Cancel That Guilt Trip!
How to stop feeling guilty and start feeling good
Whether your experience of it is just a small niggling feeling or a full-on surge, guilt is a signal that youre violating your moral rules, explains Ellen Tobey Klass, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Hunter College. "When you feel guilty, you can either decide to change your actions, or to change the feeling itself, by realizing theres evidence against it." In other words, you can adjust your expectations. Whats the situation that always leaves you feeling
well, shifty? Here's how to give your guilt trip the boot.
"Ive been too busy to be there for a friend."Give yourself permission to be human and understand youre not always going to be 100 percent, says Nancy OReilly, a Springfield, Mo.-based psychologist. If you feel you havent been putting as much into a friendship as you're capable of, a simple way to make a change is by applying what you know about running an office or a household to running your relationships, suggests Cooper Lawrence, author of The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace With Your Inner Overachiever.
Pencil in regular times and dates on the calendar to call your pal, just the way you'd write down the times of your kids ball games. If you do find yourself bailing every once in a while, remind yourself that a real friend is willing to take a rain check.
"I keep cheating on my diet!"Note to Ms. Perfect: Its OK to cheat once in a while! "What leads to relapse is when someone slips and thinks 'Ive blown it now,' so they eat more the next day, then feel guilty, starting a cycle," says Martin Binks, Ph.D., director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center. If you go off the diet rails, put it in realistic terms. Promise yourself firmly, Ill make up for it later in the day.
More important, Binks points out, is to set realistic goals in the first place. (Who has ever conquered the lettuce-only diet?) Guilt is a living-in-the-past emotion. You cant change the past, so plan your next positive action instead, he says. Ask, What can I do next that will move me toward health? Immediately write out a meal plan for tomorrow, or take a brisk walk that will make you feel back in control.
"Every time I hit the mall, I overspend!"Come up with an automatic checkout checklist, says Marcia Brixey, founder and president of Money Wi$e Women Educational Services. Before you grab an item, ask yourself, "Will I actually use this?" or "How many hours will I have to work to pay for this?" If you dont like the answer, drop it back into the bin.
Then shut down your inner critic. "Wed never say the nasty, critical things we say to ourselves to anyone else in a similar situation," says Brixey, so stop and say, "Its OK. But what will I do next?" Carry only cash the next time you hit the mall. If you find that its the actual shopping part you miss as opposed to owning the stuff consider applying to become a mystery shopper; youll get to make money while spending someone else's!
"Im not spending enough time with my kids."Quality time is just fine with your kids, says OReilly. "When you're with them, make a genuine effort to find out and connect with whats going on in their lives the sharing back and forth is what counts." Check in with them in small ways: Talk about who partnered with them in the science lab or what was on the menu in the cafeteria.
Even if you cant spend two hours with your kids each night, regularly tell them how much you love them, then remind yourself that youre a good mom and role model, suggests Lawrence. "Women today are different from women 30 years ago. Youre juggling out of necessity, not luxury." When youre not home, call to check on your kids, or post a note on the fridge before you leave, reminding them that you miss them and are thinking about them.