Feeling guilty when not working

Feeling guilty when not working

feeling guilty when not working is one of the irrational behaviors. Although social pressure requires you to work tirelessly, rest is also an aspect that must be valued and preserved.

Feeling guilty when not working

Last update: July 26, 2022

We live in an age characterized by speed, hyperproductivity and an obsession with success. Adhering to these patterns, consciously or not, involves some exposure to stress. Living under pressure, with the thought that we never try hard enough, can lead to feeling guilty when not working.



This idea is nothing more than a distortion of reality. And it is precisely at the origin of that sense of anxiety that assails us when we do not adapt to the imposed model, based on productivity.

After all, such thinking only fuels the conditioning that tends to normalize the tendency to feel guilty when not working.

“People's drive to work harder is entirely subjective. Overworking can dull emotions differently. Sometimes the extra work is used to reduce depression, anger, envy or sexuality ”.

-Arlie Russell Hochschild-

Feeling Guilty When Not Working: Why?

Expressions such as "time is money", "optimize time", "do not waste time" are by no means innocent. They are the fuel of widespread thought, which incessantly tries to feed itself with all possible tools. Which is why, in a way, it's normal to feel guilty when you're not working.

We are subject to strong conditioning, that is that time is spent doing something useful. However, nowadays we are starting to recognize that productivity is not always the high road.


We feel guilty if we rest, when we believe we have transgressed a "sacred" norm. We must not forget, however, that the rules are legitimate when they promote well-being. Otherwise, they become the expression of a blind, self-destructive obedience, which is perhaps worth reconsidering.


Moreover, often we work too hard to avoid facing our problems. Being always busy, in fact, prevents us from dealing with the less pleasant aspects of our existence.

The role of the surrounding environment

What may be considered an error for one culture may not be for another. And this also applies to the social, political or family context. In other words, a norm is only a point of view about something, but it is not the only one nor necessarily the best.

Hence the need to be critical of the norm, to deepen its meaning, real necessity and value. Currently, creative idleness means any activity motivated by a personal interest for growth, outside the professional context.

However, in ancient Greece it indicated the time dedicated, especially by philosophers, to the reflection on the important issues of life; such as those related to society, art, health or politics, among others.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that when responsible people exercise their freedom, the best results are achieved. In other words, it is desirable to act independently and out of the conditioning linked to fears or prejudices.

The fact of feeling guilty when resting, in most cases, expresses a strong external conditioning.

A vicious circle that feeds itself indefinitely

According to the World Health Organization, stress is a real epidemic. This can be partly explained by the fact that being constantly busy has become obsessive behavior. We mistakenly believe we can be better off applying this rule.



Some people do not limit themselves to unreasonable expectations of themselves, but also expect the same from others. Add to this the fact that even the way you rest has become something standardized and regimented.


While the ideal is to take a break to be alone with yourself, to get bored or to engage in simple and even useless activities.

Otherwise, this compulsive behavior can lead, sooner or later, to experiencing feelings of anxiety and constant stress. According to some studies, over 70% of people give up the opportunities for physical socialization, to devote themselves to something "more productive".

Stop feeling guilty when you are not working

The frantic race towards "perfection" often makes us forget that rest is necessary for physical and mental health. The sense of guilt related to rest is often linked to the fetish of economic fulfillment, even in moments of free time.

Experts say rest is actually necessary to be creative and even more productive. In addition, they emphasize the benefits of meditation and contact with nature.

A break away from the screens allows us to experience a more genuine reality. A nap or a moment dedicated to meditation can make us take a different perspective of the world and living in it.


When people force themselves to work for many hours to avoid feeling guilty for wasted time, paradoxically, they make less money.

Not getting enough rest can lead to exhaustion, which is the result of exceeding the most reasonable limits. Rest is a biological and psychological need which allows us to perform any activity in the best possible way and is also the only way to balance the burdens of everyday life.

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