Many people are dealing with guilt associated with their Coronavirus activities or lack thereof. According to Mindtools.com, there are two kinds of guilt — healthy and unhealthy – and there are ways to address both. But first, it’s important to understand what kind of guilt you’re dealing with.
Healthy guilt is proportionate or rational – a reaction to behaving inappropriately. Maybe you’ve hurt someone or caused a problem that could have been avoided. The guilt is a signal that you should make amends or change your behavior.
Unhealthy guilt is disproportionate, misplaced and irrational – like when you feel guilty over something that’s not your fault or something over which you have no control. For instance, some who are still working while others have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may be feeling a form of survivors’ guilt.
Here are several healthy ways to manage guilt.
- Acknowledge and apologize if you’ve wronged someone. Don’t justify your actions or shift blame. Facing such issues can rectify the situation. If the person doesn’t accept your apology, at least you have taken responsibility for your actions.
- Make amends quickly. Delay can heighten bad feelings and anxiety.
- Change your behavior. Make positive changes that will improve your interaction with others and prevent a repeat of the problem.
- Accept and move on. Once you’ve done everything you can, let the guilt go. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would bestow on a friend who apologized with sincerity.
- Being realistic about what you can control is a first step in managing unhealthy guilt. In fact, list what you can control and the things you can’t. Put aside the things you can’t control. If you’re suffering from survivor’s guilt, know that it’s okay to recognize your good fortune while feeling empathy for others. But taking on the burden of self-sabotaging guilt does no one any good.
- Use positive affirmations to quiet negative self-talk. Try repeating something like, “I did the best I could with the knowledge I had.” You can also look to others for an objective viewpoint of the situations. Sometimes, the wisdom of others can help us see things differently.
- Challenge perfectionism. Are you holding yourself to unrealistic standards? Take time out to reflect and refocus your standards.
- Be Assertive. Guilt can come from someone else putting unrealistic pressures on you or someone manipulating you. Stand up for yourself in these situations – as long as you’re certain you haven’t made any missteps.