I sometimes feel like I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like rest. I know I need it, but on the hierarchy of priorities, resting and taking breaks is low on my list. I love doing things. I love checking things off my to-do list and having people compliment me about how diligent I am and what a hard worker I am. Hi, I’m Markey and I’m an enneagram three.
But feeling guilty or stressed out about resting isn’t only exclusive to me and my anxiety; in fact, many people have negative emotions surrounding their much-needed resting hours.
Why is Resting so Difficult?
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There aren’t many people in the world who can just shut their brains off and rest. We see that in the low numbers of people who take their PTO, burnout culture, and a general sense of exhaustion that most people feel in today’s culture.
Let’s be honest, not many people ask how you rested today. Instead, coworkers ask what you did today, friends ask how work was, and roommates and partners ask if you picked something up from the grocery store. Society can be laser-focused on doing it all, instead of resting.
We live in a world that is marked and defined by how much we can do, how fast we can do it, and how what we do can promote more tasks. In other words, we’re living to work and produce and be busy instead of living to live.
Erica Cuni, (LMFT), The Burnout Professor, says, “We don’t really learn how to stop and be in the moment and truly honor what we’ve accomplished. We’ve had this message drilled into us that resting is not good. You have to hustle to be productive.”
This increases the guilt associated with taking a break. How can people slow down when they have so much to accomplish? It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
The social pressures that lead people to mistake their own value for productivity are a result of capitalism. It gives great importance to constantly doing more and aiming to surpass one’s previous accomplishments.
“At the core, it’s a system based on investment, for the purpose of profit-making. And then, when profits are made, there’s another cycle of reinvestment for the purpose of profit-making. And there’s no end to that cycle,” explains Anders Hayden, (Ph.D.), associate professor in the department of political science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS.
This capitalist idea of “more” is illusive and ephemeral. There is always “more” to do, a standard that eludes grasp, no matter what you have accomplished. Additionally, when individuals struggle to maintain a specific level of productivity, their self-esteem may suffer.
Burnout and Exhaustion
Over the previous two years, we have often witnessed this. Burnout has increased; according to a survey conducted by Indeed, more than half (52%) of respondents report feeling burned out, up from 43% prior to COVID. People who work from home often discover they lack the tools they need to execute their jobs well or fall into the habit of not taking enough time off to properly recharge. The distinction between work and family life has become hazier as a result of remote working, making it challenging to tell when someone is on call and when they are not.
Our sick days are even being affected by this. Even when they are ill, people feel guilty about taking it easy and for not recovering soon enough, according to a 2022 study that was published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.
Billie Katz (PsyD), licensed psychologist and assistant professor in psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, argues that long-term burnout can limit energy and productivity, cause individuals to feel depressed, hopeless, and helpless, and make them bitter and pessimistic about the world if it is not treated with the right amount of rest and care.
“Since there is also evidence that high levels of burnout can lead to physical (fatigue, stress, increased risk of heart disease, increased likelihood of high blood pressure) and psychological (anxiety, depression, irritability) problems, it is really important to take burnout seriously and to advocate for oneself when you notice it is creeping in,” says Dr. Katz.
Why Do I Feel Guilty for Resting?
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While society is far from perfect, employers, employees, and people, in general, are starting to speak out about the need for rest. Trends like quiet quitting and four-day work weeks are rising in popularity, as they should.
However, it’s completely normal to feel guilty about resting. Many of us have grown up with an internalized mandate that we ought to use our time as productively as possible, and while that’s not necessarily wrong, we also need to remember that rest can be productive.
How to Fall in Love with Resting
I’ll be the first to admit that I shouldn’t be writing this article. I suck at resting. In fact, I should be resting right now and I can’t because I didn’t finish this article and I can’t stop thinking about it.
I love productivity hacks and finding new ways to do more in a day than any healthy human with boundaries should. I love exploring side hustles and making the most of my time. I love my job and waking up in the morning and working.
But because I love those things, I’m also very aware that the only way I’m going to be able to keep doing them is if I get enough rest so I can recharge.
Resting isn’t only a natural part of life, it’s a necessary part of life. If you don’t rest, you cannot perform at the level you want to – or at any level at all, honestly. You cannot pour from an empty cup and you cannot avoid resting.
The next time you feel guilty about taking a break or resting, remind yourself that rest is as much (if not more) important than getting all your to-do’s out of the way for the day.
Do you ever feel guilty about resting? How do you deal with that? Comment below!
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