Coronavirus and Guilt

Russell Green is the National Lead Psychiatrist for Health in Justice at Care UK Healthcare. He will be helping us to better understand the various feelings and phases we may find ourselves going through during this uncertain time and tackle a number of subjects in a new psychiatry series.

In today’s article, Russell will be talking us through why we may come across feelings of guilt at this time and what we can do to give them less power over us.

Despite what you may think when you look on social media, most people are doing their best to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Unfortunately, the reality is even with our best efforts people will catch it and pass it on.

Yes, we all need to be sensible but no-one can be perfect and even outside of the current situation, every time we come into contact with someone there is an element of risk with colds and flu and other infections. But this is just a part of everyday life and we don’t normally give it much thought.

In this extreme and heightened state of government guidelines around cleanliness, it’s simply been brought more into the limelight and into our awareness.

As a psychiatrist in the Health in Justice sector, I have to go into work, I cannot perform my role from home. But how do you think I would feel if I passed on the Coronavirus infection to my wife and children from simply being at work and doing my job?

I’d feel terrible, I’d blame myself, I’d question why I hadn’t washed my hands more, why I touched that desk and why I didn’t stand further away from that colleague.

Feeling guilt or worry that you may or have passed the infection on to others is natural, but letting it overwhelm you is not good for you or those around you. The best approach to take when feelings of guilt arise are:

Challenge the thoughts. Ask yourself, did I do this deliberately? Did I want this to happen? If it was the other way around would I blame that person? Is beating myself up going to help the situation, my family or me? Answering these questions in an honest way will help you bring a little perspective to the situation and feelings.

Distract yourself. Get involved in something that takes up all of your thinking power. Cook a nice meal, read a book, play a game, watch a comedy, do some exercise, de-weed the garden or pot some plants, anything that will bring you back to the now and focusing on the task in hand.

Don’t leave those feelings of guilt unchecked, challenge them and then distract them.

Ultimately, all we can do in this time is follow the government and scientist guidelines with handwashing and social distancing or self-isolation and working from home where possible, and know that as long as we are doing what they ask of us – then we are doing our best to reduce our own impact of spreading the virus.