Shedding the big sack of guilt.
Having a mental illness often comes with a huge slab of guilt. Yep. Guilt.
This guilt comes in all shapes and forms, but often comes from the fact that we don’t fulfil our own somewhat impossible ideals.
Cancelled an event due to genuine illness? Let’s add that to your sack of guilt.
Have to let someone down because your car broke down?
Let’s add that to your sack of guilt too.
A day late on delivering something work related – not because you’re rubbish at your job but because you encountered an extra problem that needed solving to complete the task?
You’ve guessed it, you’re incompetent and you need to feel guilty because you can’t deliver.
Need to take a break?
You should add that to your sack of guilt.
Didn’t sleep well so overslept by 30 minutes?
Into the sack that goes.
Can’t sleep and your tossing and turning kept your significant other awake?
You suck, pile that into your sack too.
See the trend here? No? That’s because there isn’t one. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING will and does go into that sack on a daily basis. Even forgetting something during your weekly food shop could end up in that, now extremely heavy, guilt sack.
So how do we offload that guilt? I’ve had many many people tell me that it’s easy, “just don’t feel guilty.” If it was that easy, I’d have shed my guilt and my mental illness a long time ago.
Let’s take a look at 3 key things I’ve been practising to try and stop me putting things in that mental guilt sack.
I cannot express enough how important setting personal boundaries are. (This closely links with point number two.)
These boundaries can be as simple as these examples:
- I’m going to only do x activity for 30 minutes. Any more than that and I feel as though I’ll burnout, underperform and that’ll lead to guilt.
- Fridays are my “no social media days” so if someone messages me on messenger, I will respond to them on Saturday.
Setting reasonable boundaries is actually rather liberating. You’re giving yourself permission to step back, take a break, all without feeling guilty. Guilt that often lingers so much longer than you consciously realise.
Saying no, meaning no, ensuring others respect your boundaries.
If you ask someone to do something for you and they respond “sure, but I won’t be able to get to it until next week as the next two days are slammed and I take a mental health day once a week”; does that make you feel bad, or angry? I doubt it.
Why should this be any different for you? Saying no isn’t necessarily a negative thing. It’s a sign that you respect yourself enough to know whether you are able to do what is asked of you within the timescale it is being asked.
I used to say yes all the time. Regardless of the detriment it had to myself both physically and emotionally. I ended up being asked things that could’ve been completed by the person who asked in the first place. I ended up being taken advantage of. I guess their mentality was “why should I do it when I know if I ask her, she’ll do it and I can do something else with my time.”
Saying yes all the time did me no favours. It piled on the stress, I fell behind in my own personal tasks and the guilt spiralled out of control. This, of course, had a knock-on impact on my mental health which made the guilt grow further. A vicious cycle ensued until I had no other choice but to say no.
I had to ask myself could I do what was asked of me. Was I skilled enough? Did I have the time? Could I deliver in the time allowed? Did it fit in with my family life? Would it impact those around me if I said yes? These questions are universal – it doesn’t matter what you’re being asked, they work for every situation.
Once I started using these, my guilt lowered and I felt more empowered by giving myself, and my time, the respect I sorely needed.
Practising a good self-care routine.
Self care is important. It’s becoming more talked about and that’s imperative to raise awareness of this subject. Self-care is often thought of as “personal hygiene” routines, but that’s not what it’s about at all.
Self care is a deliberate practice in which to aid our physical, mental, and emotional health. It can range from taking a walk, spending time reading, writing, watching a movie, doing some exercise, meditating, journaling – there are lots of examples. We advocate these self-care practices in our Facebook Group and often give some neat self-care suggestions.
Suffice to say, practicing sufficient self-care can alleviate stress, rejuvenate, and thus, lower our guilt.
What self-care do you practice and what does self-care mean to you? Thinking about this topic is taking a huge step in the right direction. Not only will self-care lower your guilt, but it will also help to improve your mood.
Letting go of guilt isn’t going to happen overnight, but with clear boundaries, saying no when appropriate, and practicing self-care, your guilt will reduce.
Guilt is a natural emotion to feel. We all feel it. But when you have a sackful of it, you know it’s time to take it off your back and leave it at the door. You’ll feel lighter for it.