You’ve heard the buzzword, but you’re not alone if you’re wondering why you’re not making lasting change in your mental health after taking a vacation, going to that yoga class, or taking the “mental health day” your boss recommended.

I’ll never forget when a friend of mine, who was a resident physician at the time, told me her attending gathered up all the residents in a room and announced that they all had to figure out a way to be “less tired.”

We’ve all heard from our friends, bosses, and maybe even our therapists, the empty promise of self care. But what does that honestly mean and why is it actually so hard?

First of all, self care, like “mindfulness” is a buzzword. It’s become a marketing tactic targeting [mostly] women, who already feel like they’re not doing enough. Now we’re hearing that it’s our fault and we should do more. One of the hard truths we have to face, as illustrated in the example above, is that the systems themselves in our society are b-r-o-k-e-n. Do you want an exhausted doctor performing your surgery? If the medical community and educators aren’t taking care of their own people, how will our doctors learn to care for themselves? The same goes for you.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take that bath at the end of the day or go on a vacation, but let’s create realistic expectations about how those things will help. Like many false promises that make things sound too easy, a vacation is really just a band aid unless you are going to actually address the things in your life you’re finding you need to regularly escape from. How will a few days off help if you can’t truly disengage because you can’t stop thinking about the work piling up, or the life you’re heading back to?

Let me say that again. True self care means addressing the things that make you want to escape your life.

A skilled therapist who understands things beyond band-aids can help you take inventory of the things in your life that need to be addressed in order for you to feel more fulfilled and less like you’re barely holding on.

Identifying your boundaries with your work, your relationship, your friends, and your family is something you can start doing immediately that will have lasting positive impact on your mental health. As we step back into “normal” life in a post pandemic world, the number one anxiety I’ve been hearing from clients is that they want to figure out a way to keep the boundaries they finally felt justified in implementing. As with most aspects of personal growth, it’s a simple concept, but it’s not easy to practice.

Are you ready to dive in? Let’s talk.

Psychotherapist & Pop Culture Savant

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store