Do you have survivor's guilt?

As the pandemic scenario continues to wreak havoc, more and more people are finding themselves going through an array of emotions. Whether it is working from home, losing a job, losing a loved one, struggling with business, supporting family members and the community or battling the virus themselves, everyone is impacted in some way or the other.

 Guilt is an intense emotion that helps one acknowledge their actions and motivates to improve behaviour. It is all right to feel guilty, however, if guilt is unjustified or left unprocessed, it can lead to self-punishing behaviour, sadness, anxiety and disengagement.

As the pandemic scenario continues to wreak havoc, more and more people are finding themselves going through an array of emotions. Whether it is working from home, losing a job, losing a loved one, struggling with business, supporting family members and the community or battling the virus themselves, everyone is impacted in some way or the other.

Dr Chandni Tugnait, MD (A.M) Psychotherapist, Coach, and Founder-Director, Gateway of Healing shares some of the reasons and solutions to overcome guilt.

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Some reasons why people are feeling guilty are: spreading the virus by being careless; being healthy and comfortable while others are going through tough times; not being able to save a loved one despite all attempts; not being able to stay with the loved ones when they are battling the virus in isolation; not being able to do the last rites for a family member; unable to control the screen time for children or give them enough time or not being able to be with them physically; doing well financially during the current scenario while most others are crumbling down; being unproductive or demotivated on most days; burdening family with responsibilities.

According to the coach, surviving the virus while many others lost their lives is also a key factor of pandemic guilt. Often called Survivor's Guilt, it is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic or tragic event when others did not.

The situation is highly distressing and morally challenging. This is resulting in a lot of unjustified guilt as well. Although, optimum level of guilt drives us to be more cautious, get vaccinated, take care of ourselves and family members and extend help to whoever we can but there's more to it than what meets the eye.

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Intense guilt and shame lead to stress which impacts the hormone levels that in turn impact the immune system, cause inflammation, anxiety, depression and somatic symptom disorder.

Some ways to manage the feelings of guilt & shame are:

Accept the emotion: Don't fight the feeling, allow it. Accept the exact reason for feeling the guilt or shame instead of repressing it. The acceptance clears up a lot of muzzled energy.

Quit the negative self-talk: Be mindful of your self-talk. There is no point in reliving the past and criticising yourself for not doing things differently. Replace negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts. Shift the way you think by altering your choice of words.

Take your share of responsibility: Do what you can to support yourself, family members, co-workers and the community. Don't mull over things and act; share responsibility. Help people when you can and also be in a state of gratitude to keep yourself calm and happy.

Nurture yourself: Every day do at least one thing to soothe yourself. Call a friend, sketch or doodle, engage in a hobby, listen to music, read a book, journal your thoughts and feelings, exercise and meditate.

Practice mindfulness: Be mindful during the day and monitor your behaviour. Don't indulge in emotional eating, binge watching, excessive sleeping or increased screen time. It's okay to overindulge once in a while but let it not be a pattern. Don't make unhealthy choices to alleviate your guilt. Stay in the present moment.

Practice Self-compassion: We are all in the middle of crisis. The pandemic is an unmapped dominion and there is no way to be absolutely right. We can only follow the best practices, take precautions and follow the protocol based on the information we have. What would you say to a friend going through guilt and shame at this time? Chances are, you'd be compassionate. Be the same with yourself too.

Block the triggers: Limit the news intake and the time spent on social media. Identify the triggers to control the exposure towards them. Replace this time with exercise, deep breathing or a power nap to shift the focus and de-stress.

Seek help: There's no shame in asking for help if you aren't able to cope with the feelings of guilt, shame, sadness or anger. Emotional mastery is important to lead a well-balanced life. Consult an expert who can hold the space for you and enable you to take intentional and informed choices.

Find a balance, help yourselves as well as others and be mindful of the present without getting into the extremes of self-denial or self-indulgence. Remember, we are always one choice away from a completely different life.

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