When Self-Care Doesn’t Work

Self-care is a struggle for all of us at times.

Here are some common problems that people come across when trying to implement self-care practices, and my suggestions for how to course-correct.

I don’t have time for self-care.

Self-care is a lot of things, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

We all have 24 hours in a day. People make time for things that are most important.

Your own well-being is one of the most important things in your life. You may not completely agree with that, but a part of you must if you’re reading this post.

If all you are willing to do for self-care is take a deep breath the minute you open your eyes in the morning, start there.

If the only time you have to yourself is in the shower (I know sometimes even that is difficult to do… looking at you, new parents and folks with depression), buy a scented body wash and spend that time relishing in the scent and sensations.

The amount of time you spend on self-care isn’t as important as the willingness to be present and mindful during the time you do have.

So find pockets in your day. Carve space for yourself where you can. Make the time.

Self-care isn’t important.

All human beings are deserving of love and care.

Agree? Well, I have news for you. All people includes you.

You are just as important as your parents, kids, neighbors, friends, students, clients…

In fact, you are a little bit more important than those people. Each of them is responsible for their own happiness, and so are you.

It is really hard to feel happy when you are stressed, and the purpose of self-care is to decrease stress, and increase wellness.

What’s more, if you’re stressed and unwell, you are not able to provide your best quality care to others. And surely you can agree that others deserve your best. So if nothing else, use that as your motivation.

Okay, fine, self-care might be important for other people, but I don’t need it. I can push on without it.

You, like everyone else, are human. Whether you like it or not, you have wants and needs, and those wants and needs are important!

You can push on without self-care, but what happens when you do? What happens when you go all day without eating, or two days without sleeping, or a week without showering?

My guess is, it has a negative impact on the people around you. You’re hangry, you smell, you’re irritable and drowsy (this isn’t personal, it’s just what happens when most people don’t take care of themselves).

Self-care is selfless, because it is ensuring that you are at your best for others.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the exception. You can push on without caring for yourself, and still be a ray of sunshine. No one notices anything is the matter with you.

How long does that typically last before you bite someone’s head off? Or get really sick and have to take time off work? Sure, you can push on without self-care, but is it worth the cost?

Self-care doesn’t work for me. Even when I do it, I still can’t relax.

Don’t worry too much about how relaxed you are, or when it will happen. Just do your self-care anyway, and do your best to be present.

When you notice your thoughts wandering back to your to-do list, just bring them back to noticing your five senses in the present moment.

When your attention wanders again, bring it back again. Do this as many times as you need to.

If at the end of your self-care you still don’t feel relaxed, don’t sweat it. You’re still better off than before you started. Keep trying!

The other thing you can do is rate your stress level 1-10 when you start self-care, and when you end it. This will give you a more accurate of how much self-care is helping.

Self-care doesn’t work for me long-term. I always go back to putting others before myself.

One of the things my husband always tells me is, “Show yourself a little grace.” To me, that means finding patience and compassion for yourself.

Remember, you are trying to change what may be lifelong habits, things you have been doing for years! Something that took that long to become entrenched in you isn’t going to change overnight. It’s just not realistic.

There may also be emotional blocks, like excessive guilt or past trauma, in your way. If you think this could be the case, the best advice I can give you is to seek therapy.

If you’ve tried everything and still, self-care doesn’t work for you, a therapist may be able to support your unique needs. And if you live in Illinois, I might just be the therapist for you! Call me today – 773-819-0494 – to set up your free consultation.



Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who provides compassionate tele-therapy. She helps folks heal from anxiety, depression, people-pleasing and burnout using their strengths and inner wisdom.

Published by rebeccaogle

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