Friday Fix: 5 Self-Care Mistakes That Leave You Emotionally Exhausted

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Verywell / Julie Bang

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Every Friday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, shares the “Friday Fix”—a short episode featuring a quick, actionable tip or exercise to help you manage a specific mental health issue or concern.

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Episode Transcript

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors. Thank you.

For media or public speaking inquiries, email Amy at

Welcome to The Verywell Mind Podcast. I’m Amy Morin, the editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind. I’m also a psychotherapist and a best-selling author of five books on mental strength, including my new book called 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do Workbook. 

You’re listening to the Friday Fix. Every Friday, I share a quick mental strength strategy that can help fix the thoughts, feelings, and actions that can hold you back in life.

And the fun part is we record the show from a sailboat in the Florida Keys.

Now let’s dive into today’s episode.

Today I’m talking about self-care mistakes. I hear so many people talking about self-care and yet, my inbox is filled with people who write to me asking why they aren’t feeling better even though they’re taking care of themselves.

One of the biggest reasons people find their self-care practices aren’t helping them feel better is because they’re making some mistakes along the way.

You might be thinking how can there be a wrong way to engage in self-care? Well, there’s not really a wrong way to do it–but there are some common misconceptions about self-care that can keep you stuck. 

I’ll dive into the five biggest self-care mistakes I see people make in a minute but before I do, let’s talk about what self-care really is.

It’s essentially anything that you do to take care of your health. That includes your physical and psychological health. 

So self-care strategies are pretty broad. They can include anything from eating healthy and drinking plenty of water to taking time off from work and having fun with friends. 

This seems pretty straightforward right? So how could you possibly make a self-care mistake that will actually leave you feeling emotionally exhausted? Well, here are five big self-care mistakes that will do just that.

Mistake #1: Being reactive instead of proactive.

I hear a lot of people say things like, “I decided to cancel my plans at the last minute because I needed to take care of myself.” 

But if you have to cancel at the last minute, it’s actually a sign that you’re not taking care of yourself.

If you overschedule your life or overcommit to work tasks, you might find yourself having to disappoint people at the last second.

Self-care involves being proactive about how you schedule your time. Block off time to do things you love or just to have some alone time.

It doesn’t feel good to cancel plans with your friends at the last minute because your anxiety is too high or to have to tell your boss that you can’t complete a report on time because you don’t have enough hours in the day to get your work done. Or to ditch your family who is depending on you because you need some time to yourself.

You’ll harm your relationships and your reputation if you aren’t dependable.

But if you regularly put time in your schedule to take care of yourself, you won’t have to do these things–at least not very often. You’ll establish healthy boundaries up front, say no to things you know you don’t have time to do, and you will have the energy to do the things you’ve signed up for. 

Mistake #2: Calling the things you do to look better self-care.

I used to work with a woman in my therapy office who was exhausted from all of her self-care appointments. 

But her self-care appointments involved manicures, pedicures, hair salons, and lots of cosmetic procedures. 

She didn’t find any of those things to be relaxing or enjoyable. She found them to be expensive and stressful. But she thought she was engaging in self-care. But the only reason she was doing those things was because she wanted to look better for other people, not because they improved her well-being.

If you love doing those things because you find it relaxing or because you truly enjoy the process of getting something done, then it might be self-care.

But, not everyone loves those things and they’re really only doing them for other people, not themselves.

Going to a chiropractor or to get a message to help you feel better are examples of self-care. But getting a cosmetic procedure done might be more about alleviating the pressure you feel to look better to the outside world–not to say you shouldn’t do those things. But you don’t have to call those things self-care to justify doing them.

I know of several people who spend a lot of time every week rushing from appointment to appointment for cosmetic things. And it adds more stress to their lives–and it isn’t really self-care.

Mistake #3: Thinking self-care is supposed to always feel good.

The things that improve your health aren’t always fun to do. You aren’t going to feel like exercising sometimes but that’s self-care. And you aren’t going to feel like pushing yourself to do hard things–but that can be self-care too.

Remember, it’s not always about what makes you happy right now. Sometimes it’s about doing uncomfortable things now because it’s good for your health in the long-run.

Working out when you don’t want to is self-care. Pushing yourself to go to a support group when you’re terrified to do it, that’s self-care. Waking up early to get some time to yourself, that’s self-care also.

Those things don’t feel good in the moment, but they’re good for your overall well-being in the long run. So keep that in mind, self-care isn’t always going to be pleasant.

Mistake #4: Assuming it’s one-size-fits-all

For one person, staying home all weekend might be self-care. For another person, pushing themselves to go out with friends even though they aren’t feeling up to it, is an example of self-care.

It all depends on what your goals are. 

For someone with depression or a little social anxiety, pushing themselves to go do things they don’t want to do can be really good for their mental health.

But for someone who doesn’t have much time to themselves, scheduling a weekend to stay home by themselves might be exactly what they need to take care of themselves. 

So it’s important to know what you need to do to take care of yourself in your life. You won’t always get it right. Sometimes, you’ll step back when you really needed to step up. And vice versa. But that’s all part of learning more about yourself. 

Sometimes though it’s tempting to feel pressure to do what other people are doing. 

If someone is reading a book on the beach as part of their self-care routine, you might wonder if you should do the same. But your version of self-care might involve a crowded dinner party where you get to meet a lot of new people. 

Or someone else says they’ve hired a housekeeping service because they’re taking better care of themselves, you might think you should do that too. But if you’re struggling financially, hiring someone to do your household duties isn’t good self-care.

But there are a lot of things you should consider when it comes to defining what self-care looks like for you–your financial health, your relationships, your social life, your mental health, and your physical health.

Sometimes those things seem a little conflicting. An exotic vacation might be good for your mental health but not your financial health. So it’s important to consider all the factors before you decide if something is going to be good for your overall well-being.

Mistake #5: Using ‘self-care’ as an excuse to ‘self-sabotage.’ 

Sometimes my therapy clients will say things like, “I skipped going to the gym yesterday because I really needed to take care of myself.”

We’ll spend a few minutes talking about that and by the end of the conversation they often grow to believe that perhaps they just used self-care as an excuse to avoid doing something hard. But what they were really doing was self-sabotage.

Your brain will try to get you to indulge in unhealthy things or reach for those quick temptations by telling you that you worked hard or you deserve it. But sometimes your brain lies to you. And what you really need is to do something that will cause you to feel uncomfortable–because that’s what will help you feel better in the long-term. 

Sometimes it’s important to pause and ask what really is the best self-care in that moment–pushing yourself to do something you don’t want to do or cutting yourself some slack. 

Rest is an important part of self-care, but if you find yourself having to choose between resting and working out, it may be a sign you aren’t building enough rest time into your schedule.

Healthy self-care should leave you feeling better in the long-run. It should energize you and help you feel as though you have the tools you need to get through each day.

If you’re making some self-care mistakes, though, you’ll end up feeling emotionally exhausted. So make sure you’re not making these five mistakes: being reactive instead of proactive, calling the things you do to look better self-care, thinking self-care should always feel good, assuming self-care is one-size-fits-all, and using self-care as an excuse to self-sabotage.

Keep in mind, that some periods of your life are going to require more self-care than others. During those stressful times when you think you don’t have time to take care of yourself, those are the times when you’ll need it the most. But think of it as an investment–investing in yourself is never a bad idea. 


Make sure to tune into the show on Monday. I’m talking to singer/songwriter Jewel about the mental health strategies she uses and a new platform she’s involved in that allows you to get help in a virtual world. 

If you know someone who could benefit from hearing this message, share the show with them. Simply sharing a link to this episode could help someone feel better and grow stronger.

Make sure to subscribe to us on your favorite platform so you can get mental strength tips delivered to you every single week. 

Do you want free access to my online course? It’s called 10 mental strength exercises that will help you reach your greatest potential. To get your free pass, all you have to do is leave us a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Then, send us a screenshot of your review. Our email address is We’ll reply with your all access pass to the course.

Thank you for hanging out with me today and listening to the VW Mind podcast. 

And as always, a big thank you to my show’s producer, who likes to listen to his favorite albums on vinyl, Nick Valentin.

By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.