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.

Warmly,

Rebecca

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.

When You’re Not Alone, but Still Feel Lonely

In this time of social distancing, it only makes sense that many people feel lonely.

No one is physically present with co-workers, friends, or others they saw on a regular basis. Sure, we may talk to folks on Zoom and Google Hangouts, but it’s not the same.

Still, loneliness was a major problem well before social distancing, affecting as many as half of U.S. citizens in 2019. Loneliness is an epidemic as pervasive, and possibly as lethal, as the Coronavirus.

The Bizarre Irony of Loneliness

It doesn’t matter how many friends or family you have, or how much they clearly love you. Perhaps even though you’re not alone, you still feel lonely.

In fact, the bizarre irony of loneliness is that sometimes, the people with the biggest families or most Facebook friends, actually feel the loneliest.

How can this be?!

Quality, not Quantity

Loneliness isn’t about how many friends or family members you have.

Instead, it’s about the kinds of interactions you have with others.

Group Zoom hangs are fun, sure. But how well can you really connect with 10 people at once?

Arrange for some smaller hangs; ideally, one-one-one, to enhance the quality of your socialization.

If most of your interactions stay on the small talk level, you’re not connecting with others as well as you could be. You need to go deeper to feel less lonely. I’ll talk about how to do that next.

“Okay, but… How are You Really?

If you get an inkling a friend or family member might be stressed, ask this simple follow-up question.

Let them know it’s okay to tell you know they actually feel. And then really listen to their answer.

Tempting as it it, don’t immediately go into fixing or advice-giving mode. Just listen. This will show them you’re a safe person to be real with.

Once someone opens up to you, ask for updates, and follow up with them. This will show them you care.

Be Vulnerable.

Share with someone how you’re really feeling; ideally, someone you know will be supportive. Start small, if you wish. One worry, concern, or even triumph.

Opening up to others will help you feel closer to them, which will cause you to feel… you guessed it. Less lonely.

Alternate way to be vulnerable: Tell people you love them and care about them.

Saying “I love you” is uncomfortable for many people. It opens up the possibility of rejection; that’s what makes it vulnerable.

During social distancing, your usual ways of showing love – by giving hugs, doing acts of service, giving gifts, and so on – may be limited. So use this opportunity to practice telling your loved ones how you feel.

To summarize…

If you’re not alone, but still feel lonely, you may need to connect with others a) one to one, or in smaller groups, and b) on a deeper level, by opening up about your feelings, and listening to theirs.

If opening up to others is really hard for you to do, I understand. You are not alone in that.

Therapy can give you the support, encouragement, and tools to learn how to open up to others. If you’re interested, contact me today.

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.

How to Accept Uncertainty

In this era of COVID-19, we’re all living with uncertainty every single day. We may be having thoughts like…

Will the grocery be out of what I need?

Am I going to get the virus?

What if I can’t get a job?

Will my graduation / wedding / vacation be cancelled?

In this post, I’ll talk about why uncertainty is uncomfortable, how to accept it, and how to tell the difference between planning and worrying.

Photography by Nik Shulaihin

What makes uncertainty uncomfortable?

For the most part, human beings prefer routine. Our bodies and minds work better when we have some predictability in our daily lives.

Change can be hard, and people need time to process it. We to think things through and explore our feelings. Sometimes that takes days, weeks, even months and years.

So when change happens quickly and unexpectedly, our thoughts and feelings can spiral out of control. We might start experiencing anxiety, anger, helplessness, and fear. We may have thoughts like…

What other changes will come from this change?

If a change this big can happen this quickly, what else is in store?

What if this is the catalyst to my entire life falling apart?

If that last one sounds familiar, see my post on catastrophizing.

Photography by Fallon Michael

Accepting Uncertainty

If we’ve all learned one thing from the Coronavirus, it’s that life is unpredictable. You can think ahead all you want, but the universe can throw a curveball at any time.

Uncertainty is unsettling. And yet, it always has been, and always will be, part of life. The sooner you can accept that, the easier life becomes.

How exactly do you accept uncertainty? Here are some ideas.

Return to the Present

When you notice yourself trying to anticipate what will happen in the weeks, months, years ahead… pause. Bring yourself back to the present. You can’t time travel, and you don’t have a crystal ball. All you can do is be here in this moment, and cope with what’s in front of you.

Get Physical

Go on a walk or run. Do yoga or an exercise class. Take a hot shower. Laugh. Have sex. Do just about anything that takes you out of your head and into your body.

Adopt a Mantra

Choose a helpful saying you can use when you notice yourself worrying or fortune-telling. Here are some ideas:

  • Que sera, sera / Whatever will be, will be
  • Let go and let God
  • I’ve survived change before, and I’ll survive this, too
  • I can only do what I can do with what’s in front of me
  • The Serenity Prayer
  • I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it
Photography by Pablo Merchan Montes

What about planning for the future?

There’s a difference between planning for the future and worrying about the future.

Planning for the future involves identifying and taking specific steps that will help you down the road. When you plan for the future, you’re focused on things that are within your control.

Worrying about the future involves ruminating on all of the possibilities about what could happen and how you would handle it. When you worry, you thoughts get tangled up in things you can’t control.

Even though worrying might feel productive, it isn’t. It can increase feelings of anxiety and panic.

Do YOU have any tips for how to accept uncertainty? Leave them in the comments below. And if you liked this article, press “like” or share it with someone who could use it.

Wishing you health and safety,

Rebecca

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.

Reduce Anxiety through Movement

Everyone knows that exercise is good for our physical health. Did you know exercise is also great for mental health? Yes – you can even reduce anxiety through movement!

Exercise increases chemicals in the brain like dopamine and epinephrine, which improve our mood. Exercise can also reduce our stress response up to 24 hours later.

The physiological reactions when we exercise are very similar to those that happen when we’re anxious – the heart rate and breathing rate increase, we sweat, our muscles tense…

So when we exercise, our brain develops a new association with that state of mind that feels good. And we may experience reduced fear and intensity when our bodies do go into an anxious state.

Now that you understand why movement helps anxiety and mood, here are three tips that explain how to exercise for anxiety management.

Do something you enjoy.

Personally, I haven’t had a gym membership in several years. Why? Because I hate going to the gym. Why spend money on a membership for something I will never use?

Life is too short to force yourself to do a type of exercise you hate.

Not only that, but also, doing an enjoyable exercise actually yields greater benefits to the brain.

Hate the gym? Try…

  • Speed-cleaning
  • Dance parties
  • Walking to and from work
  • Rock climbing
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Paint ball
  • Laser tag
  • Intramural sports
  • Sex
  • Dog walking
  • Chasing after small children
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator

Go at your own pace.

There are plenty of articles out there that say you should get x many minutes of cardio at y intensity to yield z benefits. Please read these with a grain of salt.

For one thing, scientific results are mixed – there’s not one simple answer. And for another thing, many of these “magic” formulas don’t take into account important factors like age, health risks, chronic pain, etc.

Trust that any exercise you do – high intensity, low intensity, long, short – will be beneficial to your mood.

Stay consistent.

When it comes to exercise, like most things, consistency is key.

Experts find that chronic exercise is as effective for changing serotonin levels in the brain as anti-depressants.

(To be clear, that does not mean you should stop taking your psychiatric medications. It does emphasize how effective ongoing exercise really is for people with anxiety, depression, and stress).

Trouble Staying Consistent?

  • Find an accountability buddy
  • Post updates on Instagram or Twitter about your exercise
  • Develop and follow a weekly schedule
  • Track your weekly schedule to hold yourself accountable
  • Remember what makes consistent exercise important to you
  • Reward yourself for consistency

Has movement helped your anxiety? Tell us about it in the comments! And if you think this post could help someone, please share!

-Rebecca