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Shame, guilt and COVID-19

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Published: 24 June 2020

A person feeling anxiety

Health and Wellbeing Manager at the University of Sunderland in London, Alisa Tsykhostky is back with an explanation of how the pandemic is increasing our feelings of shame and guilt, and how we can combat those feelings to have happier healthier lives.

When lockdown started, there was a lot of talk about how we’re ‘all in this together’, no matter your privilege, class or profession. Over time, the differences in people’s comfort levels, technology access, green space access and financial comfort started to stand out. In other words, pandemic experiences will differ depending on a wide range of factors. A link has started to show between COVID-19 and an increase in feelings of guilt and shame caused by an increase in comparing ourselves with other people.

Restrictions, like being unable to go to a loved one’s funeral, or meeting up with your family, can cause feelings of guilt. Another cause of guilt is worrying about following, or not following, government guidelines. Poor mental health, and a continued misperception of the stigma that comes with it, may also reveal another layer of shame.

Shame can take away our most important emotion - empathy (or the ability to understand and share feelings). If we can’t show empathy we impact our mental health. Feelings of guilt and shame can be understandable, but not always justified. In these unusual times, these feeling are amplified. But you should know that help is always on hand. Read through some of our guidance below and please get in touch with the Health and Wellbeing Team if you need help. 

  • See the big picture: Don’t compare yourself to other people, but try and see things from other people’s perspectives.
  • Acceptance is key: Coming to terms with our difference can help you make a plan of action. Work on the things you can control and you’ll find it easier to come to terms with who you are.
  • Practice patience: Learning to cope with uncertainty is key. For younger people, it’s important to realise that the experience you have to draw on is limited. It takes time and practice to develop resilience.
  • Exercise self-compassion: Remind yourself that it’s OK to take a day off. Practice mindfulness and meditation. They can be soothing, relaxing and help reduce anxiety and negative thinking.
  • Talk to friends and family: You could also join a support network or get in touch with the Health and Wellbeing team at the University for further emotional support.

If you’ve been affected by shame or guilt, or if you want to talk to the Health and Wellbeing team about any issue, book a one-to-one appointment with them today. Email the team at or call on 0207 5317 343.

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