Wednesday Missive: What To Do When Caring Hurts

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Hello Love, 

Congratulations on making it through another week!  This time of year is not for the faint of heart or delicate in constitution.  Dressing up for all those parties, digesting a small mountain of cookies and wrapping so many gifts - it adds up to a lot of work!

Luckily, self-care is here to hold us along the way. This is why I’ve been creating a special winter series on Self-Care For The “Holidaze.” Each week, I’m offering real self-care to help you meet the excesses of the holiday (plus a gentle nudge toward Self Care 101, my transformational self-care support circle that starts on January 7th).

This week, I want to talk about a hard one: caring too much for the people around you.  It’s challenging because it comes from the place inside of you that wants everyone to be happy. Concern about others is a beautiful instinct. The world needs more of it in many ways.

However, when we don’t set boundaries around our personal caring, it can quickly make us feel crazy.

Caring too much is the craziness of staying up all night worrying about our mother’s financial well-being or being consumed with fears over our brother’s addiction. It can be as overt as draining our bank account to continually bail out a friend, or as subtle as suggesting better self-care tips to your partner a few times a week.

We can differentiate caring too much from helpful concern. Helpful concern is when someone asks for our help and we give it to them in a boundaried way. Acting from this kind of concern leaves us feeling energized and usually ready to give more.

In contrast, caring too much makes us feel ineffective.  When you’re in this state, people brush off your repeated attempts to help them, or they take advantage of your generosity without making any kind of change. Despite our best intentions to save everyone around us, we leave the situation feeling, once again, like we have been misunderstood and underappreciated.

Trust me, I know how challenging it is to let go of other people’s issues and blockages, especially when it seems like they are hurting themselves.  It’s excruciating to stand by and watch someone we care about engage in self-destructive behavior.  I’ve gone through it a few times in my life and it feels like my heart is being ripped out each time.

For all of us out there whose over-caring is causing pain, I offer the following self-love script to hopefully bring relief.  Use it during the holidays when you’re watching dysfunctional self-care patterns play out in your family or other communities.

Self-Love Script:

“Ok, I am watching my loved ones struggle right now.  It’s really hard to see this because I care about them so dang much.  I can so easily see how much better their lives would be if only they’d make healthier choices for themselves.  However, as much as I want them to take my helpful advice, I know from experience that they won’t.  People have to be ready to change before they take action, and I know they aren’t quite ready. I remember back when I wasn’t quite ready to change. In one sense I knew all the things I was supposed to do, but I just couldn’t make myself do them.  I think I had to suffer a bit more before I could really learn for myself what I needed to do.  Perhaps that’s what my struggling loved ones are doing as well.  There might be some wisdom to their actions.  And, even if they do really hurt themselves with their self-destructive behavior, there isn’t anything I can do for them other than tell them I am here for them but won’t enable them.  And then I am free to take care of myself in awesome ways.  If they see my thriving in my life, I will offer them inspiration when and if they are ever ready to make a change.  I am allowed to change and grow and experience joy, even if I can’t take everyone I love with me.  If I decide to take care of myself anyway, I may experience a lot of fear and grief around leaving my loved ones behind.  This is normal and okay.  In these moments I can practice more self-care.  I can reach out to others and share my feelings and go to bed early and eat nourishing foods.  This is the way I can most serve myself and my loved ones and, ultimately, the world.”

Self Care 101 Nudge

Do you make yourself crazy trying to save everyone around you?  Do you habitually put others’ dramas ahead of your self-care?  Is it finally time to put yourself first?

Caring too much for others can ultimately drag us down, especially if we don’t balance our giving tendences with a healthy dose of self-care. When we’ve been focused on others’  problems for so long - many of us since we were young children - it can be disorienting to put the attention back on ourselves.

This is where structure and support can work wonders. Self Care 101 is designed to show you the simple, joyful self-care routines to guide you through your days and weeks.  As a group, we get to the bottom of why self-care can feel so hard, and together, practice the worthiness we need to put ourselves first.

Want to learn more about practicing self-care in a supportive community?  Fill out this application to connect with me about joining the next course.   


Ok lovebug, that’s all for now!  I’ll be taking a pause next week to spend a quiet holiday with my family.  On January 3rd, I’ll be back with a very easy way to pick ourselves back up after the “holidaze” subsides and we once again need to face reality.

Until then, much appreciation for each of you!  I wish you a truly nourishing holiday!

With care,


Self-Care Inspiration

1. The Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore is one of my favorite museums on this planet (this museum is also up there).  Micah, Jonah and I spent my birthday exploring their new Mystery exhibit and felt dazzled by the creative genius that ran through the building.

2. During the most chaotic moments of life, I always turn to these affirmation cards to give me a boost. Affirmations feel cheesy but they really, really work to transform negative gremlin thinking patterns. They are quite the stocking stuffer, in my opinion.

3. One tiny holiday tradition I’ve practiced over the years is to make these incredible shortbread cookies. They’re the right blend of sweet, salty and herbal.

4. When I need to soothe myself, this instrumental album works wonders. I think it would complement a twinkling Christmas tree or flickering menorah beautifully.

5. I’m so charmed by the Swedish practice of fika (enjoying a leisurely coffee, pastry and conversation with another person).  It’s left me pondering how such a little act of enjoyment can change so much, and how much we need to slow down in order to build relationships.  I remember all the great conversations I’ve had while on vacation and have often wondered how to bring the quality of connection into my daily life. Apparently, it has to do with good coffee, a sweet treat and a little space to do nothing but enjoy.


Self Care 101 Announcement 

Are you ready to change? Do you thrive in groups? Is this your moment?

If so, I want you to join the next round of Self Care 101.  Starting on January 7th, twenty amazing women will work together to create a lifestyle of self-care and a community of support.  I've taken over 200 women through this process and have seen the wonders it will work in your life.  Yes, even you who thinks that you'll never be able to change.  Let's get started. 

Do you want to learn more? Oh goodie!  Please fill out this application and we’ll talk, commitment-free, to see if it’s a good fit.

UPDATE: Seven amazing ladies have already signed up!  This round is going to be really good!


A Final Thought

When geometric diagrams and digits
Are no longer the keys to living things,
When people who go about singing and kissing
Know deeper things than the great scholars,
When society is returned once more
To unimprisoned life, and to the universe,
And when life and darkness mate
Once more and make something entirely transparent,
And people see in poems and fairy tales
The true history of the world,
Then our entire twisted nature will turn
And run when a single secret word is spoken.

-Novalis (1800) translated by Robert Bly