When you trip too hard on the guilt glitch, you might fall into the guilt gulch, which can swallow you right up and render you completely useless (really, it’s quite dire).
In my previous post, I mentioned that my biggest guilt glitch is when my guilt over pending important responsibilities keeps me from doing things I love, things that build me up and nurture me emotionally and physically. When I am in a good yoga routine, I have more energy and confidence, which help me tackle the difficult tasks. When I’m writing regularly, I feel more grounded and happy, which again spills over into me being more efficient and effective. And when I do take time for these things, I don’t feel guilty because I feel great!
Yet somehow I repeatedly forget how much I need these me-activities when there are “more important things” to do. I think I’m doing the right thing by allocating my time toward the Important Things, and I worry that whoever is depending on me to do these things will be upset if I do things that appear to only benefit me. Because I know the real importance of these things, I then feel MORE GUILT for neglecting them! Downward into the gulch. Madness.
How can you avoid the guilt from the start?
Well, to be honest, as is usually the case with the challenges I discuss here on the self-styled life, I’m more sure of the problem than the solutions. However, I will offer some of the strategies I have found useful, and others I imagine would be helpful.
1. Indulge in some perspective. In most cases, our overwhelmingly large responsibilities are often small things in the grand scheme of things. Recognizing this can give you more confidence in your ability to handle them. And the most blunt form of perspective is that we all die anyway, so don’t let fear of failure stop you. Just go for it.
2. Define yourself–find your yoga and writing. What makes you feel AMAZING? When do you feel the most YOU you ever feel? These go beyond mindless, guilty pleasures. They are your Substantive Delights–the diversions that contribute to your person and sense of self. Recognize that they, too, are important.
3. Schedule your time. Rather than letting the Important Responsibilities hang over you 24/7, define a time in which to complete these tasks and stick to the plan. Then, carve out time for your Substantive Delights.
4. Don’t fall into the Lazy Trap. Plan some lazy time, too, and enjoy the superficial dopamine high of watching Gossip Girl on Netflix or playing Spider Solitaire on your phone (hey, I’m old-school)–just don’t do it every night.
5. Ask for help and/or support. Sometimes we’re overwhelmed by the important responsibilities because they are actually too much for us. It’s ok to ask for help. Communicate your conundrum over needing to nourish yourself, even when there’s Important Stuff to do. Often, your loved ones will agree that you need to take care of yourself, and the responsibilities will be met when you’re stronger and happier.
This last one can be scary. We don’t like to admit we need help. We worry about disappointing people we care about. But when your husband ushers you out the door with a smile as you head to the coffee shop with your laptop, you’ll remember that he really does have your back, and the guilt is just wasted energy.
How do you avoid getting crushed by guilt? What sorts of activities nourish you?