Have you been feeling a sense of guilt throughout this pandemic?
I talked in the previous article about the different phases of unexpected change and in particular the Neutral Zone. The Neutral Zone is where we are changing gears from reverse into first gear towards a new road and beginning but don’t know where to start. I am finding a lot of clients appear to be in this zone at the moment so I just want to spend a bit more time on some of the reactions we can see in this phase, in particular:
– overload and
– feeling invisible
These reactions come from a sense of uncertainty about the future.
Today I want to talk about guilt. I am seeing two kinds of guilt during this pandemic. Guilt because parents have to shut the door on their kids so they can work and for some, guilt that they are doing better than others, and in some cases are benefiting from the impacts of the pandemic.
As a Psychologist and a Leadership Coach can I let you know that if you are feeling either of these, it’s okay, and pretty normal. But like I have said with other uncomfortable feelings like fear and anger, we tend to implement coping strategies to relieve feeling guilty that can make it worse… like agreeing to things to keep the peace. I have seen with clients (and first hand) kids being allowed to have more screen time, or stay up later or eat what they want because we feel guilty for not being available. Or when any of our family come into our home office space, we get grumpy and short with them, and then feel bad later.
In these situations, try this…
First, take a breath and allow yourself to feel that guilt for a moment. There is no magic pill for guilt. It is simply an indicator of how much you care.
Be a bit kinder to yourself. This is a big adjustment for you too. And if you are working at home with kids or people who just seem to hijack your time every 5 mins – try this – I have borrowed this idea from an interview I watched this week….
Have a traffic light system set up either on the door, door handle or somewhere your family can see when you are working. If you have little ones they can get in on this, and it be a bit like a game. Get a red, yellow and green pen, pencil and make three circles or print an image of a traffic light out and make three circles.
Red is for don’t bother me unless you or the house is on fire!
Yellow is for you can interrupt me but I might ask you to come back later.
Green is for I am available.
In a way you are taking the ambiguity away from them. If kids or even adults for that matter don’t know when they can interrupt you, they will just interrupt you when it suits them. This teaches them boundaries, it also teaches them to problem solve themselves…. Like finding their own socks, for example!
There is so much good that can come out of you trying this technique. But yes, you are still going to have to deal with those feelings of guilt when you have to say “no, its a red or yellow zone”. Focus on how this technique is going to help them learn.
Remember.. a happy parent equals happy kids and partner!
The second kind of guilt is – Survivor Guilt. This is when you made it on the lifeboat while others got left behind. If you are doing okay or even well as a result of the pandemic or are still gainfully employed, you may be feeling survivor guilt. Again this is okay to feel this. It is just an indicator of your care for others.
This is where you need to challenge your mindset and see that you being employed or doing well is actually good news for the economy. If everyone is doing poorly, that is bad news for the economy.
I have also seen some businesses offer services for free. For example I am sharing a lot of my resources for free doing these videos however I had to make a decision that I still need to charge for my services or I could be another person out of the lifeboat.
If you are doing well, the best thing you can do is to keep spending and paying for products and services. This is going to help us get to the other side of this. So, if you are feeling survivor guilt, one strategy can be to find ways that you can be helpful to others who are struggling. In my area I signed up for the Care Army which is to keep an eye on seniors in my local area who have been told to stay home or who need groceries delivered.
However, if that isn’t for you, all you need to do is acknowledge that is how you feel, and that it is okay.
Margie Ireland works with CEO’s, executives, HR professionals, managers and leaders. Margie is a Psychologist with a strong commercial background of 25 years and specialises in supporting highly capable leaders to thrive in challenging times.