Exploring Self-Care - Book Club for the Exhausted?



Hi kids- I’m dropping in with an invitation to read and discuss a new book…
(BTW- the tag “Ask a Professional” is not me (!), but rather the author of the book, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin. MD.)

From the New York Times- September 19, 2023. " Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist, has observed how wellness culture fails her patients, who she says are often burned out because of systemic failures, from the stresses that come with financial precariousness to the lack of paid family leave. In her book “Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included)" she encourages people to look beyond superficial fixes — the latest juice cleanses, yoga workshops, luxury bamboo sheets — to feel better. Instead, she argues that real self-care requires embracing internal work, which she outlines as four practices: setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, aligning your values and exercising power.

There is an interview with Lakshmin on the Ezra Klein Show if you want to check it out.

I thought it would be helpful to discuss “REAL” Self-Care in context of living with loved ones with Substance Use Disorders. Would you like to join me? When I was first addressing my son’s alcoholism I used “self-care” as a stand in for “not-care” for him. Ok, I knew that I couldn’t cure, change, control him but initially it was easier to pamper myself a little than really do the harder work of mapping out my fence and boundaries and how many gates would I still allow to exist? And why?

I don’t know the answer- I’m curious. I am going to order the book, and if you want to read it, too- you’re welcome to join me - here. Let me know.

Real Self-Care, Chap. 4: Taking Back the Reins

Great questions about self care - What is “real” self care and why is it so hard to address?

I think self care, at its core, is showing up for yourself in the way you need to in the moment. Sometimes, in moments of crisis and chaos, self care might look like taking a break by going for a walk, or journaling, or just making time for yourself in a way that nourishes you.

I agree though that eventually, self care requires going deeper and really looking inward. It takes time to get to that point. It’s like the difference between washing your car as a quick fix to make it look shiny and new, but then it also requires detailing and maintenance under the hood. But sometimes we don’t figure that out until the car engine light goes off and we finally take it in for a closer look. It takes a little more effort to get to that point, but in the long run, we’ll be healthier and back on the road! :red_car::blue_car::hugs:


I’m definitely calling you if I ever need someone who knows how to wash a car! Great analogy, @Jacqui.
For a long time my self-care meant just acknowledging that the red CHECK ENGINE light was still on.


Going deeper and looking inward is something I have been practicing more. Why do/did I accept unacceptable behaviors? I realized I was trained very early to keep secrets and make the family look good. Faking it was fine as long as the family appears to be respectable community members. It’s really hard to do all that pretending, but it saves one from having to face what is real and go through the pain of detoxing and working on recovery. I stepped out of my home and into marriage and continued to pretend. Until I just couldn’t anymore. Now Im trying to learn to be real. Because until the pretending stops, the truth about addiction being an illness that way too many families face will continue to be hidden and many more lives will be wasted and lost.


I am going to order the book, and if you want to read it, too- you’re welcome to join me - here. Let me know.

I’m in! I just ordered the book. And I’m pleased to be able to connect with everyone again!


Hi there friends, @alair, @jacqui, and others- - so my book has arrived and I’m just starting to read it. I’m super intriqued!

How should we structure our Book Club for the Exhausted? Here are some ideas:

  • There are 8 chapters in the main text, so we could make 8 questions in this thread that relate to each chapter and have asynchronous discussions pertaining to each chapter.
  • There are 4 principles for which Dr. Laskshmin advocates- so we could organize around her different self-care principles.
  • We could post more open environment questions as they come up. We can keep it super organic and structureless.

What would you prefer? Chime in, or I will go rogue and pick a path.

Here is a little quote, from a “open the book anywhere” to give you a sense of the content:

I frequently see women struggle with guilt tolerance, as Tonya did. Facing guilt requires accepting the fact that we cannot control and are not responsible for the emotions of other people. To effectively say no we must learn to tolerate other people’s disappointment and trust that is not a moral failing on our part.

-From Real Self Care by Dr. Pooja Laskshmin, MD, p, 100, Random House, NY, 2023.

QUESTION: How do we tolerate disappointment from others when we say “no”?


@Thinkstet - I like the quote + question that you posted, but also interested in the 4 self-care principles. I don’t plan to order or read the book right now (I’ve already got quite a stack of self-help books that I’m working through), but would love to be able to see excerpts here and join the conversation!

Oof this one hits home! What has helped me to say “no” and let go of guilt/tolerate disappointment from others has been to consistently communicate my needs and boundaries to my loved ones. I’ve heard that “No is a complete sentence” meaning I don’t need to explain myself to anyone, and that’s true in some cases. But with my son for example, I want him to understand that I’m an imperfect human who has needs and feelings, too. Sometimes I need quiet time. Sometimes I won’t do things that he can do for himself. Sometimes I will, depending on the circumstance. By showing him that I take the time to care for myself and set boundaries, I hope he will learn to do the same.


Any of the discussion suggestions would work for me.
I’m looking forward to discussions!

QUESTION : How do we tolerate disappointment from others when we say “no”?
As I thought about trying to compose an answer, I realized….I don’t! I do say “no”, but I don’t tolerate the disappointment from the person to whom I’ve said no. I feel guilty and my stomach and soul hurts when I have caused unhappiness to a loved one. This probably explains a lot about me!

Real Self-Care Chap. 2: Why It's Hard to Resist the Seduction