10 Self-Care Habits to Stop Feeling Guilty About

Self-care might mean a relaxing massage or splurging on an extra-large sugary coffee drink. You do you. But these self-care habits are about creating protective boundaries and long-term wellness. Check your guilt at the door. This is about taking care of yourself!

10. Needing alone time

If you’re an introvert, this one’s for you. Gone are the days of “introvert” being a dirty word. There is so much information out there now about social exhaustion and needing time to recharge our batteries that this should be the first thing nixed from the guilt list.

Why you’re feeling guilty: It’s easy to equate alone-time with anti-social behavior. You feel like you turn down invitations more than others do, and you’re afraid it hurts your relationships.

Why you need to let it go: If you’re drained right now, let’s be honest, you’re not going to make good company. If you have to turn down an invite, put something on the calendar for later. I like Monday lunch dates because my Sundays are usually low-key. I know I’ll have the social energy available.

Going to bed early.

9. Requiring 8+ Hours of Sleep

We all know we should be getting 8 hours of sleep each night, so why is it so hard to stick up for ourselves around bedtime? You go to a dinner with friends. Dinner turns into drinks. Drinks turn into conversations and next thing you know you’re left with just 3-5 hours of sleep before work starts. Should you relegate your entire social life to Friday and Saturday nights? No way! Set a strict bedtime and call it a night.

Why you’re feeling guilty: It seems like everyone else is able to function just fine on less than 8 hours of sleep, so why can’t you? Besides that, going to bed early is so uncool. Won’t your friends laugh at you? 

Why you need to let it go: Those people who don’t sleep? They’re a rare 1-3% of the population. They may be able to function, but everyone else who does that is miserable. As far as your friends laughing at you, they won’t be laughing when you’re kicking ass with all that energy. 

8. Not keeping your calendar open

This is about setting personal boundaries. I’ve known people who leave open 6 to 12-hour swaths of time on their calendar for friends, coworkers, and family members who are non-committal about making plans. While there are times when that level of flexibility is required, there’s no reason for it to be the norm. You have things to do!

Why you’re feeling guilty: You love your friends. You love your family. You want to be accommodating and understanding. 

Why you need to let it go: Besides the fact that it means you can’t schedule anything else, there’s a chance you’ll end up with nothing on your calendar when the plans switch to a different day. It affects your productivity, your social life, and your schedule. The boundaries you set might be different, but if I don’t hear back concrete plans within a day and a half, I consider my time un-reserved. My friends and family have adapted, and now I get calendar invites to Christmas and birthdays. (I laugh about that, but it’s done wonders for my sanity!)

Grey cat setting the example: doing nothing all day.

7. Doing nothing on your day off

For all the go-getting you do, it’s okay to take a day off. Needing a day to recharge isn’t just for introverts. Maybe this means allowing yourself to take a long meandering walk through the neighborhood. Maybe it means dusting off the old video game console. 

Why you’re feeling guilty: You’ve got a lot on your to-do list and you have goals to meet! If your husband/wife/parent/child/roommate sees you lazing about you’ll never hear the end of it.

Why you need to let it go: Everyone needs a day like this every once in a while. As long as you’re not missing a deadline, whose business is it really?

Man overwhelmed.

6. Asking for more information

Someone has given you a tidbit of information and asked you to respond. You spend the next few hours thinking through every scenario, every loophole, and every possibility so you can give the right answer, only to find out that you went down the wrong rabbit hole and have to rethink the whole thing. It’s okay to ask for more information. Even if it’s your boss! Worst case scenario, they don’t have anything else to give you. Best case scenario, you’ve opened up a conversation that allows you to give a more confident response.

Why you’re feeling guilty: We tend to think that what we get is what we get. This person has come to us for information/advice/decision-making and if we can’t do that, we’re a failure.

Why you need to let it go: Almost no one sits around thinking “what are all the pieces of information Nina needs to know in order to make this decision?” They’re not being intentionally vague. So why can’t you ask for more info? 

5. Referring questions to an expert

It happens all the time. You’re getting good at your job and people start coming to you with their questions. You’re asked about things that are either someone else’s area (you’re just so easy to talk to) or they’re things you haven’t learned yet. So find someone who knows more! No one expects you to have all the answers.

Why you’re feeling guilty: They came to you because they trust you and feel comfortable asking you. You don’t like not having the answer. You want to be the expert.

Why you need to let it go: Asking someone more experienced is a learning opportunity. What you don’t know today you will know tomorrow, and next time you will be able to answer the question. Whoever asked the question still gets the result they wanted, and you haven’t broken any trust by pretending to know what you don’t. Win-win. 

Woman with "Choose Happy" mug.

4. Voicing your preferences

Another way to care for yourself is to make sure you’re heard. It’s one thing to be agreeable, but it’s something else to be a doormat. If you don’t want to go to that new seafood restaurant for lunch, say so. If you’re looking forward to some quiet time instead of happy hour, that’s okay!  

Why you’re feeling guilty: You think that voicing your opinion might be seen as bossy or domineering. Maybe you only have a slight preference, and it’s fine with you if someone else decides where to go for lunch. You wouldn’t want to make it sound like you care too much.

Why you need to let it go: You’re not the only one doing it. Someone else in your group hates seafood and is waiting to see if anyone else feels the same. Not only that, you’re missing out on countless opportunities to have what you want just by asking! Get in the habit of being comfortable with your preferences, even if they’re different. 

3. Needing help

You’ve heard it before. Asking for help is one of the toughest things to do. It’s also one of the best ways to take care of yourself—knowing when you’re in over your head and need someone to pull you out. 

Why you’re feeling guilty: You feel like you should be able to handle this on your own. You think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. You think that being a successful adult is about overcoming every obstacle.

Why you need to let it go: Sometimes it takes a team to get over an obstacle. Sometimes you’ll be the leader. This time you’re not, and that’s okay. The thing is, when we find out that one of our friends is struggling alone because they afraid to ask us for help, it feels awful. Remember that your friends want to help you. They’ll be moved that you trusted them enough to ask.

Angry couple on a park bench.

2. Ending toxic relationships

I once had a friend who would ask me for advice just for an opportunity to let me know how stupid and naïve I was. I had another friend who would invite me out only to disappear half-way through the evening leaving me alone at the bar without a ride. But these were close friends! They were people I connected with on a deep level. It was painful to let them go. The thing about toxic relationships is that they keep pulling you back in. They are loaded with guilt and it’s not easy to get free. 

Why you’re feeling guilty: You care about them. You’ve had beautiful soul-connecting moments with them and you keep hoping to get that back. You want to give them another chance. Again.

Why you need to let it go: They might be going through something. They might have changed. They might have never been the saint you think they were. Whatever the case, the relationship is destroying you. Give them another chance in 5-10 years when they have their shit together.

1. Maintaining your personal integrity

This is about staying true to yourself and your values even when they are in conflict with others. If you say you don’t participate in gossip, don’t participate. If you believe in paternal leave, quit griping about the workplace that doesn’t have it and move! Self-respect is a beautiful thing. You’re the only youyou’ve got, so make sure you’re someone you like.

Why you’re feeling guilty: It’s uncomfortable to stick to your guns or take the moral high ground when others are stooping to a lower level. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort.

Why you need to let it go: Maybe you’ll set a good example for someone else. Maybe no one will care. The question is, do you really want to look back at something you said or did and feel ashamed? 

Have you already taken ownership of your own well-being? How are you practicing self-care? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

—Written by Nina Ottman

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6 thoughts

  1. I love all of these! Self-care is so important, but there’s still somewhat of a stigma about some of the things we need to do to take care of ourselves, and we need to give ourselves permission to take practice self-care without letting the guilt get to us.

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      1. So true! We should absolutely not feel bad for taking care of ourselves. We can’t take care of anything else to our full potential if we can’t even take care of ourselves.

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  2. I especially liked what you said about toxic relationships. There are so many reasons we hold on to them for dear life. Sometimes it’s fear of being alone; even a lousy friend is better than none. Sometimes it’s because we think ending a toxic relationship means we’re saying our friend is a bad person, but you’re right when you say it might simply be that our friend is going through something. We don’t have to go through it with them if it’s sucking all the joy out of us.

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