A mental health expert has revealed why we feel so bad about going on holiday and tips on how to beat those nagging feelings of guilt. If you’re feeling guilty about taking time off, you’re not the only one with a survey by Perkbox revealing that 66% of us feel the urge to cancel or delay our holidays due to feelings of guilt – even though we’re entitled to 28 days of annual leave! Trainee Integrative Psychotherapist Teodora Ghiur from SupportRoom reveals the reasons why we feel this way, and how to stop ourselves from feeling guilty on those well-deserved days off.

Why do we feel guilty about going on holiday?

We feel bad that we have the privilege

  •  Sometimes we might feel guilty as were enjoying the privilege of a holiday while other people are struggling to pay for basic needs like food and bills.
  • Even when we know we worked hard to earn our holiday, we still cant help thinking about the contrast between us and less fortunate people, especially right now during the cost of living crisis.

We feel unproductive

  • Sometimes these feelings of guilt stem from the deeply-ingrained thought that we should always work towards our goals.
  • This goes back to our childhoods when we were rewarded for effort and accomplishment, so we tie our value as human beings to productivity, hard work, and outstanding results, seeing the money and time we spend on holiday as a bad investment.

It can be hard to give up responsibility

  • It can be hard to relinquish responsibility and control over projects or assignments, and many feel irresponsible taking holiday, with this guilt increasing with the seniority of a role.
  • Perkbox revealed that 92% of C-Suite Executives (think CEOs or COOs) feel holiday guilt, compared to just 57% of those in entry-level positions.

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Holiday guilt isn’t just confined to very long holidays either, with Sasha Hatter, a Client Service Manager from SupportRoom, sharing that she is racked with feelings of guilt and anxiety even though she was taking just a short break:

I always look forward to taking a break as a time to rest and recharge and my mental health and happiness are a huge personal priority. I feel blessed to have as much time off as I do but leading up to the holiday can be quite stressful, trying to get things organised for the rest of the team while I am away.

Then once I am away it would be great, but it is often tricky to switch off, I find I’m always worried about “What’s happening?” or “Am I needed for something urgent?”

Coming back to loads of emails and having to catch up on everything that happened while I was away on holiday, makes it quite daunting to come back towards the end of the holiday.”

3 tips to help you stop feeling guilty and enjoy your holiday

#1 – Realise that a break helps you at work in the long-run

  •  You are never supposed to work 24/7 and without the opportunity to recharge, wind down, and de-stress, you cannot function at your best.
  • You are not doing anyone a service if you are tired, burnt-out, and irritable, so accept that rest is an essential component of achievement and productivity. TOP TIP – To be able to help others, you need to be able to function at your best so carve out some time every day to rest, whether this is having a nap or having 30 minutes to yourself.

#2 – Change your mindset by observing your guilt

  • The first thing to do when feeling guilty about going on holiday is to observe the thoughts appearing in your mind. Do not hold them as true, simply observe them being there. This can go a long way to figuring out exactly why you’re feeling guilty, and help you to change your mindset to something more positive.
  •  Once youve noticed a negative or guilty thought, try to engage the rational part of your mind and reassure yourself that you are worthy of taking time off, then try to reframe these thoughts more rationally e.g. you have earned the right to go on on holiday by being so productive, rather than focusing on the fact you’re not being ‘productive’. TOP TIP – Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Not only will this help you track your progress but it can be great to refer back to when you’re struggling with particularly strong feelings of guilt.

#3 Fully disconnect from work

  •  While it can be difficult, having constant reminders of work while on holiday can easily put you back into that mindset and make those feelings of guilt pop up, so ensure it’s established that you are on holiday and unavailable and that any queries will be answered when you get back.
  •  If you need or want to check in at any point, keep this minimal and stick to a strict schedule – checking and organising your emails once every day can more than suffice.

TOP TIP – If you have a separate work phone or laptop, leave these at home – if not, block yourself from accessing work-related apps or getting notifications

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