As busy people who struggle with the daily responsibilities of work, family and self-care, we often find ourselves over-stretched, frustrated, and unable able to accomplish all we'd intended. If we aren’t careful, we can be really hard on ourselves and allow negative self-talk to overcome us.
However, once we can learn to "think outside the box" and realize that we (and others) are doing the best we can with the best intentions we have, then we can begin to rid ourselves of the guilt and move forward with positive changes.
Of course, feeling guilty about something you did that was harmful to someone else can be useful in that it can give you the information to make amends. But when guilt is triggered by perceptions of what others may think, or what we think we "should" be doing, it can be harmful. Feeling guilty can be toxic to your body, mind and spirit. It blocks us from experiencing growth and transformation. Chronic negativity can even lead to disease.
Here are some ways to get rid of guilt:
1. Don’t "should"on yourself.
Focusing on the I should do this or I should have done that sets you up for being self-critical. When you "should" on yourself, you are judging yourself. When you judge yourself, you are limiting all of your potential to grow and think openly.
We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and use those experiences as tools for change. Instead of getting caught up in the "shoulds," think of ways that you can learn to adjust your way of thinking. Start by letting go of the thoughts that may not even be beneficial to you. Where did those thoughts develop? What can you do or say to challenge those thoughts?
2. Practice positive affirmations.
Since guilt can affect your physical, emotional and spiritual health, a gentle way to remedy the effects is by practicing positive affirmations. Keeping your affirmations in present tense helps you stay in the present moment, and using “I am” makes the statement powerful and personal.
I like to say my positive affirmations right after I wake up while I am still in bed. It gives me positive thoughts at the beginning of the day. Here is one that gives me a sense of peacefulness and harmony for the rest of the day:
I am healthy and prosperous, and I am grateful for all good things in my life, and I am accepting of all abundant things coming into my life.
3. Start a Journal.
One way of releasing guilt is by expressing your feelings in a journal and actually seeing your thoughts on paper. Journaling is a wonderful method of visualizing what's on your mind and also going back to it later to remind yourself how far you’ve come along.
I had a client who lost 50 pounds in a year but was disappointed in herself because she'd planned to lose 60 pounds in that time. Instead of focusing on all the positive change, she was stuck on the thought that she hadn't lost those ten pounds.
However, after re-reading her journal, she realized that she'd come a long way with her goals and was able to reward herself for her improved health and dedication.
4. Focus on Quality and not Quantity.
When my girls were younger, I often experienced mom guilt and told myself that I "should" be home with them instead of going to the gym. One day, I finally gave in to the guilt and decided to stay home with the girls instead of exercising.
That evening, one of my daughters asked me, “Mommy, can you go to the gym today?”
She'd noticed I was irritable and tired, and would have preferred that I go to the gym instead of staying home and not having quality time with her.
It benefited all of us when I decided to let go of the guilt! Enjoy the present moments and the quality of what you are experiencing.
5. Forgive yourself.
It is essential to forgive yourself and others in order to release your guilt and decide to not allow it to suffocate you and your future opportunities.
Forgiveness is not the same as acceptance of the hurt. It's about taking care of yourself so that you can move forward with your life without being controlled by the guilt or the person who has hurt you.
Forgiveness is key to allowing yourself to move forward with your life in a positive direction. When you don’t forgive yourself, you are not able to forgive others. So, start forgiving yourself and know that just being human means that you have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.
Releasing your guilt and finding ways to leave the past behind, learning from your experiences and moving forward in a healing direction can enhance your physical, emotional and spiritual health.