While many people have been struggling in every sense of the word during this pandemic, others have been getting along just fine. Some have lost jobs, family members, and homes. But some folks still have their jobs and aren’t at risk of losing them — they might even be enjoying the freedom that working remotely has brought. If you’re in the latter group, and you’ve been feeling okay through the COVID-19 pandemic, is that really such a bad thing?
Unequal Impacts of the Pandemic
The impacts of the pandemic have been unequal across the board — maybe even historically unequal. While COVID-19 has affected everybody in some way, it hasn’t necessarily caused everybody the same level of distress. You don’t have to be miserable right now if your circumstances aren’t that bad, and it isn’t necessarily bad to feel fine right now.
However, if you are one of those lucky few who’ve been feeling okay throughout the pandemic, or maybe just feeling okay recently, you might be feeling some guilt for feeling good while so many others are suffering.
Think about it this way. If everything (or most things) in your life is going well — maybe you’re enjoying spending time at home with your family, reveling in the slower pace of life, and loving working from home — it would make sense that you feel okay, right? You don’t have to feel guilty for feeling good. As long as you aren’t harming anybody, you don’t need to feel ashamed for feeling alright right now.
Guilt for Feeling Good
According to Talkspace provider Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, there are a few reasons why you might feel guilty for feeling okay during the pandemic. First, it could have to do with the way you grew up, for example if you were guilted by your parents a lot. Catchings says, “When we are growing up, our parents may instill in us the guilt of not being good enough because we are not suffering when our sibling is crying or grounded. For some people, this idea may be unknown, but for others, it was a common practice.”
Alternatively, you might simply feel guilty because you can’t help those around you. Guilt may also be a defense mechanism, Catchings says, and you may use guilt to cope with your situation.
Regardless of the reason why we feel guilty, we can’t control our feelings. We can, however, control how we react to our feelings and what we do about them. Basically, you can’t just tell yourself to stop feeling guilty, and then magically rid yourself of guilt. Instead, notice that you feel guilty, and make an active decision to not beat yourself up for feeling that way.
“Remind yourself that if you are not affecting or harming yourself or others, it is okay,” says Catchings. “Feeling okay is a ‘normal’ process that can actually do you good, rather than harm. Guilt is not going to improve the situation. Be grateful, give and help others if you can, and let the guilt go. This may not be your battle.”
Tips for Dealing With Guilt When You’re Doing OK
Here are six ways you can manage your guilt in a healthier way than just dwelling on it.
Don’t forget to empathize
One way to feel less guilty is to be aware of the situation and not let yourself lose compassion for others. This ensures that you will not become blind to others’ situations and that you won’t become insensitive to their struggles — the entire human race is going through something intense right now. Don’t forget that other people are less fortunate than you and don’t go around bragging about doing well.
Now is a perfect time to count your blessings. Write down or mentally list things you are grateful for right now: job security, health, quality time with family, financial stability, you name it. As you list the things you’re grateful for, notice how you feel. If you’re feeling guilt, remind yourself that it’s okay to be okay right now; try to focus your intentions on gratitude instead. Don’t take what you have right now for granted!
Use your energy to help others
Many who are struggling right now don’t have the emotional capacity to help themselves, and they may be suffering emotionally. Catchings recommends using your energy to listen to your family and friends. Be there for them if they need to vent or need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend is simply to be present and listen.
Catchings suggests journaling your thoughts and feelings during this time. Taking time to slow down — putting pen to paper can help you process your thoughts, and you might learn more about yourself and the roots of your guilt as you write and dig deeper.
Volunteer or donate to causes you care about
Helping those less fortunate than you can be a great way to channel your guilty energy into something more positive. Contact local organizations and ask how you can get involved. Look up causes you care about and make donations if you’re financially stable. You could even become a volunteer crisis counselor for a platform like Crisis Text Line so you can be there for people when they need it most.
Be kind to yourself
In order to be compassionate to others, you have to first be compassionate to yourself. Practice noticing and accepting your emotions, and then be kind to yourself about them. Don’t condemn yourself for having certain emotions. Always try to love yourself.
Overall, you have to remember that there is no harm in feeling okay right now. Acknowledge your privilege and feel grateful, not guilty. It’s okay to feel okay amidst all this craziness — you’re allowed.