Prolonged Pandemic Impact: “Endless” Guilt (Released 2021)

Like many, Erinfitch has been feeling guilty lately.

She and her husband, who live in San Diego, decided to prioritize safety over socialization during the pandemic. But that meant that three boys aged 9, 11, and 14 needed to remain fairly isolated. In most cases, you will learn remotely and stay away from your friends.

For the past few months, especially after her 11-year-old kid said she would pay $ 100 if she could learn again in the classroom, Ms. Fitch, 44, was wondering if she was making the right call. Her self-doubt creeps in as she sees other families loosen their restrictions.

“Guilt awakens me every morning and puts me to sleep every night. It’s endless,” she said. “This is my mom’s guilt about steroids.”

Or, more specifically, it’s an unjustified pandemic guilt. Persistent and self-punishing emotions continue to emerge as we continue to overcome the crisis. “The extremely painful, morally difficult and cumulative nature of Covid-19-related stressors may be the perfect storm that results in a reaction of guilt and shame (actual prevalence is unknown for some time). ) ”Written by the author paper It was published in the journal Psychological Trauma in August.

Guilt can be particularly prevalent among healthcare professionals. October survey Of the 14,000 UK medical staff, including nurses and assistants, 51% were found to seek mental health assistance during a pandemic.

One nurse reports: I couldn’t sleep and was very anxious. “

Perhaps when others suffer so much, you will feel self-conscious about the good things in your life, or even your own survival. Or you may be responsible for not really your fault, such as accidentally infecting your family with Covid-19. Or, even if you don’t have a definitive path to follow, you are struggling with your choice.

June Tangney, a professor of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, who studies guilt and shame, said:

If you feel unjustified remorse, ask an expert how to get out of the pandemic guilt spiral.

30-year-old Neha Shastry, who lives in Brooklyn, said:she is Exacerbation of the Covid crisis thereAs infectious diseases and deaths rapidly progress from big cities to rural areas. “It’s unrealistic to wake up in New York City a year later and see the streets and businesses thrive again while my family fears their lives.”

She has partially dealt with it by writing her thoughts every morning and trying to “accept and accept guilt.”

Sherry Comier, a psychologist and bereavement trauma expert in Edgewater, Maryland, who observed the guilt of survivors during a pandemic, was unjustly guilty and out of her control or deliberately. People punish themselves, even if no one is hurt.

Experts distinguish between guilt and shame. Shame is a flawed negative belief in oneself and a more insidious feeling than internalization, but guilt is what we have done or failed, or compared ourselves to others. It arises from the act of doing.

“The best way to get out of the guilt spiral is to do something concrete,” he said. Komier said. “As long as we keep thinking about the events and situations that make us feel guilty and just think about them, we will continue to live with guilt.”

For example, if you feel guilty about your luck, consider volunteering or making a monetary donation to a charity or individual. Or, if you didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to a relative who died during a pandemic, you might want to strengthen your relationship with other relatives and friends.

Barbara Nefmed, 59, who lives in Woodbury, NJ, began to feel guilty after learning that her friend, who had dropped out in 2019, had died in Covid last April.

“I’m still sad and shocked that he’s gone,” she said. “i miss him.”

Soon Mr. Nefmad began to question why her life was saved and why his life was not saved.

She added that more and more people, like his wife, depended on him. This means that in her eyes his life seemed to be “more important”.

“I don’t have a spouse or children, and I don’t have anyone to care for. I don’t even have pets because I’m allergic,” she said, and these are options she’s still happy with. I added that there is. “If I die, to be honest, no one will miss me.”

Ms when her friend’s wife started GoFundMe to cover medical and other costs. Nehmad made a donation, and then she began increasing donations by sending a GoFundMe campaign to anyone who might know the couple. Doing this helps “a little”, she said, because she knows what her friends would have wanted.

“I can hear his voice.’Go! Go! Go!” She said with a laugh.

MS. Fitch of California is also taking action. Her 14-year-old is now back in school, and when the new school year begins, her two youngest children will also be back.

“We have to take whatever risk comes with it,” she said. “They can’t continue this.”

The way you talk to yourself may perpetuate the feeling of guilt you feel.

Smayer Arsenan, 36, who gave birth to her first child in Brooklyn last year, was guilty of breathing new life into such a complex and often problematic world.

“I remember seeing the baby and expressing my regrets in words,” said Ms. Arsenan. “I realized I was actually trying to find a way to take responsibility. For example, why didn’t you know that a pandemic is now a problem?”

Experts say that by identifying the negativeness of the thinking process, you can start tackling guilt.

In his book “Think Like a Monk,” author Jay Shetty details a technique called “spots, stops, and swaps” that helps people reconstruct their thoughts. Shetty, who lived as a monk in his early twenties, said this was his name, which he described as being noticed, spoken to, and corrected.

Let’s say you’re sorry that you don’t spend as much time with your friends as you like.

“Once you find these emotions, you can trace them to their roots. They can be intriguing rather than critical.” Shetty explained in an email. “Why does this bother us? Are we not respecting our values ​​because we don’t really prioritize friendship?”

At the outage, “you can move from guilt to compassion,” he adds, recognizing why it was difficult to respect our values. “Then we can make a spiritual exchange for something more positive and empowered. We are not perfect, but we can be.”

If you’re stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk, remember that the past is gone and we own only the present and the future, Dr. Komier said.

“I can’t really go back to relive that moment,” she added. “But we can change what is happening in our brain now, and in the future we can change how we respond to such and similar situations.”

She said that in a Florida hospital where nurse Donna Kerns works, one visitor is allowed for 30 minutes, provided that the visit is “supervised” when the patient is dying. rice field.

“I find this to be very invasive, very emotional and private. It’s very disturbing. I try to stay close to the door and look away,” said Ms. Kerns, 63. “I have a lot of guilt that makes me want to do more.”

Experts said that if you feel guilty about something you can’t control, the guilt you’re feeling isn’t justified.

Dr. Tungney suggested to imagine what you say If you have good friends in the same situation.. Do you offend your friends? Or do you respond with compassion and empathy?

“By making that small switch where you’re out of yourself, it helps people reach the point of self-compassion for giving themselves a break,” she said.

You can analyze your thoughts and assumptions by discussing them with a trusted friend or, if the idea is widespread, with the therapist.

68-year-old Stephanie Hills, who lost her parents earlier this year, regrets not being able to meet her mother who had Covid after hospitalization. At that time, San Hills also had Covid.

When she spoke to her mother on the phone, she said, “I came back to her and kept telling her that I wouldn’t forget her.” Hills living in Davie, Florida. But her mother was so weak that she couldn’t respond.

The hospital rabbi suggested that she tell her mother that she was okay to go.

“I couldn’t say that,” says Mr. Hills said. “I wanted her to fight and get better.”

This only exacerbated her guilt, Mr. Hills said recently.

People are tightly bound to engage in counterfactual thinking, Dr. Tangney said. In other words, if something negative happens, they stick to that experience and wonder if they have done something that will change the outcome. For example, “if you just started a little earlier” or “if you just said something different”.

This kind of thinking is practical when you want to find a new solution or an alternative way to do things.

“I’m just looking for a way to get control so that X never happens again,” said Dr. Tangney.

But she added that if it were applied to situations beyond our control, it could also increase guilt.

Ask yourself: Did I really foresee this? Is this what I blame someone else?

“Bad, bad things happen,” he said. Tangney said. “And sometimes it’s not anyone’s fault.”

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