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I have a lot of mental health issues and my mother tends to think that fixing my life is her duty. As such, she will often give me unsolicited health advice so that I could get "better".

She would tell me "do more sport", "go to bed earlier", "eat better", etc...

The thing is, she would tell me all of her ideas every time she has me on the phone (around twice a week) and it's really annoying. Plus, it always makes me feel like I'm a big failure.

I tried to tell her how following her advice wasn't possible/wouldn't work for me, but she keep bringing it up.

Since I'm not great when it comes to expressing myself orally, I tried writing her an email, where I explained to her that I don't want her to give me such (unsolicited) advice anymore and how her advice always made me feel horrible.

She answered by saying that she didn't realize that her advice made me feel that way and she apologized.

I thought she understood but the last time she called me, she brought it up again (that I should do more sport, eat better and go to bed earlier). So, once again, I tried to explain to her how her advice wasn't good for me, but she insisted.

I am now very sick of this situation and don't know what to do so that she would stop giving me those unsolicited advice.

How can I help her understand that, if she truly cares about me and value our phone calls, she should stop giving me those advice?

I'm starting to think that, if there is no other solution, it would be better for me and my mental health that I just stop talking on the phone with her.

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It might be hard but you need to be blunt. And harsh.
There are some comics (it's what helped me express myself) on the internet that explain/ridicule "have you tried to not be depressed/eat better/workout/" mentality. Like this helpful-advice or this Why Your Brain SUCKS When You're Trying to Sleep Or this Why meds are not magic solution

I see from other comments there is severe underestimation of how those advices are pointless and hurtful. In some cases (like mine or few people with similar issues I've met) getting more sleep is not an option. Getting "A sleep" is not an option. Eating healthy is not an option because eating is not an option.

And why it's not helpful because if you were to do those things you would have by now and if they were helping you you would be doing them. People are not actively avoiding sleeping. Or not doing thing that make them feel better. They just cannot do them. Broccoli will not fix it.

What is, IMHO, the most important part of such communication is how it makes you feel.

We already talked about this and you coming back to it makes me not only feel bad but also I have a feeling you are not really listening to me. I understand you want to help, but you coming back again is like telling a man with a broken arm not to have an arm broken. And making another talk pointless if YOU'RE gonna talk about the same thing all over again.

If you are getting help from a professional tell her about that. That might indicate if she really values your wellbeing and put emphasis that you value more their input than your hers.

I said something similar to my mother during face to face talk. I also requested that if she doesn't have anything else to say or cannot phrase sentences differently (so they don't sound like attack) it would be better for me to not talk to her. Which resulted in 6 months of silence. POV - it was good for me.


For anyone with "she's your mother, she care about you". She is, or any parent is, an adult. An adult that should acknowledge, understand and respect other adults' boundaries. Sorry, but from personal experience engaging in any diversion, stating your ground for the 5th time is energy draining, leading to nothing, 'tug-of-war'.
Energy that a person don't have much, remember, no sleep and eating thing?

This is not so playfull, teenage "mooooom, stoooopit". This is serious problem because OP's already fragile mental health is constantly attacked by constant reminder that they are a "failure". Which they AREN'T. But guess who, with every call, make them feel like they are?

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  • @SZCZERZOKŁY: What does it mean "Which resulted in 6 months of silence." Was she angry at you for that long? Was she happy with you being blunt? – virolino Jan 16 at 12:23
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    @virolino I don't know. I assume she didn't like it as she, later, made me aware that the silence was a punishment for my behaviour. Good things done for bad reasons I guess. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 16 at 12:29
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    @virolino I don't know what SZCZERZO is implying but I know that, sometimes, breaking a relationship (even with your mother) is the right thing to do because you have to protect yourself and your mental health. If people are toxic to you and they are unable to change to not be toxic anymore, then you have to stop seeing them. – Ælis Jan 17 at 6:43
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    @Ælis: I agree with you, breaking a relationship is sometimes necessary, even though sad. I had to give up many friends for various reasons. Also, that is why I just asked questions to SZCZERZOKŁY, to understand his point better. BTW, even my mother makes it compelling to use the "break relationship" path, but using the strategy described, things still go on. We get angry occasionally and do not speak for 1-2 weeks, but that is within reasonable limits, I guess, especially that often there are no topics to discuss anyway (we leave far apart, communication is only technology-based now). – virolino Jan 17 at 6:49
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    @virolino Yes. It was a good thing for me. And it wasn't me who broke it. My mother had multiple choices. She chosen the most severe. I benefited from it and from occasional reminder that it was her choice I can sleep better knowing that when I don't feel like talking with her for a month there is nothing wrong with it. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jan 17 at 8:32
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My take is that this is just normal mom stuff, taken a bit to extreme. For all of your childhood life, this has been your mother's job. Eat your vegetables, wash behind your ears, look before you cross the road, don't touch the hot stove, don't run with scissors...

Now, suddenly, you don't need her for those things any more. I would ask you to think about how that makes her feel, and have some compassion for the woman who raised you and who obviously loves you.

Twenty years of constant habit do not go away in a twinkling. "Fixing" your children is a deeply rooted habit. Believe me, I know. My daughter is in her teens and it's just hard not to automatically remind her to do things that she should, especially if it seems to me that she is not taking care of herself properly.

You have told your mother that her advice makes you feel bad, and she has apologized. That is a huge part of the battle. I presume as part of apologizing, that she agreed to stop. Now, your challenge is to gently and lovingly remind her of this every time she forgets.

Hey, mom, I know that you love me and you worry about me, but we agreed that you were going to stop doing this, remember? Let's talk about xyz instead. Were you able to get someone in to repair your furnace..?

Remind and divert. But please start with an acknowledgement of her feelings so that she doesn't feel shut out.

If this gentle reminder doesn't work, don't get drawn into an argument or criticize her. Just refuse to let her ignore your status as an adult.

Yes, I know we agreed, but, you are looking so tired...

(don't argue with her perceptions of you being tired, that tactic will go nowhere)

-You are changing the subject, mom. We agreed not to do this, right?

-Okay, fine. You should watch this video, it will teach you to...

-Unsolicited advice, mom, we need to to change the subject...

-Yes, but...

-You aren't engaging with me, mom. I don't think we can have a conversation right now. Unless you want to talk about xyz instead...

You will probably get farther not arguing with the specifics of whatever she is trying to get you to do, but just reminding her that she is violating your agreement. Stand your ground with love. You may have to sadly tell her that you are going to have to hang up the phone because her refusal to respect you as an adult is too hurtful. Then say "sorry, Mom. We'll try again later..." Then hang up. If you are in person, walk away. Don't get angry, just disengage, after reassuring her that you aren't cutting her off, just the current conversation.

My mother does many of the things listed above, though she was a lot better at respecting my adult status than your mother obviously is. Actually, she still does them and when she does I handle it the same way I outlined above. "I love you mom, but you know I can take case of my own nutritional needs now. You taught me well." Then I change the subject. I have never had to go to the extreme of walking away from my mother because she wouldn't respect my opinion (with one exception, but we have agreed not to talk about politics any more).

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  • This answer is not bad, but seems to completely ignore the whole "I'm having mental issues" part of the question. I've been in a similar position, and "gently and lovingly remind her of this every time she forgets" simply wasn't an option, because most of my energy was focused to not getting overly angry and hanging up. Nowadays the way I deal with unwanted communication is similar to how you describe, but completely discounting the feelings and mental state of the son/daughter in favour of the parent doesn't seem viable or fair. – LordHieros Feb 12 at 15:28
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I want to put in an answer that adds details to the approach described in SZCZERZO KŁY answer

Especially, since I take it from the comments, that my own experience with this situation might be helpful given the following comment:

@Ælis: I agree with you, breaking a relationship is sometimes necessary, even though sad. I had to give up many friends for various reasons. Also, that is why I just asked questions to SZCZERZOKŁY, to understand his point better. BTW, even my mother makes it compelling to use the "break relationship" path, but using the strategy described, things still go on. We get angry occasionally and do not speak for 1-2 weeks, but that is within reasonable limits, I guess, especially that often there are no topics to discuss anyway (we leave far apart, communication is only technology-based now). – virolino

So I had the very same problem with my mother, and it simply was as SZCZERZO KŁY just described. She kept telling me things that in a break down nothing more than "But if you say you want these things being changed, why don't just change them?" And I couldn't have a simple talk with her without this coming up. So at one point, I tried to start explaining to her just as mentioned in the other answer. She didn't respect what I said, tho. At one point I just started interrupting her whenever I spotted her coming up with it. She got upset, how I dare interrupting her. I told her that it is pointless telling me this same thing already more than 30 times. If she doesn't believe me, that I tried those things already when I say I did, Ok. But does she think telling me a 33rd, 34th or 35th time would change anything about my motivation of trying it if she thinks it didn't the first 30 times?

This lead to the relationship with my mom becoming very frustrating because she still didn't stop it. And me becoming more and more stressed by just thinking about having contact to my mom lead me to reducing the contact, what made her being even more accusing of me not wanting to spend time with her. It was a path of a few months where all our interactions were nothing more than her accusing me of being a bad son and me telling her that I can't continue having contact with her if she doesn't stop this behavior.

She didn't, no matter how much I tried to make her realize. So one day I wrote her a very long letter, trying one more time to explain to her everything going on within me and letting her know that it just isn't helpful so I don't want to have any further contact with her from now on. I heard from other relatives that she was really sad about that letter. (It wasn't written as tactful as I would have done it today, to be fair...)

But it just happened by this, that we had no contact for almost 1 and a half year...

There was some bitterness about it on both sides, no question. But I needed that long to get a different view on this... And it seems to me that the time served her good, aswell.

As like 1,5 years ago I reinitialized the contact. I approached her again. I wasn't really expecting anything having been different... But she was very careful with me. And, of course after such a long time, things were quite different.

First I only could visit her for no more than a few hours at best, cause just everything was reminding me of all the stress her company caused me. But as I figured on the course of the last year, she is respecting me now, she respects my decisions as such and doesn't even dare anymore to give me unsolicited advice. She kindly asks me if I would welcome hearing her opinion. And that alone is a level of respect I appreciate, that I of course wouldn't say no. All in all it was a very hard decision to do, and it probably broke my moms heart... But in the end it is better for both of us.

I slowly start again feeling more and more comfortable being around her and a few weeks back I was even for 2 full days at their place with a sleep over at Christmas. They visited me a few weeks before that at my house (living after I found a new job a few 100 Km apart). I told them, that I would prefer them not sleeping in my apartment, but rather taking a hotel, so I can just relax in the evenings but I am fine with spending all 3 days they were here together. So we did and we had a really great time.

So my bottom line here is. Despite it was a hard decision to do this, in the end it payed off. My mom took to her heart what I said back then, having had that long to think about it. And it seems she came to the conclusion that she should take my own perception seriously rather than talking down to me, despite her being my mom. So now she is giving me all the space I need (despite I think sometimes she is still sad about all the distance I need), is respecting my expression of my own needs and in return of this, I have the social energy and am feeling comfortable again with slowly more and more approaching her, as spending time with her isn't anymore as energy consuming as it was in the past.

Hence, yes breaking the relationship was a good thing. And if over months, if not even years, communicating your own requirements in an relation with family doesn't change this... breaking the contact purposefully for that reason might change things. And if even that doesn't help... you won't ever get on a healthy relationship with that person anyways.

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I have this issue myself, and I know several people from several countries complaining about the same thing. So you are not the only one, and we understand your feelings.

I have a few things which might help you. I use them myself, and they work to some extent (i.e. mothers will always be mothers, you cannot change realities of life :) ).

  1. She would tell me "do more sport", "go to bed earlier", "eat better", etc...

Well, that is actually good advice. I would tell you the same thing, even though not so often. Try to improve your life. Eating better food is the easiest you can do. Sleeping more should not be a problem (although I cannot go early to bed myself).

  1. Be proactive in dealing with the situation. I was able to (mostly) cancel all the advice sessions saying something like this (using the info in your question):

Hi mom, how are you? Let me tell you what happened yesterday. I bought some vegetables, I washed them and chopped them, I made a dressing and poured it over the vegetables. The salad was so tasty, that I decided to make another one, and I ate that entirely too. And there is more, you would not believe. I was able to actually give up watching TV and I went to bed early. In the morning I was a different person. I felt so good, that I decided to walk to work, instead of taking the bus for only 2 stations. It felt great to have the exercise.

You only need to serve her this "facts soup" a few times, and she will most likely fell less and less inclined to give you advice. You tell her what she prepared to tell you anyway.


I'm starting to think that, if there is no other solution, it would be better for me and my mental health that I just stop talking on the phone with her.

Even though it is difficult, burning the bridges with one's family is really not the best solution (even though difficult), especially when the family only tries to help.


Update / Notes:

  1. Please note that the keyword above is "say", not "do". Yes, it is lying, but is a middle way which might work (in my case, it works miracles, although it is mostly the truth).
  2. If lying is not an option (for whatever reason), then just tell anything that happened throughout the day. Communication is more important than information. If you do not communicate anything, then she gets the time to think about the worse, and that leads her to what she knows best: giving advice.

Hey, let me tell you what happened today at work. A colleague...

or

I was going back home when...

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  • I downvoted your answer, cause most of your advice isn't really that easy to do thinking back of my situation back then. I was in within a depression back then, and most of the advices weren't really practical to execute. I knew they were good advices. But I couldn't follow them despite I wanted to. Hearing them over and over again, made me just feel worse. The way you put it in your answer makes me even feel bad for OP here, its exactly that way of phrasing causing the trouble. Also being in such mental state, makes being proactive very difficult anyways. So I find that of limited help, too. – dhein Jan 17 at 14:12
  • @dhein: I made some updates. Also, once fallen (physically, as well as mentally), it requires some effort to raise again. Proactivity is a choice. – virolino Jan 20 at 5:47

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