How do I stop feeling so guilty when it is hard for me to do the things I planned to do?
Whether it’s getting that task finally done in your apartment, completing a work assignment you’ve been itching to cross off your to-do list, or getting to the homework your therapist gave you this week, not doing the things you initially planned to do can be tough. Not only can it leave you feeling overwhelmed at the left-over responsibilities that still need to be done, but the emotional response of guilt can be strong.
Like all emotions, guilt serves a purpose and at some point in your life it likely served a meaningful purpose. Guilt might prevent you from doing something that might hurt someone you care about, or it could possibly motivate you to work hard on a task at hand or project at work. However, guilt is often displaced, causing a level of stress and pressure that can hold you back from completing a task, keeping critical self-talk at bay, and feeling regulated.
Usually, trying to stop feeling a certain way can increase the impact of that same emotion. Allowing yourself to feel the guilt while offering yourself grace can be difficult but helpful. Imagine what you might tell a friend if they were in your position and offer that same advice to yourself. Thinking/writing about the following prompts may help you process the guilt:
- What purpose is the current guilt I’m experiencing serving in my life?
- Is the guilt I’m feeling helpful in this specific situation?
- If I listen to my most inner needs, what is my body telling me I need right now?
Writing down affirmations to keep next to your to-do list or near your work computer can be helpful. Some of the reminders you might find useful are:
- Sometimes, showing up as your best self means that you don’t get as much work done. Some days your best self might conquer the world and other days your best was only able to shower, eat three meals, and get enough rest. Both are OK.
- Be gentle with yourself, some days are harder than others and you deserve extra compassion on these days. You are not “unproductive” or “lazy” if you did not do the things you planned to do. Even if the tasks at hand seem “easy” on paper, they’re likely not.
- Motivation is fleeting. It is OK to lose motivation and need to rely on other strategies to complete your work.