Ah….guilt.  It’s the curse that haunts us moms sometimes. We never seem to have enough time, energy, or resources to get things done to our own exacting standards. Moms tend to be the hardest on themselves, and it takes a toll. Constant feelings of mom guilt can slowly eat away at your overall well-being.  It can make your feel anxious, negative, or even depressed. Guilt can also lead you into a downward spiral of “never good enough” that leaves you feeling depleted, causing even more mom guilt.  

Does this sound like the kind of roller coaster you want to get off?  Yeah, us too! That’s why we researched some techniques that psychologists and life coaches suggest for ditching the mom guilt and replacing it with a little self-kindness. After all, a lot of the guilt we experience is manufactured by our own minds because our lives aren’t meeting some crazy expectations we’ve made for ourselves.

As moms, learning to cut ourselves a little slack can go a long way towards increasing our happiness. Try some of these guilt-reducing tactics and see if they don’t put a smile back on your face.

Find Your Mom Guilt Trigger

This is generally the first step towards losing the mom guilt. If you want to stop those guilty feelings, you’ve got to really nail down what it is that’s making you feel remorse. For one week, pay close attention to your body and notice those moments when you feel the gnawing pangs of guilt in your gut. What prompted it? Were you late to a meeting? Did you spend too much money? Did you buy take-out again instead of making dinner at home?  Whatever it was, make a note in your calendar or smartphone. Identifying your mom guilt triggers builds awareness, which is the first step to changing your reaction.

Use A New Lens

Now that you know what’s triggering your mom guilt, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll be able to snap your fingers and “just get over it”. Particularly if it’s something that comes up a lot in your life. But you can reframe how you see the triggering incidents and make some minor tweaks to your routine to avoid them. Think about what’s setting off your guilt response and come up with some (easy) ideas for how you can dial down that trigger.

For example, if overspending is a trigger, think about taking a day to make a budget to help keep track of your money. Or if it’s lateness, maybe enter the start time for events 10-15 minutes earlier in your calendar to give you a cushion. The important part is to not to ignore the guilt, but to really examine it and see if there are strategies you can implement to diffuse it.

Another thing to consider, guilt is on the same emotional spectrum as anxiety, sadness, and stress. Sometimes we internalize guilt and become self-critical when what we are really feeling is nervous or overwhelmed.

Think about this the next time you slip into guilty self-talk. Ask yourself, am I really just anxious or stressed out? Does it make any sense for me to feel guilty in this moment? You may find the answer is no, which can help you let go.

Another driver of guilt is perfectionism. This one really resonates with moms. But here’s the thing, nobody’s perfect, everyone has limits to what they can do…and that is completely okay! Are you laying some heavy expectations on yourself that are impossible to live up to? Would you expect someone else (other than you) to meet these same expectations? If not, cut yourself some slack. Your friends and family love you they way you are, they don’t expect perfection from you. Don’t expect it from yourself.

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Shake It Off

You’ll never be entirely guilt-free, but you can learn not to sweat the small stuff. Now that you’ve brought an awareness to your mom guilt, notice when those feelings come up and ask yourself if you might be blowing a particular incident out of proportion. A keyword to watch out for is “shouldn’t”. When this word starts to enter your self-talk, you know you’re in trouble.

If you hear yourself saying things like, “I shouldn’t have left the office early today”, short circuit that thought with a positive one, “but it allowed me to see my son’s soccer game which is important to him”.  Shutting down the shouldn’t before it can take hold is a great way to stop mom guilt in its tracks.

Another good technique for shaking off the small stuff is to try injecting some humor. Make a joke out of it! “I didn’t bake anything for my kid’s bake sale, I’m definitely the WORST mom in the world. OMG, why am I not in mom jail already?”  See? It sounds funny and a little bit ridiculous when you put it like that.  

Look For The Positive

If all else fails, you can try to see the positive in the situation. “I didn’t make anything for the bake sale, but by not doing that I got to spend an extra fifteen minutes reading to my daughter.”  Or, “I was late today, but I got an extra hour of sleep and it’s helping me think more clearly.”  There’s usually a silver lining to every mom guilt inducing situation, you just need to look for it! By taking the time to reflect on the positive, you can pull yourself out of a spiral and start treating yourself like a friend again.

Do you experience mom guilt?  What techniques do you use to pull yourself back from the guilt abyss?  Share your thoughts and comments in our Health Community.