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And Now The Regrets

And Now The Regrets

JANUARY 4, 2017 ~ LISA YAEGER, LPC

Did you talk too much at the holiday dinner? Drink too much on New Years Eve? Reveal more than you meant to with your boyfriend’s conservative parents?  Dance and sing with strangers?

For many, this is the time of year when anxiety haunts us. The holiday parties are over, family gatherings finished for a while. Now you have to deal with the regrets and second-guessing that comes after. I call this Post-Social Anxiety.

Post-Social Anxiety is that feeling of dread that comes up the morning after a fun, engaging social occasion. You probably enjoyed yourself and your companions. You let go a bit, relaxed, and let yourself open up more than usual. At the end of the evening you felt happy and well-liked. I’d venture to say you may have bonded more intimately with others in the group. You naturally took some risks that you often avoid.

The dread comes the next day. Why did I say that? Why did we stay so long? What did I say to her? With or without alcohol or other substances, humans often look back on these events with worry and regret. So there. You’re pretty normal.

This is not a sign that you need to straighten up, stop drinking, and keep your mouth shut the rest of the year (unless your “bestie” says it is, but that’s another post).

What this nagging anxiety and sense of shame probably means is that you are plagued with a very negative inner voice. Chances are that these feelings are based partly on past expereinces that hurt you or scared you. They don’t always mean that you did something terrible or that something is deeply wrong with you. You can take steps to change this negative self talk. You can calm the fears. You can erase the shame.

Here are some ways to work through it and let yourself be.

  • Write it all down or talk it out with some one. Writing is great because you can take as much time as you need without worrying about your audience. List each item, event, conversation that is plaguing you. After each, take a deep breath and let it go. This begins the letting go process. Look at each of these objectively. If you aren’t sure you can, ask a trusted friend, “Do I need to make amends about this?”
  • Do not confess or make amends unnecessarily based only on your fear. Your boss doesn’t need to know that you ran into a client at the bar.  Don’t let your guilt alone sabotage a perfectly good image.
  • Pick one of your regrets or worries and sit down with it for a few minutes. As you sit comfortably try these techniques from yoga therapy:
  1. Close your eyes and notice the feelings.
  2. Locate the feeling in your body. It may be tension, pain, or a sense of awareness.
  3. Notice the story you are telling yourself, and any body sensations that arise in response.
  4. Drop the story (swipe if off the screen). Continue to focus on the body.
  5. Observe. Allow the feeling. Don’t try to push it away right now. Stay with it for a while. Allow it to spend time with you.
  6. If it gets overwhelming, you can stop. Move around. Go to the next step.
  7. Give compassion to yourself, saying “May I feel safe”, “May I feel loved” or “You are safe”, “You are ok”.
  8. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, or looking perfect, or alway saying the right thing.
  9. Notice that you have compassion for others who get uncomfortable, shy or awkward and extend that compassion to yourself.
  10. Or start with yourself and extend it to others. We are all in this together.

Afterwards, go for a walk, meditate, take a nap or do something else to give your mind and body time to integrate. You’ve started a healing process and it takes time to digest.

If your experiences this season have stirred up feelings or memories that overwhelm you, consider reaching out for professional help. Especially if you begin to feel hopeless or like you are going to sabotage yourself or someone else.  You don’t have to go through this alone. An experienced therapist can help remove the barriers to happiness and productivity.

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