How to Not Be a Self-Care Failure

People who work hard often work too hard. . . . May we learn to honor the hammock, the siesta, the nap and the pause in all its forms. ~Alice Walker

If you get tired, learn to rest. Not to quit. ~Banksy

Ahhh, “self-care.”

It’s all the rage, isn’t it?

It seems to be the end-all-be-all super fix. Like kale.

Usually the self-care conversations/guides go something like this:

Feeling tired? You need to practice more self-care.

Feeling overwhelmed? You must not be engaged in enough self-care.

Ready to tear your hair out? Try more self-care.

It’s the answer to every mental ailment, and frankly, I find it infuriating.

What began as a well-intentioned plea to the overextended to feel okay about doing something fun (while democracy goes up in flames) … has become yet another thing that you’re not doing right.

If you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, overly tired, unable to focus, scattered and frantic – somehow it’s your fault because you haven’t been able to magically “fix” yourself with a carrot facial and a yoga class.

To make matters worse for to-do-list rule followers like myself, when you start looking around for what exactly “self-care” is, it’s all a bit … fluffy.

Sure, there are self-care wheels that describe six categories of self-care – a sort of maslow’s hierarchy of calm – which just adds six more layers of potential stress. Am I supposed to try something from every category? Are these like food groups? Or do I need to figure out what category is most fulfilling for me and go hog-wild on those options – sortof like discovering my personal love language of stress-relief?

And then there’s the scariest proposition of all: What if none of them work for me and I am un-self-careable?

It’s endless, and . . . stressful.

So let’s be honest, right from the get-go. First, it is completely and totally understandable to be stressed out, overwhelmed, and angry right now. In fact, I think it’s a sign that you’re a realistic, rational and mentally healthy person.

Second, when taking a break becomes a task to do and to stress out over, it’s no longer a break. It’s a job.

When you start feeling guilty because you haven’t logged onto your guided meditation app today, you need to start asking yourself who you’re answering to.

You’re supposed to be answering … to you.

The point isn’t to invent or discover something that will “fix” you.

The point is to give yourself space to enjoy the powerful, wonderful, amazing person that you are.

So let’s go back to basics, shall we?

Let’s break self-care down, de-mystify it – and reclaim it.

Because self-care is not going to make you magically calm. It’s not going to do your dishes for you. It’s looking at the stressful stuff and awesome stuff in your life … and playing with the ratios of them until you like what you see.

So I have two questions for you:

1. What do you like? What chills you out?

Milkshakes? (Me too!) A horseback ride? Roller skating, maybe. Watercolors, or a walk in the park. Baking! (Just tell me when to stop by your house…) Or maybe head banging, drumming, going to the batting cages (which was my go-to stress reliever in law school) – sitting in a hot tub… or even scrubbing one. (I have two bathtubs that I will let you scrub, if that’s your thing. Just shoot me a quick e-mail…)

2. What stresses you out?

Trump? (Me too!) Facebook? (Blerg.) News? Talking to your family? Maybe debating with the mailman. Hearing the neighbor’s dog barking. Or feeling scattered, disorganized, or not having a clear focus. Maybe it’s that you don’t feel understood or seen – and you don’t know what to do about those feelings.

Get out a piece of paper and write your answers down. (You can use this simple worksheet to help you organize.) Put the stuff you like on one side of the paper, and the stuff that stresses you out on the other side of the paper. What in the first column can you do more of, and what in the second can you do less of?

Or, when looking at the second column – are there things you can do to alleviate the level of annoyance/anxiety/stress you feel about them? Perhaps set a timer for facebook, get a planner (I’ve got one for you here!), or make it a habit to do the hardest thing on your list first thing in the morning so it’s out of the way.

Now real-life, actual, practical self-care starts to get pretty obvious, doesn’t it?


I made it even easier by creating a simple worksheet, which you can get by CLICKING HERE. I call it My Plan to Stay Sane in 2019. Pretty catchy title, don’t you think?

I sure hope it’s as helpful for you as it has been for me.

Because I want you to know: you’re not a failure at self-care when you care so much that you’re selfless.

You just need to be reminded to take a beat, and take a breath, and find space in your schedule for a smile.

You deserve that, and so much more.

Let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Share Your Story?

I’m always keen on hearing people’s perspectives and experiences. And recently, when a few women described their newly-rediscovered activism, they referenced other times in their lives when they considered themselves activists (two actively protested the Vietnam War, for example). We talked about how their experiences then influenced their perceptions and actions today.

We don’t talk about these experiences enough.

So today I’m asking you to reflect, and share. Was there another time in your life when you were an “activist”? (Or perhaps you weren’t before, but now you are – and if so, why is this time different?) What lessons did you learn or experiences did you have then that influence your activism now?

Send me an e-mail (hello@smalldeedsdone) or comment below with your thoughts. I’d love to feature some of these stories in the coming weeks (with your permission, of course!).

Wednesday: Attend a Webinar Training!

The National Democratic Training Committee is holding a online training academy webinar on Wednesday at 5:00 eastern. The training will orient you to their academy and help answer questions about this awesome resource. You don’t have to be a candidate to attend – potential candidates, volunteers, campaign staff and local Democratic leaders will all get some great information from the training. I’m planning to listen in, and you should too!

Register by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday: Watch T.V.!

Really. (Could you ask for a better action?)

This week there are TWO hearings on Thursday that deserve your attention.

First, at 10:30am (EST) on Thursday, the oversight subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings on the child separation policy. You can watch that livestream by CLICKING HERE.

Second, at 2pm (EST) the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee will hold a hearing on H.R. 1 – which is the overarching government reform bill that is the policy priority for the House. You can subscribe to the Ways and Means Committee YouTube channel here. If your Congresscritter is a Democrat, check to see if he/she has co-sponsored H.R. 1 by CLICKING HERE. And if they haven’t, give them a buzz and encourage them to do so!

Friday: SNAP Recipients are NOT Out of the Woods

Are you ready to go into the weeds a bit?

The shutdown may be over, but the reverberations are still being felt – particularly with those who are food insecure. Because of the timing of the shutdown, over half of SNAP assistance families will go over 45 days between benefits.

Here’s a super helpful graph from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:


While the government did explain to families that there would be a longer time between benefits, that doesn’t take the sting out. Many of these families will have a hard time making the two or three extra weeks. As the CBPP said, “We expect more households to try to turn to emergency food networks and other social services for help as they seek to stretch their benefits across more days.”

So this week, head to a local food bank and give them a hand. Or go to Feeding America and donate a few dollars to feed a family. They’ll appreciate it, and it will make you feel great.

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S: Yes! Some of you have asked if I write for a living, and the answer is “I sure do!” Visit to learn more.

P.P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at or via paypal at
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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