.  Not only will you look forward to it more, but you’ll be accountable to keep your word.

Here are a few ideas of how to relax with others:

  • go for a walk with your partner or kids;
  • schedule a couples massage with your partner;
  • take a yoga class with a friend your your partner; or
  • join a meditation class with some friends.

Whatever you do, make it something you’ll enjoy.

Use the three tips above to start resting without guilt.  It’s time to have some fun while relaxing!


P.S. Take relaxation to the next-level by grabbing your free copy of the Essential Self-Care Toolkit.  It’s simple, guilt-free self-care that easily fits into your busy schedule and will have you feeling relaxed yet energized (at the same time).


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Heather sitting at a table working

Hey there, I’m Heather.

Recovering lawyer, executive coach and master of making the complex suuuuper simple.

Lover of queso and dark chocolate (I know, weird combo) + all things Texas Longhorns who’s driven to help lawyers and other high-achievers succeed in BOTH career and life (at the same time).

My 18+ years of practicing law, building my business and balancing it all with a real life taught me that you CAN have a fulfilling + profitable career without sacrificing your health or settling for less.

And I’m here to show you how.  Because you deserve to be able to achieve more of what YOU want (while doing less) so that you can free up time for things such as family, friends, hobbies and even some quiet time for yourself.

Go here to get weekly tips, tools and strategies for creating success from the inside-out. So that life can be fun again.