Time to Lose the Guilt

Let’s talk a little bit about guilt today. I’m sure you have your fair share of feeling guilty. We all do, and it’s not a great feeling. It’s a feeling that makes you feel powerless. It’s not a productive state of mind, and it certainly isn’t a positive state of mine. In fact, when you feel guilty, you focus on all the negative thoughts. That makes it impossible to think positive thoughts while you’re feeling guilty. Can you see why it is important to lose the guilt?

Guilt makes you feel powerless, and it takes away your confidence. Guilt makes you slow down and second guess yourself at everything you do. Guilt keeps you from taking action and making progress in all areas of your life.

Letting go of guilt isn’t an easy thing to do. There are two good strategies that have been working well for me whenever I find myself falling into the guilt trap. You can use one or the other depending on the scenario, or you can use both of them starting with the first one and then moving on to the second one.

Forgive Yourself And Move On

Often your best bet when you feel guilty about doing or not doing something is to acknowledge the feeling, forgive yourself, and then move on. We already talked about the fact that guilt isn’t a productive emotion. Why not make your peace and go get something done?

One way to forgive yourself is to realize that the past is in the past and that you did the best you could at the time. If you feel that you could have done better, take it as a lesson learned and promise yourself to do better or try harder next time.

Focus On Something Related That You’re Good At

Now that you’ve forgiven yourself, it’s time to switch gears and focus on something that you’re good at. Nothing resolves guilt like action and self-esteem. This works best if you can make it something that’s closely related to the thing you’re feeling guilty about.

Let’s say you feel guilty because you didn’t cook a homemade meal for your family after a long day at the office. Shift your focus and appreciate the fact that you work hard and make good money so you can stop and grab some healthy takeout on the way home from work. Appreciate the fact that your kids are fed, healthy, and you have plenty of time to hang out with them before bedtime.

Give these ideas a try, and get in the habit of letting go of guilt.

Essential Oil: Forgiveness™

Forgiveness™ contains an aroma that supports the ability to forgive yourself and others while letting go of negative emotions, an important part of personal growth. Diffuse for up to 1 hour three times daily, and enjoy this blend of Sesame, Melissa, Geranium, Frankincense, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood, Coriander, Angelica, Lavender, furanocoumarin-free Bergamot, Lemon, Ylang ylang, Jasmine, Helichrysum, Roman chamomile, Palmarosa and Rose.

Filling Up Your Tank for the Journey

“Rest for a few minutes? Are you crazy? I haven't finished the dishes yet!”

“Sure the yoga sessions refresh me, but my youngest just told me about a school project that's due tomorrow.”

“Coloring makes me feel so good and gives me a sense of accomplishment. But it's such a silly little hobby and I have important things to get done.”

Do voices like these ring through your head whenever you think about taking time for yourself? And if you DO fight them down, do you feel guilty the whole time you're “indulging yourself”?

Do You Just Tape Over the Engine Light?

You probably already know that you need to energize yourself before you can help others. If you burn yourself out, you do no one any good. Putting yourself under constant stress by not replenishing your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical resources is like the time I was in college and drove my car without changing the oil. Huh. After awhile, it broke down. It was completely out of oil, and that does nasty things to a car's insides. According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of all women surveyed said they were “highly stressed.” That figure was up in four years by 25% from an earlier survey.

In fact, in a 2011 Women's Health article (April, p. 60), the author quotes San Francisco clinical psychologist Steve Orma: “Many young women think if they're not working every second of every day, they're lazy. They are ashamed of taking breaks and feel they're not a ‘good' enough person if they aren't pushing themselves to the absolute limit. It has become a moral issue.”

So how do we overcome those feelings of guilt about spending time on ourselves?

Pie Charts, Support and Journaling

A 2013 article in Women in Higher Education (January, p. 22) warns about the risks to women's heart health when high levels of stress are maintained. The author mentions several ways to reduce stress, but three methods stood out to me: look at how you spend your time, develop a support network, and keep a journal.

I don't generally get too analytical about how I spend my time,  but here's something I tried. List out your daily routine, and assign a rough percentage estimate of how much of your day you spend on each task. Creating a pie chart of those estimates can reveal how little time you spend on yourself–and what time you could divert to stress-resisting activities.

Friends and family are helpful as a source of support when you're reinventing or renewing yourself, but if they're also the source of some of your stress, or if they don't fully understand why you want to change your life and follow your dreams, turn to a support group. The reason I set up the Reward Your Success™ support group on Facebook is to bring together people who are going through the same struggles you are.

Keeping a journal is a good way to express emotional issues you don't feel comfortable sharing aloud. Some studies suggest, according to this Women in Higher Education article, that regular journaling can strengthen the immune system. I find journaling can be aimless, though, which is why I designed the Success! journal as a step-by-step guide. When you list your goals in the journal and reward yourself for completing them, you begin your journey with a sense of purpose.

The Solution to Procrastination

“Life is what happens when you’re not writing.” I don’t know if that’s a real quote or if I just made it up in my head. I hope it’s not a real quote because I don’t want to bash a perfectly good aphorism. It’s what popped into my head a bit ago while cleaning up after our old and intentionally incontinent cat (probably in protest for her two younger siblings, but I digress). I think the implication of such a statement is that life is somehow separate from writing, that we stand outside our writing.

I’ve been feeling really guilty lately that I haven’t worked on my Work in Progress in nigh on to two months. Actually that’s not entirely true. I profess not to believe in guilt. To be honest I’m annoyed I haven’t finished the rewrite of the book. Regardless, I’ve thought of a way to cut myself some slack.

I realized we don’t stand outside our writing. People say, “Writing is my life.” If that’s true, what you’re really saying is “My life is my writing.” Whatever comes out of us, out of our subconscious minds and deep hidden recesses, injected into the flesh of a notebook with the syringe that is the fountain pen or tattooed onto virtual skin through the action of manipulating keys, is based in our feelings and beliefs and experiences.

“Oh, Donna,” I hear you saying, “You are so amazingly profound to have discovered this secret eluding humankind for eons.”

I’m nodding sagely. What I acknowledged about my writing today is my psyche has been temporarily diverted to a decision I’m trying to make about my future—get a master’s degree or a certificate or certification classes, and in what field? (AKA What do I want to be when I grow up?) My writing self isn’t on hiatus, though. She’s taking notes. She’s doing research. She’s storing up these thoughts and emotions and processes and details for my future writing.

Obviously it won’t directly correlate. It’s not a one-to-one correspondence, like when people ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer to that one is, “Um, I live.” I don’t plan to write about a woman’s midlife crisis and journey of self-discovery. Although I suppose I could. But you just know (if you’ve read my books) she’d run into a sorcerer masquerading as her personal trainer who’s on the lam from a secret society of Cthulhu-worshipping Baptist preachers intent on subverting the foundations of the world as we know it.

What I’m saying to myself—and you, if you’re feeling guilty about not writing—is chalk it up to experience. Dry spells happen, events intervene. It’s all fodder for the creative mind. Don’t use it as an excuse to quit writing. Because you know you can’t ever stop. Not really.

Not if your life is your writing.