Finally. You have 30 minutes with nothing scheduled. Some precious me-time alone. Time where you can just do what YOU like. Ah lovely…
But then, you remember the bins need putting out. Ah, you forgot to answer that email. Hmm, you haven’t spoken to such-and-such for a while may you should give them a ring.
And you start to feel guilty for not getting on with stuff which “needs” doing.
Feeling guilty. It usually comes with an unhelpful dose of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. That nagging feeling you should be doing something else instead. The knot in the stomach. The tension in the head and shoulders. The chattering thoughts.
The guilt comes with an extra whack when we’re doing something just for ourselves. Some aspect of self care that we know we desperately need but we somehow find difficult to allow ourselves to have. Quite time away from the kids and family. Time to go for a walk and get some fresh air at lunchtime to get out of the office and away from the ever-refilling email inbox. Saying a gentle but firm “no” to looking after the grandkids at short notice when you had some me-time planned.
And we either cave into the guilt and prioritise others’ needs or the guilt consumes us and we don’t enjoy what we’re doing.
How does guilt feel?
Guilt comes with physical feelings of tightness. And in our mind it evokes feelings of unworthiness. It creates restriction around our heart. It’s a feeling of contraction, of putting up boundaries. It deprives us of valuing ourselves and leads us to deny what we need and prevents us from living our lives to the fullest.
It becomes a habit of body and mind. We get used to it and almost expect it to come … and get the better of us.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Guilt is a learned behaviour. So let’s unlearn it and replace it with new, positive habits.
Let go of the guilt
I’d like to share with you four tips from the yoga wellbeing toolbox to help you create new habits of mind and body. To release the tightness of guilt and replace it with a joyful sense of expansiveness and openness.
Use them as a 4-step plan, or pick out individual actions which are convenient to you in the moment.
1. Shake it off
Release the tight feelings from your body.
Put on some upbeat music, stand up and shake out every single part of your body. Shake your feet. Shake your legs. Shake your hands and arms. Get those shoulders moving. Shake your hips and you bum. Shimmy. Move. Laugh. Let it go. Shake it off!
Now I’m not usually one for the pop culture reference, but a bit of Taylor Swift is PERFECT for this.
Have some fun. It’s just a few minutes. It’s difficult to feel guilty when you’re shaking your booty!
2. Breathe through it with the Vertical Alignment Breath
Calm the anxiety/stress response which can come with feeling guilty.
Stand or sit in stillness. Breathe deeply. Settle. Feel your feet on the ground.
Breathe in through your feet up to heart, breathe out from your heart up through the crown your head.
Breathe in and take the breath through the crown of your head down to your heart.
Breathe out down through your body and your feet to the earth.
Repeat as many times as you need to come into this moment.
Breathe into the support beneath you. The openness above you. Freedom and light and space and love in your heart.
Breathe yourself into this moment. Let the breath soothe away the tension.
Feel your shoulders dropping. Your jaw unclenching. The knot in your stomach softening.
3. Change your thoughts
Replace the guilty thoughts with this refrain:
“May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be free.”
Keep repeating these words to yourself. Silently or out loud, whichever works best for you.
Replace the underlying thoughts of “I don’t deserve to do what’s good for me” with thoughts of loving-kindness and gentleness towards yourself.
4. Give yourself permission
Affirm: “I relax and let life flow through me with ease.”
Let go of expectations of who you should be spending time with and what you should be doing and how things should be.
Invite flow and ease into your mind and into your life.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Repeat these four steps regularly during your daily life.
- Shake out your body every morning and every evening.
- Breathe into the earth, sky and your heart the next time you’re standing in a queue or stuck in traffic.
- Think thoughts of loving kindness when you’re having a cuppa.
- Give yourself permission to relax and let life flow wheneve you feel contracted and tense.
Do these regularly and you’re creating new, positive habits which will slowly, with time, replace the old habits of feeling guilty.
I’m not saying guilt will disappear completely – it’s deeply ingrained in us and our culture.
But know you CAN lessen the guilt which comes when you try to relax.
With mindfulness you can begin to notice it and step back from it. Observe the thoughts and the physical sensations they create.
And then stick on some Taylor Swift and shake if off 🙂
P.S. these four actions came me to when I was sitting in meditation. And I wrote the blog after two rounds of shaking it off to Taylor. So this is soul food medicine straight from my heart and deep inner wisdom for you!