Do you feel guilty when you take time for yourself?

by Apr 14, 2016Making changes

When I settled down at my desk this morning to start work I just couldn’t focus. I’d slept badly and couldn’t concentrate on anything. I could have struggled on and turned out some below par work eventually but instead I chose to go and sit at my keyboard for a while and lose myself in my music.

Playing it out made all the difference. I returned to my desk with more clarity and willing, applied myself and got stuff done.

I did a little survey in various Facebook groups last week which went something like this:

What is the biggest thing that gets in the way of you finding your little bit of peace and quiet?

  1. Time
  2. Kids
  3. Work
  4. Something else

Time was the most popular choice (with kids often cited as the reason for not having the time!) but quite a few of the respondents added that they just weren’t very good at making the time.

We all lead busy lives. We all have to do lists as long as your arm whether they’re written down on a scrap of paper, stored mentally or input into an app that will keep nagging until they’re done.

Making Time For Me is not usually on the list.

We rush around tending to everyone else’s needs  – partners’, kids’, bosses’ – and dismiss our own needs as not being important enough to schedule time for. Part of the reason we do this is because we feel guilty when we stop for a while so we can concentrate on ourselves.

Guilt. It’s a powerful emotion, and not a very pleasant one.

No wonder we avoid it when we can.


It is possible to tame the guilt monster and beat it into submission.

If you keep giving and giving your time, energy and emotional resources to everyone else there will come a time in the not too distant future where your well will run dry and you will be completely depleted.

Cue humongous breakdown with much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Partners, kids and bosses have no idea what to do or say in response – the person they would normally turn to for help in these situations is too busy wailing and gnashing teeth!!

Just for a moment, pretend you’re a car.

Stay with me.

You’re responsible for getting the children to school, your partner to work, your parents to see their grandchildren. You have to do it all as quickly, safely, efficiently and economically as possible.

You’re given fuel regularly but an oil change and a service only once in a blue moon.

One day, the slight niggly noise you’ve been making for a while turns into a big, thumping noise, then BANG! You’re not going anywhere anytime soon. The kids are at school, waiting to be picked up. Your partner has an important business meeting this evening. Your parents are really looking forward to spending the day with you tomorrow. You’ve let them all down.

What if you’d listened to the slight niggly noise and done something about it? It probably wouldn’t have taken long and then you’d have been as right as rain rather than sat steaming on the side of the road waiting for breakdown assistance.

See what I’m getting at?

If you can recognise that you’re getting snappy with everyone, if you’re feeling on edge, tired and jaded, then you can take steps to avoid a meltdown. (If you’re making a slight niggly noise you might want to make an appointment to see a doctor!)

Taking a little time for yourself and allowing a bit of rejuvenation is nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, you have more reason to feel guilty if you DON’T. How can you feel guilty about making sure that you get the TLC you need so that the linchpin the machine relies on doesn’t break?

It might be that you just need half an hour to sit and read a magazine uninterrupted, or an hour to go and lift weights at the gym, or a ridiculously early night. It might be as simple as a cup of your favourite herbal tea while you listen to some soothing music.

Whatever it is that nourishes your soul, DO IT.


Schedule it into the family calendar. Tell your partner, kids and boss how much they will benefit from you having this time to recharge. It’s actually a good lesson to teach your children too, that self-care is important and time should be made for it.

Don’t wait until you’re sat on the side of the road steaming.


(Previously published on Feb 2, 2015.)