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How to Cope with Guilt

Here’s a question for you, how do you tend to cope with guilt? How does guilt show up for you? How does it impact your day to day life? Many may wonder what is guilt and that’s okay. According to APA, guilt is defined as a self-conscious emotion characterized by a painful appraisal of having done (or thought) something that is wrong and often by a readiness to take action designed to undo or mitigate this wrong. It is distinct from shame , in which there is the additional strong fear of one’s deeds being publicly exposed to judgment or ridicule.

Guilt can show up in different ways, feeling guilty for not being productive, procrastinating, when we’re mourning for a loss of a loved one, feeling we’re not good enough, or feeling bad to experience negative emotions. Dealing with guilt can be challenging and tiring for many and tend to struggle on how to cope with the feelings of guilt. Are you currently struggling with feelings of guilt, don't worry you’re not alone! There are many ways to cope. Before you learn tools to cope with guilt you first need to be able to identify and ask yourself where this guilt is coming from.

Some questions that you can ask yourself are:

  • What happened to cause this guilty feeling?

  • What specific aspect of this do I feel guilty about?

  • Did I really do something wrong, or am I just perceiving I did something wrong?

  • Is someone else making me feel guilty?

After identifying the root of where the guilt is coming from, next is how to cope and manage guilt.

Here are 5 tips to deal with guilt:

1. Acknowledge it exists:

Identifying whether guilt is the root cause of the challenges which can clarify the situation and help figure out the next steps

2. Eliminate negative self-talk:

Guilt can cause you to associate behavior with who you are as a person. It can lead to negative self-talk such as "I'm a bad person”. Try to remember that this behavior doesn’t define who you are.

3. Remind yourself of all that you can do: Guilt can cause us to remember the positive things in life. Make a list of ways to show kindness to yourself or others.

4. Understand what you can control:

If there’s nothing the situation can change, holding the guilt won’t likely deliver the change. Try having compassion for yourself.

5. Acknowledge that perfection doesn’t exist:

We all make mistakes, making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We’re all learning and growing. Whenever you find yourself dealing with feelings of guilt, remember that you’re human, we all make mistakes, and we’re healing. However, if you find that these intense emotions of guilt continue to impact your day to day life, you can seek help at our practice by requesting a free phone consultation to speak with one of our therapists.


About the Writer...

Marisol Flores-Ortega has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness at NYU. With her own experience with starting therapy, Marisol knows how intimidating it can be and that finding the right therapist to begin this journey can be challenging at first. Therapy allows us to explore more about ourselves and develop self-awareness in a safe space, and Marisol would love to be part of your journey because you deserve to be heard.

Our mission at Wellness Tree Counseling Services is to promote wellness through a culturally sensitive lens so that individuals, families and communities are encouraged to rise to their full potential and engage life in meaningful ways. To learn more about our services, please visit


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