Self-Care: What Works, What Doesn't

Many estranged moms talk about self-care - with statements like "I've tried and it doesn't work" or "I know I should do more but I'm bad at taking the time."

When I met a mom I'll call Carla, she was fed up with the topic of self-care.

Carla's therapist said that practicing self-care would help her feel better. When she asked for suggestions, Carla was told to get a weekly manicure.

Carla found the advice a bit shallow, but she was desperate. She got her nails done.

"It didn't work," she said, frustrated. Maybe it would for others, but not her.

So Carla gave up on manicures and self-care. She gave up on therapy. On some level, she gave up thinking she could feel better. In fact, she felt worse - more hopeless, and like more of a failure. The result of it all? She gave up on herself.

Many struggling moms are given the same advice - to do things for themselves. We hear it from family, friends, therapists - society! Yet we don't necessarily know how or even want to make time.

And, like Carla, if we do carve out time for ourselves we can find it unsatisfying. It's common sense that a good manicure never solved big problems or suffering.

When it comes to effective self-care, here's what we're missing:

Self-care is a mindset.

Getting a manicure, going for a walk, taking downtime, having lunch with a friend - none of it "works" if we're doing it because we "should." Self-care "works" when driven by genuine love, care, and respect for yourself. Just as you'd support any special person during a difficult time.

There are no rules to self-care. In spite of what you might hear, there's no right or wrong. One day it could be eating extra vegetables. Or getting a manicure. Another time it could be lying around watching TV. All fair options, depending on what's best and needed that moment.

It's about honest intention.

Taking a break from the world as a reaction to fear or avoid reality is completely different from choosing to take time to recharge. It's up to us to tell ourselves the truth about why we're making our choices. An honest look at intentions takes effort when we commonly act on auto-pilot.

Some questions that can be helpful to ask yourself:

  • What do I need in this moment?

  • How can I best take care of myself today?

  • How can I show my worth - to myself?

  • What would love for me look like right now?

  • Are my actions and choices serving me?

It's a practice that takes effort. For anyone, it can - and does - "work." But the thoughts and intentions behind the actions matter, and that's what well-meaning advice-givers can miss.

Real self-care is self-value. It's a deep appreciation for your one and only lifelong partner and best potential ally: yourself.

For Carla, who felt so defeated: she now journals a few minutes each day using the voice recorder on her phone. She makes a point of connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances more often. She exercises a few times a week. She doesn't get manicures except every so often - and sometimes she binge-watches Netflix. All with purpose and intention.

And she feels better. Paying attention to her own needs, taking responsibility for her own care, she demonstrates respect for herself. She feels worthy and loved - even though her relationship with her adult child is difficult. With self-care Carla has learned how to have her own back.

Super important stuff when we're feeling lost, alone, rejected... I've seen how it can change things. I'm here for you if you want help. Schedule a consult here. So much love to you all!

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