Stop Telling Stressed People to Take Better Care of Themselves

A manicure doesn’t solve anyone’s problems.

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A tube of red lipstick with a blue background.
A tube of red lipstick with a blue background.

I remember many years ago being a single mom and afraid I was going to lose my house because I was falling behind in the mortgage.

On top of that I was running a business, getting to every soccer game I could manage, shoveling my own driveway, helping with homework, and aching for someone to “get” what my life was like at the time.

A friend told me I should go get a manicure.

I know she meant well, but it felt really hurtful, like she clearly wasn’t even trying to pretend she understood what I was going through.

And this was after open and honest conversations about how scared I was.

Now, looking back over the years, I see how our friendship took a toll from that suggestion (plus a few others). We don’t have much contact these days.

It’s easy to throw out a comment or suggestion trying to be helpful, but it’s empty. It’s worse than empty. It’s taking one more “should”, one more responsibility, one more “you’re not doing it good enough”, and piling it back on that already hurting person.

The person you want to help doesn’t need one more thing on their to-do list, so take charge and do something for them.

Put your money where your mouth is.

It takes effort to actually take charge and do something for someone.

Go do their laundry that week, take their kids for an afternoon, or do their grocery shopping.

Help your coworker meet a deadline, take a meal to their desk, donate a few hours of your paid leave.

Figure out the need and fill it.

But don’t smile and tell them to book a spa day.

That isn’t helpful.

Self care takes time. It takes money. It takes mental energy just to plan and schedule it. All precious resources that are in short supply to people who are burned out or hurting.

It’s a tone-deaf suggestion that tells leaves your friend feeling even more misunderstood and alone.

Offer something small.

Plenty of times I’ve wished I could help someone, but I didn’t know what to offer. It’s easy to feel like life is so busy, there’s not much wiggle room to give more.

Those are lies the mind tells you to talk you out of helping.

“Love is more than a word. Love is an action.” — Roy Godwin

Offering something small is a big gesture. Offer what you’re good at. Offer what comes easy to you. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time.

Offer to sit and listen. Not to give advice, just to listen.

Words are empty. Love is demonstrated in action. Be the rare one who was there for people.

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