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How to Handle Your Guilt

These six strategies will help relieve the pressure you may feel.

By Nancy F. Smith
Yellow flowers with an apology noteMarcus Nilsson

Strategy 4: Give Yourself Credit

Remind yourself that what you did imperfectly is just part of being human, says Leary. Tell yourself, Everybody is late from time to time. Or, Everybody says something stupid on occasion. That the behavior isn’t unique to you doesn’t make it OK, but it’s reason enough to stop beating yourself up about it.

Try keeping a journal of all the good things that you’ve done. “Typically, people who are susceptible to guilt have a hard time giving themselves credit for anything,” says Hallowell. So whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by guilt, stop and list five things you’ve done that are praiseworthy, whether they are small or large.

Strategy 5: Break a Sweat

Instead of sitting around in a funk, go for a run, a bicycle ride, or a swim, or play a few sets of tennis. “Working out is like hitting the reset button on your brain,” says Hallowell. “It’s hard to exercise and feel guilty at the same time.” Granted, this is not a permanent fix for an overwhelming feeling that you aren’t pulling your weight at work or you’re neglecting a friend, but it’s a perfect antidote for smaller, isolated issues that may keep you awake for a night or two.

Strategy 6: Beware of Guilt Trips

Guilt isn’t always something that you load on yourself. Some people (whether they intend to or not) induce guilt in others―often to advance their own agendas.

To avoid falling prey to this, assess whether the other person’s point of view is legitimate and if he or she is taking your needs into account. For example, perhaps your elderly mother doesn’t get out much and loves your visits. But your daily presence will not literally cure what ails her, as she none-too-subtly suggests. If making the long trip to see her every day means you have to neglect your own family and yourself, this is a setup for more guilt. In this case, your mother’s need is legitimate but her representation of it is exaggerated.

Talk to the other person about solutions that work for both of you so no one feels resentment toward the other. And if all else fails, bringing her a batch of cookies (store-bought) always makes things better.

Read More About:Emotional Health

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