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When Self-Care Failed to Help My Anxiety

One big thing I’ve learned throughout my mental health journey is that there is not a one-size-fits-all, magic solution for good mental health. A few years ago, when I was in the midst of my first bad anxiety episode, I scoured the internet for a self-care solution that would help me feel better. I read countless articles that lectured me on making time for self-care and how doing just that would make stress melt away.

Throughout all of this research, my anxiety was at an all-time high- I would wake up with a racing heart and struggle to fall asleep at night. Honestly, I was scared, frustrated, and desperate for a solution that would help. The internet had me convinced that a lack of self-care caused my constant state of anxiety. So, like any good millennial, I implemented all the strategies I read online and convinced myself that one of them was bound to stick.

I decided to take on self-care in a full force fashion. I bought too many facemasks, forced myself to sit through multiple yoga YouTube videos, downloaded meditation apps, poured lavender oil on my pillow, and tried to “relax” in a bubble bath. But as you may have guessed, none of it seemed to help. My heart was still racing, I was irritable, I found it hard to concentrate, and my sleep was all kinds of messed up. And to top it all off, I felt like I was failing.

Rather than acknowledging that there might be something bigger than a lack of self-care at play, I resorted to self-deprecation. I remember always thinking that there must be something wrong with me - so many people shared how these self-care avenues had decreased their stress, so why wasn’t it working for me? I obviously sucked at de-stressing, and I chalked it up to personal failure. I felt a lot of shame around not making things work. The whole process only exacerbated my anxiety and made me feel like I was incapable of feeling better.

I can’t remember the exact moment that I realized that I was likely dealing with something beyond typical stress, but that realization helped me reframe my outlook on healing and self-care overall. The entire process (no matter how sucky) taught me that while self-care is so beneficial to my overall wellness, but I can’t turn to it as a bandaid for anxiety. My inability to solve my anxiety through make face masks, and bubble baths was not a personal failure, but instead, a sign that I was dealing with something bigger.

Self-care has a place in our lives; I’m not here to deny that. However, if you are reading article after article about making self-care a priority, and wondering why you aren’t feeling better, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. There is nothing wrong with you! I hope my trial and error with self-care serves as a reminder that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to mental health. These days I regularly turn to self-care to maintain good mental wellness, but when I’m genuinely struggling with my anxiety, I turn to other supports like therapy and medication.

My hope for you is that you can find solutions that work for you without falling into the same shame trap that I did. It’s easy to get caught up in all the advice out there, and it’s important to try different things to find out what works. But, what we should try to avoid is the whole beating ourselves up when something doesn’t work, even if everyone else on the internet says it should solve all of our problems… Here’s to continued work towards better mental health and showing ourselves lots of grace through the process!


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