When Self-Care Is Not the Answer


When Self-Care Is Not the Answer


When you need to change a behavior or need community assistance, self-care is not the answer.

Self-care is powerful. It can make a huge difference to be able to take time out to exercise, meditate, take a bath, or whatever it is you do to feel like yourself. To feel that you are taking good care of your body. But the truth is, self-care isn’t always enough. Sometimes it’s truly not the answer.

So much of the time when something is wrong, we jump to self-care as the solution. Of course, we’d all like to have more time to do yoga or sit in meditation, but it’s not always possible. It’s not necessarily always even desirable, depending on what works for you. We are all different, and practices like yoga and meditation are wonderful for some people and don’t do anything for others.

What Self-Care Won’t Solve

If we’re getting that self-care nudge, it’s often because something is out of balance in our lives. If we are sick, yes, of course self-care is incredibly important. But do we have the sick leave and support we need to have the extra time to rest and take care? If we have kids, who is taking care of them while we take care of ourselves? If we are overworked, is it because we don’t have enough money to slow down? Or is there a deeper people-pleasing compulsion or work addiction issue at play here? Self-care won’t solve those things.

If we’re devastated by something that is happening in the world or in our personal lives, again, of course self-care helps. But does this thing need to be attended to right away? Can it be resolved? Do we need to look at ourselves, change our behavior, have a hard conversation? These things might need to be prioritized over self-care.

What About Outside Care?

The problem with self-care, especially when we think of it as a panacea, is that it eclipses other-care and community care. We need certain supports in our lives in order to be able to have that little bit of space (and money!) to be able to take the time and do the things that make our bodies feel better.

We also don’t often consider that self-care doesn’t necessarily mean a spa weekend. It can mean basic hygiene, taking prescribed medications, and consuming enough calories to survive. Depending on what’s going on in our lives, we may not be able to muster the energy to make healthy kale smoothies; if we remembered to eat at all, we’ve done our self-care.

Focus on What’s Possible, Let Go of Guilt

So, when you’re going through a difficult time in your life, it might be worth considering not so much what you should be doing in terms of self-care, but what’s possible for you to be doing. Set your expectations there, at what you can do, rather than placing a bunch of pressure on yourself to be doing better.

[Read: “Self-Care Guilt (And Why You Should Let It Go).”]

And if you see someone struggling, pause before you tell them that they need to do yoga or meditate or exercise more. Most of the time, we are all doing our absolute best, and that usually includes as much self-care as we have the time, energy, and money for. Balance is definitely something we must continually engage with, but so much of the time, our circumstances are way out of our control.

So, let’s let go of self-care as something to feel guilty about. Let’s trust that we are taking care of ourselves as best as we possibly can, and if it’s possible to add to that, we will. When things are not okay, we may need to address what’s not okay before we can get to a yoga class.

Need a hand? Check out self-care tips from slow animals and helpful droids.


Yoga and mindfulness can be tools to living a richer, more meaningful life. Explore with Julie...
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