How To Cope with Guilt at Being Unable to Work

Much is made of our careers. Think how many times you have been at a social event and the first question you are asked is ‘So, what do you do for work?’ If you are unable to work due to illness or injury, it can be easy to feel guilty or less valued. Here is how you can move forward positively and regain your confidence, banishing all guilt once and for all.

Be Honest with Yourself and Others


If you are unable to work because you have suffered illness or injury, be honest about your situation. There is no shame in needing to put your own needs first, so talk openly about what has led you to this point. Whether your change in circumstance is temporary or permanent, you will find that being honest is empowering, and may even be inspirational to someone else.

Be Kind to Yourself

When you have worked hard to build a career it can become a part of your identity. When that is taken away it can feel as though the world as you know it has been irrevocably changed. Allow yourself to experience your emotions – these may range from anger to frustration. Ignoring negative feelings can lead them to grow and take over. Once you have taken time to face your feelings, be kind to yourself. Focus on things that you can enjoy whether that is a walk in the park or a slice of cheesecake. You are allowed to feel happiness. Some people find that in difficult times it helps to keep a gratitude diary to record what is bringing them joy. 

If your mental health is poor or worsening because of your change in circumstances, consider whether therapy sessions could be beneficial. Sometimes talking to someone who is removed from the situation can bring a fresh perspective and, as professionals, they will be able to use their expertise to help you move forward.

Consider Other Options


Depending on your situation, a change in career path could be a viable option. If you have always worked, having time to dwell on your illness or injury can compound an already difficult time. Consider whether there are alternative jobs you can do, whether for a short time or permanently. Having a renewed sense of purpose as well as knowing you are earning your own money can be a confidence boost. Speak to your employer to see if they can accommodate you in a different role or explore new options with different companies. This could be an opportunity to learn new skills and start an exciting new role.

If taking on another role is classed as breach of contract, volunteering your services could be an alternative as well as benefiting your local community.

Get Legal Advice

If you are being made to feel guilty by the company you work for or someone in your workplace, you may consider seeking advice from an employment specialist lawyer. This can feel like a big step, but you have every right to get the opinion of these services if you feel you have been treated unfairly because of your illness or injury. Their impartial advice and expertise can help you decide on your next steps – you can visit them here.

Remind Yourself of What You Can Do


You might be focusing on the parts of your life that have been affected and spending time thinking of the things you can no longer do. Turn this on its head by celebrating everything that you can still manage, whether that be singing along to your favorite songs on the radio or knitting a jumper for the grandkids. Keeping a positive mental attitude will give your mental health a boost as well as helping you remain productive and happy.

Help Others

Part of the reason people feel guilty for not working is that they feel they are letting people down. You can refocus your energies by using the time you would have been supporting people in your job to support others. Depending on your capabilities, this could involve calling an elderly relative who often feels lonely, volunteering at a food bank, or collecting your neighbor’s child from kindergarten. Helping others gives you a boost of feel-good hormones, so it’s a win-win situation for all involved!

Fill Your Time


When you have more time, you might find you are prone to overthinking, which can lead to guilt. Keeping your mind busy can be a great distraction so find ways to entertain yourself when you are at home. Reading is a fabulous option and, if focusing on words on a page is too difficult, there are a wide range of audiobooks available online or from your local library. Puzzles such as jigsaws and sudoku are another great way to pass the time and keep your brain cells active. If you can physically exercise, this could be the perfect time to improve your fitness. Incorporating a walk or run into your daily routine or a yoga session on a weekly basis could have positive health benefits both now and in the future. See it as investing in yourself.

See It as An Opportunity

The unexpected time you have gained can be seized – this is something we all learned during the pandemic. You might not have chosen to have the time you now have, but it can open up opportunities that may not be possible during working hours. For example, you could be able to take your children to school or make the most of daytime deals at your favorite restaurants. This might be the opportunity to take up new hobbies you have always been interested in but have never had time for. Perhaps now is your time to shine!

It is quite common to feel guilty if you are unable to work but being able to forgive yourself and move forward is essential. Trust in the process and remember that all emotions are transient – this too shall pass. 

About Danoline Samson

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