C’mon Already: Here Are 22 Things You Can Do to Stop Feeling Guilty All the Time

All that self-blame can take a major toll on your mental and physical health. Here’s how to retrain your brain to stop feeling guilty.

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Quit the blame game


When something goes wrong, we naturally start looking for a person to blame—and that person is often ourselves. Remember that the world is complex, and often a whole series of events contributed to what went wrong. Don’t bear (or assign) all the blame for the outcome, but accept that bad things happen, no matter how hard you try. Try these 28 tiny pick-me-ups for when you're having the worst day ever.

Get to the root of your guilt


Do some soul-searching and figure out what’s behind your guilt instead of ruminating over it. If you feel like you should be volunteering at your kids’ school more, ask yourself why you haven’t. Have other parents made comments that make you feel like you’re not doing enough? (These are the 10 things to never say to a working mother.) Does the thought of reading out loud give you anxiety, but you’d happily help with snack duty at a class party? You know what’s best for you and your family, so getting to the bottom of your guilt will help you find a solution and get over those guilty feelings.

Keep a guilt journal


As soon as guilty feelings start to nag, jot them down in a journal. Record the time, day, and why you feel bad, then revisit your entries every couple of weeks. Look for any trends that might help explain the underlying reasons for your guilt. Here's how a bullet journal can change your life.

Give yourself a true retreat


A vacation is hardly a vacation if you spend the entire time thinking about what productive things you “should” be doing instead. When you feel those thoughts creeping in, remind yourself why you took a break from stress in the first place. After all, getting away from the anxiety of your daily grind is a much-needed break that will help you get back feeling refreshed. Here's how to ensure your free time is truly relaxing.

Prioritize yourself


Looking out for yourself isn’t selfish—it’s healthy. Realize that sometimes putting yourself first is truly the best option.

Correct your mistakes

iStock/Leonardo Patrizi

Sometimes we spend more energy beating ourselves up for our mistakes than it would take to make it right. If you feel bad that you went shopping instead of playing outside with your kids over the weekend, take them to the park this evening. Try these 23 ways to spend quality time with teens.

Be a friend to yourself


Try to see your mistake from someone else’s perspective. If your friend were feeling guilty about a similar issue, would you want that person to internalize those same feelings? You’re probably being harder on yourself than anyone would expect or want, so give yourself the same benefit of the doubt that you’d allow anyone else. Here are 9 sure signs you're in a toxic friendship.

Realize you weren’t necessarily wrong

iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

Other people’s reactions can make you feel guilty, even when you weren’t in the wrong. Maybe you are in need of a quiet day to yourself when a high-maintenance friend calls with another crisis. Saying “no” while you relax means you set limits to protect your mental health—not that you’re a bad friend. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself able to give better advice if you don’t feel so much pressure. Here are 24 ways you can be an even better friend.

Forgive yourself

iStock/Aldo Murillo

Take a measurable step toward fixing the problems you’ve been beating yourself up over. Start by making a list of everything you’re feeling guilty about. Maybe you let a coworker down, have a tendency of hurting your partner, or can’t stop ruminating over a childhood event. Now take a step to help you make amends. Write a letter, apologize face-to-face, or commit to making a change. Once you feel like you’ve made a positive step, it will be easier to give yourself permission to forgive yourself.

Just say “no”


Make a practice of saying no at least once a day. You’ll regain control over your life and realize you don’t have to feel guilty every time you refuse an extra burden. Here's how to say no to all those annoying things in your life.

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