I’m writing this in no way qualified to advise anyone on the subject of guilt and how it affects our mental health, however a recent experience really brought it to the forefront of my mental health and wondered if my thoughts might help others.
Returning from Maternity (Paternity) Leave is always a guilt ridden time for any parent, leaving a small baby or child at home is tough on the old emotions without throwing in the post baby sob at the drop of a hat many of us experience. To take this to a new level returning to work at the start of a Pandemic really does escalate the guilt factor by 1000 and it is this that has led me to write this blog and for me to accept a few things in order to improve my mental wellbeing.
To start I’d like to ask you a few questions…….
Do you ever feel guilty when you hear of colleagues having a busy shift at work and you are not there to help?
Do you ever feel guilty when you are at work and you hear you are being missed at home? Homework to be done, knee scrapes to be kissed better, teenage drama to intervene?
Do you ever feel guilty that you have not done enough? Could do more?
Do you feel guilty for taking 5 minutes for yourself when there is so much else to be done?
I know I at times I could answer yes to all of these and I am sure many of you can too, but making yourself feel bad and adding extra pressure to your already busy schedule will not help the situation or make you feel any better, it will just contribute to a vicious circle whereby you continuously beat yourself up for; not doing this, not being there, not being enough. These thoughts are not healthy or helpful and given the chance will escalate and your mental health will significantly suffer.
The way to overcome them is perhaps to prioritise the one thing that probably gets left to the bottom of the list. The YOU time. But why is this one the most important? The reason; with an increase of you time and some self-care you will gain a perspective on everything else.
Your time might be a cup of tea in the garden before everyone else wakes up, it might be a hot bath with bubbles and a glass of wine at the end of the day, it might be a run or exercise class, a good book, an episode on netflix, whatever you need to relax prioritise it!
What will that perspective look like?
Work Guilt – You can only work when you are at work, what happens at work will happen, if you are there you can attend and assist, if you are not you have fantastic colleagues who are well trained to manage and deal with the events that present to them. They will have busy shifts some days without you but then another day you will be there having the busy shift and they will not.
You cannot single handledly save every patient or answer every 999, or fix every vehicle. That is impossible for even the best team to achieve so why pressure yourself as an individual to do that?
Home Guilt – I read somewhere recently that Parental Guilt is an epidemic, so that means we are trying to manage an epidemic during a pandemic – now just writing that as a sentence sounds terrifying, surely we shouldn’t be feeling this way………
Children of all ages are challenging and will demand your every waking minute when you are home, but regardless of how you feel, they will both understand and forgive you for going to work. You must remember that by going to work you are setting a good example, your children will see that the way their parent achieved what they wanted was through hard work and determination. They will understand the need to make the most of the time you get as a family and begin to treasure it. They will surprise you with comments like; I’m proud you work for the NHS. How many of our children through this pandemic have drawn or coloured pictures to show appreciation? They do this because they want to shout about their parent(s). Those of you feeling guilty for sending your children to hubs; don’t, they have a great time, they are the lucky children getting to socialise with others and enjoy the positives of it – you don’t have to home school!
Those of you whose children are at home, don’t feel guilty that your ability to home-school after night shift is non-existent…… it is far better for the children’s well-being and mental health that you sit and cuddle on the sofa or go for a walk and talk than spending hours battling a maths problem. Small things will make the biggest difference to them, not the odd day or two of missed home-school. Remember we accept we learn as we go with our careers, parenting is our toughest job in life, accept that you learn to parent as you go and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Have I done enough? Could I have done more? – This is a tricky one as given the nature of our work we often always analyse our performance and ask, what could I do better, what would I do next time. But when reflecting give yourself credit for what you have done; you did the best you could at the time with the information you were given. The pub quiz is always easy and full of obvious answers on the way home when you have had time to digest the questions; the same can be said for many days at work. Don’t feel guilt – digest the information and give yourself a pat on the back for striving to be the best and for being willing to continuing to learn and develop.
On the topic of learning and developing, this is where we can all make a change in our own lives and our management of our own guilt. Learn to take time for yourself, learn to accept you can’t do everything and be everywhere at once, develop habits of self-care and remember to be kind to yourself.
So I guess my solution to guilt = Kindness. Especially being Kind to yourself.
I can’t promise not to feel guilt over my time management in the future but I can be certain that I will remind myself I need to be in the best condition I can to be able to give the best of me in whatever situation I am in. Through this I hope I learn to accept my best efforts are enough and I hope you can too.
I’ve seen a couple of other blogs end with quotes, so thought I would do the same;
“HAPPINESS IS THE NEW RICH. INNER PEACE IS THE NEW SUCCESS. HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH. KINDNESS IS THE NEW COOL.” Syed Balkhi