Here are some common reasons that fuel guilt and prevent taking time off … and some related questions I consider to help me loosen up those fear-inducing beliefs:

  1. People are relying on me, and if I don’t deliver, my customers or users or co-workers will be disappointed or worse, leave.

    Q: Could I find a creative ways to make it easy to step away?

    Could I adjust expectations or propose a compromise? Do I recognize the opportunities I might create while I’m out for others to step up and grow? Is the risk really as big as I’m worried it might be? If the risk is justifiably large, what are the chances my taking time would change that outcome? Will worrying change any of this? Can I see possibilities that come after the catastrophe my brain is imagining might happen?

  2. If I’m not working on a thing, someone else will. They may take my place or get my potential customers or get ahead instead of me.

    Q: Is this the only available chance or option?

    Do I need to get ahead before someone else does? Can I trust that there’s enough to go around? Will working more create the fairness I wish existed already? Do I value myself where I’m at right now? Do I recognize the value in all of my life’s pursuits and not just work? What other options and chances are there already? What other options and chances can I make?

  3. I want to help, not put even more load on my colleagues.

    Q: Am I judging the reason I want to take time off as something less worthy than helping out?

    Would I support my colleagues in taking time off for the same reason, and can I do that for myself? What value do I place on taking care of myself or having some restorative recharge time or spending time on other interests, and why are those less valuable than work? If I needed emergency surgery, I trust that things would work out one way or another… do I need an urgent situation for it to be ok to take time off, or can I decide that whatever my reasons for taking time off are, I can trust things will work out one way or another?

  4. I don’t want to be selfish or have anyone think I have a poor work ethic.

    Q: Am I truly selfish? Do I really have a poor work ethic?

    If I do think so, how do I want to work on that? If I don’t think so, is it ok for others to be wrong about me? If there are some people that I worry more about what they think, do I want to do something to help manage their expectations? If they are going to think whatever they’re going to think (oddly enough, sometimes we can’t control what people think!), can I figure out how to be ok anyway? Try as I might, I can’t control many situations either, so can I also figure out how to be ok when the situation goes as it will?

  5. There’s way too much to do, and it will be worse when I get back so what’s the point.

    Q: In what ways could things be better when I get back?

    And in what ways could other parts of my life outside of work be better? Are there options I can thank of to set myself up for a smooth re-entry? What parts of work do I enjoy and would be eager to return to? Is there anything that I am doing that doesn’t contribute to my top priorities, the things I am committed to doing no matter what, and could I let them go?

The world needs more people like us who are willing to step up and take care of ourselves and our friends and families, and work and learn and be amazing humans. We must create that space, and support others in recognizing the value in everything we all do, not just work.

The guilt around taking time off work is absolutely normal. Let’s go all in to make a better way… one day off at a time.