Friday, 24 January 2014

Guilt: The January Syndrome

The tiniest comment, gesture or emotion can create a small unintimidating spark but if the conditions are just right, then in a flash it can become a smouldering fire that might even erupt into a great big damning explosion of vicious, conniving guilt.

Never mind a blog post, I could write a book – nay, a series of encyclopaedias – about guilt.

From romance to friendships, over home life and work ethic, to diet and fitness, everywhere is a potential minefield - a forest with dozens of trees behind each of which a great big green monster could be hiding, ready to pounce, clamber tight and not let go.  

The worst thing is that often guilt lurks in the pit of your belly without you even noticing it’s there.

Something will cause it – a missed gym session, a chocolate bar gobbled, a friend fobbed off – and rather than making itself known, it will trigger a dull headache, deep grumpiness and unpredictable irritability.

You’ll snap or cry or sulk or just lose it, and it’s not until you’re lying in bed at night, tucked up under the covers, mulling over your thoughts in that insomnious way, that you realise the true cause of all this discomfort.

More often than not, guilt has this ugly habit of becoming way too big for its own boots, mushrooming out of control and consuming way more of your energy than it deserves.

Missed a gym session?  You’ll probably miss the next one too, guilt says, a sly smile plastered across his face. Then you’ll become fat, unfit, antisocial and lazy and you’ll probably take up smoking, lose all your friends, disappoint your parents, perhaps get fired. And your boyfriend? Well he’ll be shacked up with his stick insect secretary before you can even say “new year’s resolution”. You’re basically screwed. 


January, I’ve noticed, is a particularly fertile month for guilt. That weighty Christmas credit card statement represents an ode to overindulgence, just like the two extra pounds on your hips.

You resolve not to drink as much coffee and alcohol, add less salt to your food, train harder and skip desserts, but while you’ve managed to an extent, you still feel like you’re failing when you eat just half of that luscious brownie.

And quite honestly, you didn’t really enjoy it, did you? You were too busy worrying about the fact that you really shouldn’t be and will feel horrendously guilty afterwards, weren’t you?

So here’s my plea: Stop it. It’s a waste of time.

If you decide to skip your training session, chances are you have good reason too. You’re sluggish, tired or overworked and your body needs a rest. If you’re going to beat yourself up about that, you’ll never give yourself a chance to recover and regain strengths in the first place, giving you the drive for your next session.

Want that coffee? You’re probably tired and lacking concentration. Think you’ll be able to focus better if you give it a miss and then spend the rest of the morning battling distraction as you crave caffeine? Not a good idea.

I’m generally of the opinion that more often than not, we’re quite harsh on ourselves. Truth is that January is a tough month. It’s a period of post-party season lulls, of rubbish weather, anaemic bank balances and - anecdotally - of more break-ups than any other month. The last thing we need is a big ball of guilt loitering in our brains and wasting what little energy we have.

Your only resolution is not to feel guilty this year. Even for writing blog posts while at work? Yes, even for that.

Just don’t tell my boss.


  1. Great post! I can definitely relate - probably because I'm been sucking down the coffee and missing workouts like it's no (wo)man's business. But I figured this is what I *need* right now as am working ridiculous hours and something had to give. And at the moment it is much more beneficial for me to spend an extra hour in bed than to workout and feel shattered…

    I know that the end of this busy period is near so I can address my lifestyle then ;) A week or so more if not going to hurt! Thanks for the reminder...

  2. So true Lucy! Give yourself a break. Thanks for sharing.