It’s hard to watch a loved one choose their own suffering. Here’s what to do when your loved one refuses to take good care of themselves.

How to Steps:

Stop trying to coerce, nag, bully, or talk your family member into taking care of themselves. Doing so never works, it just causes them to rebel more, and drains you of your energy.

  1. Tell the truth. Tell your family member how you feel when you see them choosing to live an unhealthy life. You might say, “I feel furious when I see you smoking.” Or “I feel scared that you are going to die when I see you eating that doughnut so soon after your triple heart bypass.” Do your best to speak in a way that expresses how YOU are feeling, without blaming your family member.
  2. Model healthy behavior. Taking good care of yourself is the only thing you CAN do. You can’t make someone else take care of themselves, but if you show them that you are willing to get rest, practice healthy nutrition, talk about your feelings, move and breathe in healthy ways, then you’ll feel better no matter what they choose to do, and you might just inspire them to try it.
  3. Give them some space. Sometimes people only know how to get attention when they are doing something that ultimately hurts them. People rush in to save them, and secretly, they like it even though they’re getting “negative” attention. Instead, reserve your attention for when they are doing things that are good for them. Praise them for the good choices.
  4. Reflect back their choices. When someone in your life is choosing something that can kill or hurt them. Remind them that they are making a choice, and in doing so, are choosing death. Sometimes a little tough love can assist them in seeing what they are doing.
  5. Understand their pain. The only reason people wouldn’t take good care of themselves, is because they are in some kind of pain. They might be scared to die, and that’s why they don’t want to go to the doctor. (It doesn’t have to make sense). Or maybe they are using those cigarettes to stem the flow of their sadness. Whatever it is, understanding that THEY are in pain will help YOU to see their innocence underneath.

Ultimately, this is their life, and they get to choose how to live it, no matter how unhealthily. (And you don’t have to be happy about it – see step 2). Letting them make their own choices is difficult, but necessary.

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