1. You skipped a workout.
When you've committed to an exercise plan, it can be easy to get down on yourself for missing a sweat session—whether your goal is to hit the gym once or six times a week. Instead of beating yourself up for falling off track, "look at patterns, rather than at one isolated incident," says Serena Wadhwa, PsyD, a clinical therapist and director of , a private practice focusing on chronic pain, stress and recovery management. Dr Wadhwa encourages her patients to keep a visual reminder of their goals and suggests putting gold stars on a calendar to track which days you've exercised. "When you skip a day, you'll see that you've already worked out plenty, and it will help you put your guilt in perspective." Though missing one session here and there won't make a difference when it comes to your health, if you find yourself continuously skipping fitness plans, it might be time to reevaluate your approach. Experiment to see if a different type of exercise might entice you to work up a sweat more often or see if exercising at a different time of day will do the trick. Photo: Shutterstock
2. You spent all weekend lying around watching television, and ignored your to-do list.
After going, going, going all week long, abandoning your weekend errands in favor of lying around the house can seem unproductive, and you may feel "lazy" for not tackling any chores around the house. "You need to approach everything with balance," says Trudeau. "There's wisdom in listening to your body and slowing down when it tells you to." Instead of forcing yourself to constantly accomplish something concrete, use those times when you're feeling the most energetic and motivated to check stuff off your list. For example, if you're a morning person, tackle your chores right when you wake up. Or, if it takes you some time to get going, run errands in the evening. Then you can enjoy the lazy moments in the day when your body is telling you to take it easy, so you can rest and refuel. Photo: Shutterstock
3. You ate junk food all day.
Most of us know what it's like to beat ourselves up for snacking on high-calorie foods without leaving room for a nutritious meal. It's all too common to feel bad about falling off the health-food wagon, but instead of throwing in the towel, make a change right then and there. "The problem with guilt is that it often begets more guilt, and then you end up continuing to eat junk since you're so mad at yourself," says Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, a clinical psychologist affiliated with University of California, Los Angeles. "It doesn't have to be such a black and white situation. Just because you ate poorly at work doesn't mean you have to forgo a nutritious dinner as well. Instead, if you can commit to breaking the cycle immediately, you can stop your guilt in its tracks." And as Trudeau points out, instead of focusing on today, look at the entire week. "One day of poor food choices won't kill you. If you need to eat a candy bar for stress relief, fine. Just load up on veggies the next day." Photo: iStock
4. You said "no" to sex with your partner.
If uttering "not tonight, honey" has left you feeling guilty, first figure out if there are realistic expectations in place. You want to make sure that you and your partner are both on the same page—"the idea that no one is ever going to say no to sex is unrealistic," says Joseph Hullett, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and senior medical director of Clinical Strategy for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions. Assuming that you and your husband are in agreement about your sex life, if you just aren't feeling it, "honor how you're feeling and your emotional rhythms," says Trudeau. "See if there are other ways that you can show affection instead—maybe a back rub or doing something meaningful together, to avoid making your partner feel flat-out rejected." As for other nights, try scheduling sex so that you both have something to look forward to, and know what to expect. Photo: Shutterstock
5. You had to work late and missed out on family time.
"People aren't machines, and because of that, you need to be sure your expectations aren't rigid," says David Reiss, MD, a psychiatrist who practices in San Diego. If you can't make it home for dinner with your family, give yourself a break and set up another family time in its place. Even better: If you've already scheduled a visit to the zoo or a family movie night on the days when you're not working, you will feel better in the moment for having to cancel at the last minute. "Having things planned out will prevent you from getting panicky, anxious or guilty." And keep the big picture in mind, advises Trudeau. "Your family knows that you love them. A few late nights at work won't change that." Photo: Shutterstock
6. You had to leave work early to take care of personal errands.
If ducking out of the office for the occasional doctor's appointment or emergency after-school pick-up leaves you racked with guilt, try to approach the situation differently. Sometimes things come up—for you as well as for your boss and coworkers. "Know that you're making valuable contributions at your job," says Trudeau. "In order to be an effective employee you're going to have to balance your personal and work lives." Have to leave after lunch for a parent-teacher meeting? If you're swamped, come in a few hours early the next day to catch up on work. Or, if you must make it home to relieve the nanny, email yourself files to work on once the baby is asleep. However, if you find that your job is constantly interfering with your personal life, set up a meeting with your boss to assess the best ways to manage your schedule. Photo: iStock
7. You passed on plans with your girlfriends in favor of a night at home alone.
Chances are, whenever you say "no" to book club or drinks with the girls, you end up feeling guilty for choosing to spend time solo rather than with them. "As women we're conditioned to put everyone else before ourselves," says Trudeau. "I spend a lot of time teaching women the power of self care. Spending time alone—writing in a journal, going for a walk or just reading a good book—is going to make you more energetic and more fun to be around [in the long run]." Plus, even though your friends will miss you, they're still going to have fun, so there's no need to stress about one night. Just be sure to make plans for the near future to let them know you still value their friendships. Photo: Shutterstock
8. You splurged on an expensive purse that you can't quite afford.
"A lot of guilt comes from violating a standard," says Dr. Hullett. "When you splurge on an expensive item, you've violated the standard of living within your means. You may also be feeling some guilt about harming someone else with your actions, like your family's budget." If you can cover the cost, understand that you bought something you loved—and enjoy it! If you can't, find other areas in your life to cut back; maybe fewer dinners out or visits to the coffee shop each morning. Even if you don't actually recover all of the spent cash, you'll feel like you're in control of the situation and working toward saving up again which will likely mitigate the guilt. Photo: iStock
9. You don't feed your kids all-organic meals or have their schedules packed with activities.
Feeling pressure because everyone else in your daughter's class is feasting on quinoa and learning Cantonese? Instead of feeling like you aren't providing your child with enough, "examine your true values," suggests Dr. Wadhwa. "If you feel guilty about not keeping up with the Joneses, explore what's important to you. Is it quality time with your family? Spending time outdoors with your kids and teaching them about nature? Realizing what really matters will help put things in perspective." According to Trudeau, who conducted a survey about emotional wellbeing in families across the country, all kids want is for their parents to spend time with them. "It's the simple things; it's not about serving the perfect food. It's about being present and taking time to connect with each other." Photo: iStock