Here’s Why You Feel Guilty About Resting (And How You Can Stop)

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Take a break. Put your feet up. Rest your eyes. Just sit down for a minute.

Do those phrases just grate on your nerves? Maybe because they seem silly? Or maybe because you desperately want to do any of those things but feel like you can’t? If resting feels like a far off dream, you’re not alone in that feeling. According to a Deloitte study, “one in four professionals say they never or rarely take all of their vacation days,” and 77% of those surveyed said that they have experienced burnout in their current job. (source)

Now, we’ve been in a pandemic way of living for over a year. Some might say, “Well, you’ve been able to be at home for over a year. Don’t you feel like you’ve gotten some rest?” Are you laughing? Because we are. While there were undeniable health benefits of the lockdown, the mental and emotional health deficits are what we are now left with.

That burnout you might have felt at work? There’s a good chance it just followed you to your home office. That stress you consistently experienced every time you opened your email inbox? Yep, that’s why you’re buying every massage gun known to man to get rid of the tension in your body.

Now we’re not saying that rest—true rest—is the answer to all your problems…but we are saying that rest is the beginning of addressing and eliminating those problems. But there’s one thing we need to tackle first: our guilt. Guilt is the number one reason why we aren’t prioritizing rest. So where is that guilt coming from? Let’s take a look.

Our definition of success

Whether you’re a dedicated 9-to-5-er or willing to burn the midnight oil on a regular basis, your definition of success likely includes a considerable dose of workaholic-ness. As a society, we believe we have achieved success when we’ve summited that nearly impossible deadline or been the employee who’s gone the longest without taking a vacation or sick day.

Why does pushing yourself to your limits, just to get that nod from your boss or a “thanks” in an email reply when you send over the final presentation deck, feel like success to you? Because we’ve subconsciously made our lives a competition and who has time to rest when everyone else is whizzing by you to cross an imaginary finish line before you? As Nils von Heijne says in her Medium article, “In any competition, people compete because they either love winning or fear losing. In the competition-based definition of life success, most of us just don’t want to lose.”

Our (perceived) lack of time

“Sure, rest sounds amazing, but where in the world will I find the time for that?”

Was that one of the first thoughts that popped into your mind when you read the title of this blog? Well, you’re not alone. In a 2017 study, it was determined that 41% of respondents felt like they just didn’t have time in their lives to do the things they wanted to. And that 41% has probably grown in the four years since that study.

But do you really lack the time? Or do you just think that lowly of rest that it doesn’t warrant a time slot on your to-do list each day? The less important we think rest is, the more desperately we actually need it. If your days are so packed full of meetings, appointments, calls, and running around that the notion of taking five minutes to be still threatens to upset the balance of your universe…Houston, we have a problem.

Our incorrect definition of rest

The biggest reason why you might feel guilty about resting? You have the wrong idea of what rest is. If you want to be technical, the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of rest is this: “a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities.” (source) The definition then goes on to say that rest is:

Did you catch that last part? Rest can be used for support. How often have you felt like you were flailing around in a sea of endlessness, just waiting for a moment to catch your breath? How often have you gotten to the end of your day and felt like you accomplished nothing, even though you spent nearly every waking moment in motion? Sounds like it’s time for some supportive rest in your life.

Our reason to rest

If you’re living your life (consciously or unconsciously) to impress others and live off of their praise, here is one very important thing for you to understand: God is the only one you should be concerned with impressing, and He doesn’t even want to be impressed by you. What He wants is for you to love Him, follow Him, and honor Him by being a good steward of everything He’s given you. And guess what? YOU are something that He has given you.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Psalm 127:2

God created us with the ability to rest, to sleep, to benefit from rejuvenation. We weren’t created as tireless robots, ticking away every percentage of our battery life running at full-speed. We are human and we are finite. We need rest, just as much as we need air and food.

So what is rest? Rest is simply a break from motion. Take a five-minute walk in between calls. Listen to an audiobook while you’re picking up your groceries or folding laundry. Call your friend or family member to just talk about each other’s days for a few minutes. Read a devotional while drinking your morning coffee or taking your lunch break. (We wrote a devotional specifically for busy women in the workplace that you can order here!)

Stop viewing rest as a luxury and start viewing it as a necessity. You don’t have to sacrifice something in your schedule to make room for rest; instead, find ways to integrate rest into that schedule. When you start resting, you will find your work performance improving (read this Forbes article if you need more convincing), your personal life improving, and your spiritual walk improving. Now doesn’t that sound refreshing?