Someone recently asked me, “how do you shake off the guilt when you stop and relax”?

A very good question that got me thinking…

I’d posted a message on my Facebook page from Action for Happiness “Stop the Glorification of Busy” with the advice “It’s OK to give yourself permission to stop and do nothing. In fact it’s ESSENTIAL for your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. So go on … be a radical and give yourself time just to be…”

But yes, it’s one thing having time to relax, it’s quite another allowing yourself to relax isn’t it?

The ever-present to-do list

We finally allow ourselves some quiet me-time to chill out or we go out and do something we love, but this precious self-care time is overwhelmed by that nagging feeling of guilt about what we could  or “should” be doing instead (the jobs around the house, the to-do list, the emails to catch-up on, the phone calls to make…).

The guilt can make the relaxation time a trial and even more stressful than if you’d just carried on as normal juggling a hundred balls in the air at the same time and never giving yourself a break!

Release the guilt

Now, guilt can be a habit. So let’s begin by asking yourself this question:

1. Why am I feeling guilty? Where’s it coming from? Is it from messages you were given from upbringing, family, society? (There’s strong social-conditioning that women in particular should do everything for everyone and look after themselves last, if at all). Are these feelings of guilt really “your” thoughts?

Any “aha” moments there? Does this help to release the guilt at all?

2. No? Then next try this.  Feel into the guilt and notice the effect it has on your body. Actually let it in. Perhaps you might notice a tightness in the stomach or throat for example. Emotions have a physical effect. You can help to release the grip of the emotion or thoughts by using techniques to release the physical effect.

So, wherever you feel the physical manifestations of the guilt try breathing out to invite the tension or holding to release it. You might like to imagine those areas filling with healing light.

Get moving: stretch, twist, move the area which is holding the guilt. Move it to let it go.

3. Next, use your awareness to release the grip of guilt. Acknowledge the feelings of guilt and imagine you’re stepping back from them … keep stepping back in your mind, one step at a time. And feel the guilt is becoming more and more distant until you can no longer see it or feel it.

4. And once you’ve tried these ask yourself this fundamental question:

Which brings me more joy?

The chance to relax or ticking off the to-do list?  Doing jobs around the house? Or giving yourself some much-deserved me-time?

I’d recommend doing what brings you joy every time! (…This is why my house is always in need of a dust, ha ha!)

And, if you need it, I’m here to give you permission to relax.

Permission to relax

So, I’ve written a permission slip to excuse you from the to-do list for as long as you need. Save it. Print it out. Put it in your pocket.

You have permission to relax. You NEED to relax. If you don’t you’ll end up running on empty and burning yourself out – knackered, overwhelmed and no good to anybody, least of all yourself!

So take this permission slip and do something good just for you.

Go for a walk. Book a massage. Meditate. Curl up on the sofa and read a book. Go away for the day just by yourself and do something you love.  Put some music on and dance around the room (and don’t care about what the neighbours think). Buy yourself some flowers. Go and stare at the clouds. Hug a tree.

Choose joy and inner peace lovely one, because you deserve it.


Do you get relaxation guilt? (And how to let it go)
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