Relaxation Guilt

So, you know that expression, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead?” Yah well, it’s this expression that has pretty much sent me into overdrive. I look at my peers around me, and many of them live by this attitude. The husbands are A athletes, cyclists, skiers. The wives are tennis players, exercisers etc… (and so are their kids, by the way). They are from this mindset– I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. They Go Go Go. Hard. They are in words of Charlie Sheen, Winning.

And then there’s me… I guess somewhere in the middle– an A player or flat out D player, on any given day.

Relaxation Guilt

Monday comes around every seven days, just as it did today. It’s back to the regularly scheduled routine. And when I say scheduled, I mean SCHEDULED. Our lives are jam packed with schedules. Our kids’ schedules are “over-scheduled.” Maybe even scheduling sex with your partner is something you’ve resorted to doing in order to stay connected. Life can often feel a lot like a rat race, and the speed in which we move through the days, weeks and months, can start to feel overwhelming.

But here is where this blog post is going. Here is where I sit on the fence: Weekends. Downtime. Unscheduled time. What do you do? How do you pass the time?

I would say, crazy neurotic me, calls her mom (real life therapist) at least once a weekend, to rehash the same old issue: Relaxation Guilt.

The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Mom, it’s already 11:30am, we’re still in pj’s, it’s gorgeous outside, we need to get fresh air and do something productive, but no one wants to move. Everyone’s tired. At what point do I enforce activity, and at what point do I surrender and let everyone hang like vegetables?”

Mom: “Let everyone relax and regroup. The weeks are crazy, nothing wrong with laying low and letting the kids enjoy.”

Me: ” Yah but, they’re indoors all week and I feel like we should be productive. I feel guilty when we sit around and do nothing.”

Relaxation Guilt

And so the back and forth– her trying to tell me, if the inactivity bothers me so much, get up and get moving–  which we do of course. There’s usually hockey or skiing to get to. But the truth is, if we DON’T have a scheduled activity like hockey, or skiing, I have a hard time relaxing and regrouping. I know we need it, but I feel like we should be doing something productive. Is it my craziness or do you feel the same way? Judging from the people I interviewed for this blog post, many of you also suffer with the inability to take the time, and JUST BE. Many of you complained about not being able to relax without feeling guilty.

There is a such a strong temptation to fill our lives, (and our kids’ lives) with activities, so that no time is wasted. We’ve become very efficient at being efficient. In fact, at a recent parenting conference I attended, many mom are ticked off by hearing, “I’m bored,” from their children. I know I never complained I was bored growing up. But the facilitator explained the importance of being bored. Kids today don’t have enough boredom, and so when there’s downtime, they literally don’t know what to do with themselves. We adults are guilty of it it too. However, there is nothing wrong with a little every now and then– for anyone.

Relaxation Guilt

It’s truly a fine line.  So if you want to learn how to relax without feeling guilty, here are some tips:

  1. Commit your schedule to relaxing. Seriously,  just as you’ve pencilled in your son’s karate class at 9am, block off a chunk of time Saturday afternoon, for example, for doing nothing. Commit to relaxing.
  2. Make a point of being physically active with your family early in the weekend if possible: If you’re like me, and feel the guilt from lying around (even though we know everyone deserves downtime), do something active as a family on Saturday morning, for example, so you’ve got your fresh air and activity out of the way, squashing guilt to make room for couch time.
  3. Understand your body REQUIRES downtime. Our bodies– our physical and mental bodies are not meant to be physically active and under stress 24/7. That is why sleep is so imperative to good health. When our body gets the rest and downtime it requires, it gets refueled for creativity. Understand R & R is mandatory for good health– and this will decrease feelings of guilt.
  4. Exercise without “rules.” On the weekends, go with the attitude that “activity is activity.” Try and lax up on the rules. We were feeling lazy this weekend, so for us, no rules meant going in the driveway and picking up a hockey game with the neighbors. We did nothing but hang out in the driveway all day Saturday. But we did it guilt free, knowing we were going skiing on Sunday. Free play is for everyone– board games, cards, relaxing, shooting hoops with your son, no rules.
  5. Accept that you are human and always doing the best you can in any moment, under any given circumstance. When it all feels like too much- it usually means it is. That is when surrender is the best answer, and that is when you must just “be.” When writers experience writer’s block, when a pregnant woman is put on bed-rest, when an athlete tears a muscle, when creativity juices stop flowing, it’s one’s body telling them it’s just all too much at that given moment. When this happens, just stop. There’s always tomorrow.


Tell us, do you feel guilty for relaxing? Are you on the fence about how much down time is too much? How much activity do you do on the weekends? Any tips you’d like to share with our community about balancing it all?

  1. Erica it was like you were telling the story of my life. Why is it that we can’t just take a break without feeling guilty? Great tips. Thanks for bringing to the spotlight to something I struggle with all the time!

  2. I don’t suffer from relaxation guilt at all!!! I work my ass off during the week and am happy to sit on it during the weekends. 🙂

  3. Definitely guilty of relaxation guilt!

    I think another tip on learning to relax is to realize that, in a family situation, it’s almost impossible to keep everyone happy at the same time.

    Though we often do activities as a family on weekends, spending the whole time doing everything together usually results in everyone going bananas.

    Sometimes it’s better to know when to split up and have one parent take one child for one-on-one time, or for parents to give each other breaks to go out on their own.

  4. Totally the story of my life! As I battle with trying to figure out the source of my migraines (tension or stress or possibly a combination of the two) I realize I’m overbooked and overwhelmed all the time. I think sometimes if its “fun” that means it doesn’t bring its own batch of stress. But it does… good (PTA, little league, working on my masters, hosting ladies dinners) or bad (WORK!) I feel like I must keep going because I am in my early 30s, raising an energetic 9 year old boy and I’m worried if I stop too long I won’t be able to get up again. Irrational maybe but its what drives this hectic schedule. Scheduling down time is perfect….

  5. Do I feel guilty about relaxing? Absolutely not. But it took two years of living in Finland to find this place. When I first moved there the slower pace drove me crazy. I wanted to hurry, hurry, hurry. For everything. Then I realized I was rushing to get nowhere. All the things I was giving priority were not important in the big picture of life. I had to consciously let go of the insanity and allow the peace in. I suppose everyone has to find their own method of reevaluating their goals; mine was writing and nature. It was well worth the effort.

  6. I think I’m just beginning to learn to relax and what “relax” really means. Yes, there’s tons of guilt over not being productive and “getting it all done”. I hate that. I hate that I have such high expectations that they always make me fail. Sometimes doing nothing is the best I can do, but it’s hard to admit that.

    Great post! Good advice in there too.

  7. Hi! Great post! I don’t feel guilty about relaxing when I do, but it’s so hard to find the time to “just be”. After I write this I will go to 2 kids ball games, go shopping (not for fun), then go to a party. Sadly, no down time today :-(, but hopefully tomorrow!

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