5 Guilt-Free Ways Even An Overachiever Like You Can Relax

How to relax — without feeling lazy.

How To Relax (Without Guilt!) When You're An Overachiever Using 5 Meditation Techniques & Mindfulness Exercises getty

You thrive on pressure and take pride in how productive you are, no matter how busy work (and life) gets. As an overachiever, your efficiency and reliability make you a go-to at work for all things difficult or time-sensitive.

The problem is that your overachieving ways are starting to take a toll. Although you know you should relax more often, you’re not sure how to relax without guilt.

Not only is it difficult to find time for relaxing activities, like meditation techniques and mindfulness exercises, but, as an overachiever, doing nothing leaves you feeling guilty, lazy and unproductive. And that prevents you from truly being able to relax, even when there's time for it.


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As an overachiever, you value hard work, efficiency, and productivity. And that’s exactly why you have so much trouble taking time for relaxation.

So your first order of business is to get to a place where you’ve accepted that relaxation is important. You’ll never prioritize it or learn how to relax without guilt if you don’t buy into the concept in the first place.


So, how can you get past feeling guilty, lazy and unproductive when taking a break or some time to relax?

The answer is simple: Acquaint yourself with the research.

Studies show that periods of renewal and relaxation help to increase productivity and encourage creative thinking. In fact, continually working on a task or project without pause has actually been shown to inhibit your ability to think creatively.

This means that there’s a productive purpose for downtime. By taking time for renewal and relaxation, you’ll be more effective in your work. And you’ll make it much more likely that your high-level performance will be sustainable, too.


Here are 5 guilt-free ways for overachievers to relax using meditation techniques and mindfulness exercises.

1. Practice mindfulness meditation.

If you've yet to try meditation (and even if you have, but it didn't take), it's time to give mindfulness meditation a try. The point of mindfully meditating is to give your brain a mental rest. Moreover, mindfulness meditation exercises have been proven to:

And the best part is that you don’t need to devote a lot of time to it. You can get started with just 5-10 minutes of meditation per day. (That’s what I do, and I've seen serious benefits from my short practices).

If you’ve never meditated before or aren’t sure how to mindfully meditate, here is a great resource on how (and why) to get started.


2. Weave small mental breaks into your daily routine.

It's difficult to take large chunks of time for relaxation, especially when at work. But the good news is that short breaks can do you a world of good, especially when work is crazy-busy.

Here's how to do it:

  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how much time you have (this will ensure that time won't get away from you and keep you from stressing over it).
  • Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths in and out of your nose.
  • Get up out of your chair to stretch and walk around for a few minutes. This is a must. You can go grab a coffee, tea, or water (or walk up and down the stairs in your office).
  • Come back to your desk and take a few more deep breaths, followed by a quick affirmation that "you've got this and are ready to continue". You can determine what you want to say, just be sure to say something positive yet believable before going back to work.

Taking these quick mental breaks will help you start making mental relaxation a daily habit. And once they become a habit and you start seeing the benefits from your breaks, you'll find it easier to take longer relaxation breaks during weekends and vacation time.

3. Make rest and relaxation a goal.

To help make relaxation a priority, set it as a goal. This is a bit of a Jedi-mind trick, but it works for those of us goal-oriented, high-achievers.


For this to work, be sure to:

  • Get clear around the purpose for relaxing and make that part of your goal.
  • Be specific around how you'll measure your success.

For example, let's say that the purpose for your new relaxation goal is so that you'll have more energy. That's not specific enough nor is it tied to anything purposeful.

However, having more energy allows you to take on an additional work project that could skyrocket your career or be more present at night when spending time with your spouse and kids. It's tied to something with more meaning and specificity.

Re-framing your relaxation as a goal — and connecting it to the bigger, more meaningful reasons you want to relax more in the first place — will help you to focus on the benefits you're getting out of it, as opposed to focusing on being lazy.


Plus, you’ll be turning something you feel that you should do into something you must do, therefore changing your motivation for doing it.

4. Re-train your brain to be more positive.

People who are more naturally positive have less stress and therefore are more naturally relaxed. But you don't have to be born this way to take advantage of the positivity effect.

You can train your brain to think more positively by:

  • Practicing daily gratitude: Every night list 3-5 things that you’re thankful for that day. Be specific and look for different little things every day.
  • Practicing random acts of kindness: Give a compliment, find a new way to be kind to someone (even a stranger), and/or express your appreciation for someone every day. Not only does this increase your own optimism and empathy levels, but it will also have a ripple effect — on both those who you're kind to and those who see you do it.
  • Changing your perspective around menial tasks: When doing something boring or menial (or even stressful), instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the tasks, focus on the benefits of doing the task. For example, while folding laundry, think about how good the warmth of the clothes feel and/or how happy you'll be once they're all folded, organized, and put away.

Is it that simple? Yep.


5. Disconnect on a regular basis.

It’s imperative that you take regular breaks from your email, social media, and even your phone.

Disconnecting regularly means taking:

  • Small daily breaks away, such as during dinner time with the family.
  • Larger breaks for a few hours at a time over the weekends and sometimes in the evenings.
  • Even larger breaks, such an entire day or more, during vacation or the holidays.

Trust me when I tell you that the world will not go into self-destruct mode without you for these short periods of time — even if you're in a client-driven business. To ensure you truly unplug, schedule daily disconnect times, such as during your morning and evening rituals or meal times.

For example:

  • Disconnect one hour before going to bed. Or, if that’s not always possible, do it at least 30 minutes ahead of time.
  • Schedule quarterly disconnection weekends. (Yes, disconnect for the entire weekend!)
  • Schedule mandatory disconnection days during vacations.

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Still, no matter how much you buy into the importance of relaxing, it’s still difficult to do it. Life gets busy and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of “emergencies” that come up on a daily basis.

Here are 4 tips to help you prioritize relaxation no matter what’s going on in life.


1. Use your calendar to schedule your relaxation time.

There's something about setting aside time in your calendar that makes you more likely to do it. So, set aside time in your calendar for both short daily mental breaks and for larger relaxation periods. And then, be sure to check and follow your calendar.

2. Create simple daily rituals or routines.

Create several simple and easy routines that are designed to help you relax, get focused, and be more peacefully alert.

I recommend that you have, at a minimum:

  • A morning routine that's designed to help you get motivated and focused for the day ahead.
  • An evening routine that's designed to help you ditch any stress from the day and relax so that you get optimum sleep.
  • A go-to routine designed to help you de-stress when you start to feel overwhelmed at work.

None of these rituals take long and all could be done in as little as 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Differentiate between what's simply urgent vs. what’s truly important.

There's nothing worse than spending your time on a bunch of stuff that's not all that important simply because it feels urgent. But here's the thing: Something that’s urgent isn’t necessarily the same thing as important.

If you find that you’re often jumping from one emergency to another, it’s time to step back and re-think whether these urgent items are truly important (because many of them likely aren't). The biggest urgent, yet unimportant, time-wasters are emails, phone calls, and interruptions from co-workers.

4. Block your time.

This is something I had to learn the hard way several years into my legal career thanks to a partner I worked for. I was having difficulty getting a project finished because of constant interruptions via email and phone calls from clients.


She convinced me to schedule blocks of time for uninterrupted work and blocks of time to check and reply to emails and phone calls. And it worked like a charm. Not only was I able to get my work done, but I was surprised with how much more responsive I was able to be in respect of my emails and phone calls when I had time dedicated specifically to these tasks.

Now that you have plenty of new ways to prioritize relaxation and know how to relax without guilt, it’s time to get started. Make relaxation time your new secret weapon so that you can become a productivity powerhouse and make your successes sustainable.

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Heather Moulder is an executive career and life coach, speaker, former attorney, and founder of Course Correction Coaching who helps high-achieving female professionals create a balanced life while enjoying sustainable career success without all the stress. Join Heather's newsletter ;for expert tips and strategies on how to have a life full of career and personal success that feels balanced, fulfilling, and fun or visit her website to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.