Feeling Guilty for Not Doing Anything As An Academic? Don’t.

2020 has been a rough year for almost everyone. With COVID-19 spreading across the globe and lock down precautions keeping people at home, many people have seen a negative impact occur to their mental health. This is also true for academics.

For some people, these unstable times have made it harder to get the motivation to do anything, which leads to the feeling of guilt. It’s okay if sometimes you can’t do as much as you wanted to or planned. Not doing anything does not mean you need to feel guilty.

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This also applies to those who have struggled with feelings of guilt for not being productive all their lives. It’s important to know that you deserve a break sometimes, without the guilt attached.

Lifelong Feelings of Guilt

The reasons people feel guilty when they aren’t doing anything vary from person to person. For some people, they start feeling guilty because they’ve procrastinated till the last moment and have to finish all their work. That’s not for people reading this article. If you’re an academic that’s had a lifelong struggle of feeling guilty for not doing anything at times, the reason’s going to be vastly different.

One reason you might feel guilty about not doing anything is because you’ve trained yourself over the years to feel like you have worth only when you are working towards a goal. This is not true. Everybody has worth, even when they don’t do anything. You are not lesser just because you don’t finish writing that paper for publication today and instead watch some TV. Taking breaks are a necessity of life, so don’t beat yourself up for taking one.

Another reason you might be feeling guilty for not doing anything is because you naturally feel uncomfortable when you aren’t being productive. If you’re such a person, your constant desire to be doing something is great. However, you don’t want to push yourself too hard. If you feel uneasy while sitting somewhere doing nothing, just remember that your body needs to rest sometimes. Taking proper care of your health is just as important.

Guilty Feelings Since COVID-19

The pandemic has brought new experiences and new challenges to people across the globe. Stay at home orders have caused massive amounts of mental and physical health ailments. A lot of people, even PhD students, were essentially put on furlough for months at a time without access to the outdoors.

Some of you might have felt that the monotony of not doing anything day after day was very taxing on your psyche. If you felt like you were in such a situation or are in one right now, just remember that sometimes we don’t really have a choice in being productive or not. If it’s a situation that you don’t have control over, try your best to embrace it.

How to Overcome Feelings of Guilt?

Sometimes reminding yourself you need a break is not enough to stop the feelings of guilt from eating away at you. If you feel still feel overwhelmed after reminding yourself not to feel guilty, there are some other things you can do to keep the emotions at bay.

Pick Up A Hobby

If you’re engaging in your favorite activity instead of doing something “productive”, try picking up a hobby like drawing. While you are still doing something technically, you are doing something for you. Engaging in an activity of your personal choice will let you feel like you’re still productive without engaging in activities that tend to cause stress, like paper writing.

Don’t Overthink It.

Sometimes we make ourselves feel a lot worse about a situation than we need to. While not doing anything is sometimes bad, it is not the end of the world and shouldn’t be the end of yours.

If you find yourself getting really upset about not doing anything, stop and think: is this worth getting this upset about? Is it going to have a long-term negative effect? Once you stop to think about how you’re feeling, you should be able to calm down and avoid heavy feelings of guilt.

Here is another great video that you should watch about feeling guilty:

Remember to Love Yourself.

Maybe you really should have kept working on your paper instead of taking a break. Maybe there are a hundred other things you could be doing that are more productive right now. Even if that’s true, taking care of yourself is the most important. If you need to take a break, take a break and remind yourself that taking this break is what’s best for you.

If you’re being forced to not do anything, remind yourself that your current situation does not make you worth less or less important. When you find yourself feeling guilty for not doing anything, remember that sometimes the best way to love yourself is through taking completely unproductive leisure time.

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