It’s time we talk about one of my all-time favorite topics…

When you find time and energy to do your self-caring… but then it just doesn’t work.

It happens to all of us. Just the other day, I got a message from one of the moms in my CORECARE online self-care program, frustrated with the day and wondering what she wasn’t doing “right.” With her permission, I’m sharing her story with you:

“I’m so off my center…today has been so challenging. It was a rough night of sleep. I woke up at 4:40 am (with my baby), then (my kiddo) woke up at 5:20 am. I kept trying to go back to bed but there was crying so I didn’t get much rest. Then, we had a new friend come over for a playdate, but the house was A MESS… I also got an email from (my kid’s) school about the ingredients that’ll be at her popcorn party tomorrow (and she might be allergic), so I’m trying to email them, but then she was being loud and I couldn’t focus and she threw a tantrum because I’m stressed… it’s been a cluster! In the afternoon, we had appointments during (the baby’s) nap time. And our amazing nanny has been flaky lately, so I didn’t have help… Eventually, I just lost it. I literally just threw a pile of washcloths in the direction of my kid and snapped, saying ‘You promised to fold these two days ago!’ She’s four! NOT PROUD.”

Sound familiar? If you’re taking care of tiny people too, the answer is probably “Yes!” But here’s the kicker…

She went on to say this: “I’m using what I’m learning (in CORECARE), but I’m discouraged. I’m a mess. I don’t know how to fix it. It shouldn’t feel impossible but it does. I’d love to hear what you think. Which part of the program should I do again? What am I missing??”

This happens a lot. I’ve certainly felt it with my own kids sometimes. And there are two answers I can offer:

  • Door #1. You’re doing what I call “cliché” self-care – mindless, superficial, “empty calorie” care. Often it feels good in the moment, but crappy later. You need to replace it with better, resilience-building self-care strategies.

OR

  • Door #2. If you’re taking care of yourself but you still get frustrated or annoyed, or have a bad day, it doesn’t mean your self-care isn’t working. It means that you’re a human, and you unfortunately, just might be having a bad day.

Sometimes our days suck. Sometimes things are hard. Some things are a disaster (or at least feel like a disaster in the moment). And you have to work through it. You have to keep going. That is what this kind of self-care is designed to do.

Self-care isn’t going to prevent you from ever having a bad day again, because we can’t control all the variables in the day. The self-care that I advocate helps you say “today sucks” and still know that not every day will suck. So that you can sit in discomfort and know there’s a way out at some point, even if it’s not right at this exact moment. So that you can have perspective, and still find the good that’s always there, somewhere. It’s not always about finding the magic solution to fix it instantly – it’s about saying “I can do this.”

That’s what this is designed for: to give you actual balance. Not to eliminate pain. Not to prevent anything that might be uncomfortable. Nothing can do that completely (and if anyone tries to sell you that magic, works-every-time-and-you’ll-never-feel-annoyed-again solution, don’t buy it!). But when you take real self-care, you learn to work with whatever happens. It doesn’t mean you’ll never feel badly, or you’ll always feel positively.

And keep in mind, your self-care practice is a practice. Keep going.

You don’t just hear about it one time, or two times, or 20 times, and all the sudden, it’s your default position. But with practice, you can retrain yourself to get there – even if you’ve been practicing the opposite for decades.

The sweet mama mentioned earlier thinks she’s missing something. She thinks she’s “a mess.” That everything needs fixing. That it feels impossible. But I see something else: a woman who now has practical options to help her feel at least 1% better (because sometimes that’s the goal), and one who’s able to be in the moment (even if it sucks) with authenticity, curiosity, and gentleness towards herself.

And that doesn’t mean her self-care isn’t working. It means that it is.