Covid-19 Story Tip: How to Deal with Feelings of Guilt While Following Covid-19 Safety Measures


With ever-changing COVID-19 safety measures, it can often be difficult to determine which social situations with friends or family — such as attending a small gathering — will put you at risk for potential exposure. Each person evaluates risk differently, and there may be social pressure that creates a sense of guilt.

“Depending on your motivation at the moment, you may experience feelings of guilt when declining certain activities,” says Carisa Parrish, M.A., Ph.D., an associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “When you’re missing out on social time and dealing with stress, you may choose emotional health over safety without realizing the risk for COVID-19 that is at play.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that close contact with other people increases risk, which is why choosing social activities carefully is so important. Parrish suggests a few ways to mindfully decline certain activities during the pandemic.

“You cannot be certain of each person’s COVID-19 risk. You never know who will get COVID-19,” she says. “Just because I don’t think my risk is high, it doesn’t mean my risk is zero.”

She recommends regularly checking the COVID-19 data. This may help keep our awareness of the ongoing risks fresh in mind. If the number of cases and deaths are increasing, be more vigilant when making decisions. Review CDC recommendations about current guidelines.

As the months wear on, Parrish says there can be a kind of fatigue and apathy that makes it harder to maintain compliance. This apathy may make us less attentive when the COVID rates are increasing in our community. Therefore, Parrish suggests calibrating the facts with real stories about people who have lost their family members to COVID-19.

“It helps people realize it could happen to them,” she says. “You’re not just choosing for yourself; you’re choosing for everyone.”

Parrish also suggests talking to your primary care physician about a potential social activity you would like to participate in and hear what he or she recommends, including the potential COVID-19 risk involved. You can also explore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website to learn their recommendations, as well as visit Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Coronavirus portal.