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I feel guilty...enjoying myself

It was heartening to hear the Staff Wellbeing and Resilience program participants report that they were feeling the benefits after only two weeks of creative pursuits around the table. One said “I’ve been waiting all day for this time to myself, to fully relax and reflect”. Then another piped up, “I know, but then I start to feel guilty that I am enjoying myself while there is still work to be done and others don’t have this same opportunity”.

This all got me thinking about how we are so programmed to go, go go, do, do, do. And how we are often measured at work by how far we can push ourselves, rather than how productive we are.

Why is it the research is clear that taking breaks and disconnecting from work is not only essential, but it’s good for your health, wellbeing, your productivity, your creativity, your longevity. And yet the false logic in many workplaces is to sacrifice this for the being responsive 24/7 even while on a vacation, lunch at the desk, or no lunch at all, emails at 2am,3am, and 4am in the morning or careening from one meeting to the next for 8 hours straight.

Seriously and we wonder why burnout is at an all-time high? In 2018 an Australian study showed 31% of Australian workers were suffering from unsustainable workplace stress. Another revealed that 92% of serious mental health concerns in the workplace are attributed to work-related stressors. The issue is when stress reaches an all time high, just as in burnout you can be assured it will be harder to regulate emotions like sadness, anger, and guilt, which may result in panic attacks, anger outbursts, and substance use.

In 2019 the WHO added burnout to its International Classification of Diseases. There’s a reason for this. It can help to remove the stigma, help draw attention to how common it is, remove the incorrect assumption that those who have it don’t need occupational support. While organisations have to take some responsibility so to do each of us.

A challenge can be the unregulated emotion of guilt can trap us into thinking we don’t deserve a break and trap us into overstretching ourselves and working harder. Which brings me back to the issue of disconnecting. Emma Seppala wrote a great article about the importance of taking breaks, mini breaks and micro breaks. And with restrictions in place that curtail our more adventurous vacationing, this advice can be useful.

So yes there are things we can do to create breaks in our hours, days, weeks and lives. But it is also so wonderful to work with organisations that also see the value in creating breaks in people's day and allowing them to attend staff wellbeing and resilience programs that harnesses the power of creativity. I for one am a huge fan.


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