In the last two years we have had to make life choices often based on not having enough information in an environment of constant uncertainty. These new realities have forced us to make decisions that have now left us with a lasting feeling of regret.
Many people are now struggling with the results of pandemic related decisions.
Some of us regret having kept our kids home, leaving lasting effects on their mental health. Others carry guilt for not having done more for an aging relative. Some people uprooted their families from their homes to find relief from the confines of living in a big city only to mourn the loss of their community.
The pandemic has also made most of us feel the loss of certain experiences we now regard as lost opportunities. For instance, there may be regret for persevering through a relationship that it would have been better to end. Or, we lament over trips we had to cancel or feel remorse for not having spent more time on our own personal development.
Why Is Regret An Emotion That Is Important To Address?
Regret is a common emotion tied to the pandemic. It is an emotion that can lead people to harbour deep-seated feelings of shame, anger, depression, and personal failure. It is important to address personal regret in order to move towards a more fulfilling life.
This may resonate with you, and if you know that you get stuck on the things you could have done better in the past, continue reading as we show you some strategies to help shift your focus on how you view your situation. You will soon begin to enjoy your future.
Learn To Accept Your Reality And Your Emotions
Regret can be an uncomfortable feeling and many of us often try to mentally run away from it. Running away from that feeling and using distraction or suppression can make it worse. The regret becomes buried, temporarily, and will resurface from time to time until you finally confront it.
Acknowledge the full scope of your reality and your feelings. Do you regret not breaking up with your partner when you needed to? Or quitting your job after feeling burnt out? Identifying it and digging to the root of the problem is the first step.
Once you can name it, you can begin to untangle why you made your decisions and how you can move forward.
Practice Self Compassion
A defining characteristic of regret is the endless cycle of negative thinking; the rumination that bounces negative ideas around in your head. This involves obsessive thinking which can take over your day and cause you to feel guilt, shame, and failure.
Wallowing in self contempt will only lead to depression. Emotionally punishing yourself for what you are facing will not lead to positive change.
When we practice self compassion, we allow ourselves to make mistakes. We practice a growth mindset, which is learning from mistakes and utilizing problem solving tools as we go through challenges.
Actively offer yourself forgiveness for not being able to do more for an aging loved one during the pandemic or having had a difficult school year with your kids. Adding a layer of self care also helps you reconnect with yourself. Examples of self care activities include exercise, spending time outdoors, meditating, or journaling.
Another great way to practice self compassion is to ask yourself: “what would I say to my best friend if they were going through this?”
Channel the love and support that you feel for that person towards yourself in this time of need.
Make Amends When Possible
Another key step towards working with regret is accepting reality, and yourself. Once you can face the circumstance that you are in, moving through the problem becomes easier.
Even if you cannot do anything in the immediacy of the situation, owning the reality that you are in allows you to live in the present and actively participate in the solution, as opposed to passively worrying.
If you stay stagnant with the burden of the past regret, then it is impossible to make any changes for the future.
Expand Your Thinking
The pandemic unfortunately triggered much uncertainty and fear. When our minds suffer through a lot of chronic stress and uncertainty, our decision making becomes reactive as opposed to intentional. It is not surprising that many people have behaved in a reactive manner over the course of the pandemic when making decisions.
We have all done the best that we can, and it is important to offer ourselves a break. When your thoughts are spinning and your thinking is negative, challenge your thoughts.
Here are some examples:
When you are thinking: “I should have done more for my aging mother.”
Try: “I did the best I could to help my mom. I feel happy to have her in my life.”
When you are thinking: “I shouldn’t have waited so long to break up with my partner.”
Try: “I was going through a difficult time, and I needed the time that it took to make the decision I made.”
When you are thinking: “I lost so much time during the pandemic. I’ll never be able to get ahead in my career.”
Try: “I spent the last 2 years working through a really difficult time, and I did a pretty good job. Now I am going to spend the next year ahead on some things that I wasn’t able to do.”
Learn From Your Regrets
Regret has some hidden gifts in that it offers us opportunities to learn and improve from our experiences. Asking questions like, “What can I learn from having gone through this?” or “What would I do different next time?” can be very useful ways of using our experiences.
Regret also shows us what matters most, and helps us learn what kind of a person we want to be.
For example, you wouldn’t care about advancing in your career if you weren’t ambitious and cared about your team. When you turn off negative thinking, you can learn a lot about yourself.
Don’t Forget Your Progress
It is easy to forget our wins when we focus on our misses. Having a compassionate approach towards ourselves and finding the opportunities in our every day to celebrate our accomplishments can offer us a positive and meaningful life.
Now that you know your regrets can offer some positive personal growth, consider how you can you use this insight to enhance your daily living and embrace the person you are.