A Time To Slow Down? The Fine Line Between Self-Care And Self-Sabotage…

Life in the modern era throws a barrage of feelings, changes, and emotional challenges our way.

Anxiety, depression, and anger – they all manifest in diverse ways, from relentless worry and low mood to irritability and emotional turbulence.

The feeling of being overwhelmed can be a little too easy to achieve sometimes, but understanding how to cope and do “just enough” is crucial for maintaining robust and resilient mental health.


Understanding the Battles Within: Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are prevalent mental health conditions that profoundly impact daily life. Some tell-tale signs include:


  • Constant feelings of worry or fear
  • Restlessness and inability to concentrate
  • Physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat and sweating
  • Low libido


  • Persistent low mood or prolonged feelings of sadness
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Diminished sexual drive

A Deeper Dive into Anxiety and Depression

Understanding the specific battles you’re fighting that are contributors to the feelings of anxiety and depression is crucial for crafting your personal coping toolkit. But there are also a few handy things you can do right now as quick ‘add-ons’ – for sometimes, there’s no need to peel back all the layers of angst and sadness to get things moving – far from it.

As long as you don’t overdo it (and that includes all the solid mental health go-to’s like exercise), then things can begin to shift PDQ.

But first, let’s scan an eye across these often-misunderstood conditions:



Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): Imagine carrying a constant low-level hum of worry about seemingly everything, from finances to health to everyday tasks. That’s GAD, where worries become overwhelming and interfere with daily life.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Social situations like presentations or meeting new people trigger intense fear and self-consciousness, often stemming from a fear (therefore possibly a previous experience) of judgment or embarrassment. It can feel like the spotlight is permanently on you, and everyone is scrutinizing your every move.

Panic Attacks: Sudden surges of intense fear and physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and dizziness characterise panic attacks. They can feel like you’re losing control and can have you seriously contemplating your health, making every second increasingly agonising.



Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): It’s not just sadness; it’s a pervasive feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that lingers for weeks or months. Activities you once enjoyed lose their appeal, and even basic tasks feel burdensome.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD):  to seasonal changes in daylight, SAD brings on depressive symptoms during specific times of the year, leaving you feeling drained and unmotivated.

Postpartum Depression (PPD): After childbirth, instead of the expected joy, some mothers experience PPD, characterised by intense sadness, anxiety, and overwhelming feelings of inadequacy.

Remember, these are just a few examples, and mental health experiences are wide, diverse, and individual. Whilst the fundamentals of these concerns are similar from person to person biologically, the emotions, feelings, and reasons behind these conditions often stem from unique experiences.


anxiety – you are unique


Beyond Labels: Recognising Your Unique Experience

While labels can help you understand your challenges, it may be wise not to get lost in them.

Your experience is yours. Try instead to pay attention to your specific triggers, thought patterns, and physical symptoms (without paying them too much attention – spending lots of time thinking about anxiety often contributes to more of the feelings you don’t want).

This act of self-awareness will empower you to tailor your coping strategies and can help you in seeking the support that best fits your needs.


Additional Tools for Understanding:

Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings has been scientifically shown to help you identify patterns and triggers, and he;p you think through improved coping strategies.

Mindfulness exercises: Practices like meditation or body scans can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions without judgment.

Talking to a therapist: A professional can provide a safe space to explore your experiences and develop coping mechanisms, and can guide you on your way to knowing yourself even better, and implementing robust and resilient strategies to help you move towards a better you.

By understanding the battles you’re fighting and equipping yourself with the right tools, you can navigate the challenges of anxiety and depression with greater resilience and find your path to mental well-being.


Self Care Ideas: Your Essential Toolkit

Self-care ideas are your FREE personal toolkit for combating mental health challenges.

Here are some essential tools to equip yourself with:

Move Your Body, Lift Your Spirits: Regular physical activity, like walking or yoga, isn’t just good for your body; it reduces stress and elevates your mood. But most importantly, try to find activities you enjoy, whether it’s dancing in your living room to your favourite tunes or going for a brisk walk in nature.

Try to Find Your Inner Calm: Practices like mindfulness and relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation can help de-stress and manage anxiety (there’s load of help on YouTube for this). Imagine stepping off a rollercoaster and settling into a peaceful rocking chair – that’s the feeling you’re ideally aiming for.

Fuel Your Body and Mind: Nourishing your body with healthy foods, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest to provide the foundation to maintain good mental health. You are a vehicle, and you’re a vehicle that needs to last your whole life. Regularly servicing with a damn good MOT is a must.




Connect with Your Tribe: Social connection is powerful. Spend time with loved ones; perhaps join a club if you can manage getting out and about, or a group of some sort, or volunteer. Feeling support and belonging within a community can be a significant buffer against mental health challenges.

Express Yourself Creatively: Creativity is a potent outlet for emotions and can foster feelings of accomplishment and purpose. Paint, write, sing, play an instrument – explore whatever sparks your creative fire. Learning is an important part of robust mental health too, so you don’t need to be good at these activities – in fact, it’s better if you aren’t. Working towards a goal is as good if not better than the completion of the goal itself, so pick something that will challenge you (but not over-challenge you!)

Remember, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Experiment with different tools, and activities, and find what works best for you. You are unique after all. And remember, what’s worked in the past may not work for you now, but it might. Trial and error are equally as important as each other.

Also, what works now may not always work for you, so a willingness to adapt and adopt new challenges will keep you bouncing on your toes.





Don’t Drown in “Too Much”: The Pitfalls of Overdoing It

While self-care is crucial, remember that trying to do too much can backfire.

Feeling overwhelmed by endless strategies and activities can lead to burnout and exacerbate your anxiety and depression.

Getting lost in the granular detail of organisation and planning isn’t the direction we’re looking for here, even if those spreadsheets include ‘all the necessary things’ that can lead to a better you. If you’re struggling with feelings of anxiety and/or low mood or depression, over-doing the goodies, doesn’t always have the best outcome.


Often people travelling through anxiety or depression can get a little, or a lot, obsessive in their thinking, possibly over-compensating for those days of (necessary) uber-procrastination (see blog on Procrastination Meaning here)

Flip-flopping from little to everything may feel good, at first, but it could, it could lead to other concerns worth steering away from right from the off.

Exercise is often the step out of these negative spaces that can become a little bit of a focus sump; that place that takes up all your time because it made you feel good at the start and EVERYONE in EVERY MAGAZINE or Tiktok video tells you exercise is the way forward.

Well, it is… but it’s also not.

Let me tell you why that is…




The Double-Edged Sword of “Doing More”

Exploring the Link Between Overexertion, Cortisol, and Your Well-being

We’ve established the importance of self-care in managing mental health, but there’s a fine line between self-care and self-sabotage.

While regular exercise is a cornerstone of mental and physical well-being, pushing ourselves too hard can backfire, with unintended consequences for our bodies and minds.

Enter the complex world of cortisol, a hormone often dubbed the “stress hormone.”

In small doses, cortisol is our friend. It gives us the energy boost we need to meet challenges, fuels alertness, and helps us adapt to physical and emotional stressors. Think of it as our internal alarm system, preparing us for action.

However, like any system, overload can lead to serious malfunctions.

And serious consequences.


When we constantly push ourselves through excessive exercise, chronic stress, or sleep deprivation, our cortisol levels remain chronically elevated. This “overactive alarm system” starts impacting our well-being in several ways:


Physical Fallout:

Cortisol, in excess, becomes like a constant internal storm. It wreaks havoc on our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections.

It throws our blood sugar levels into disarray, potentially leading to weight gain and pre-diabetes.

Muscle breakdown and bone loss become concerns, jeopardizing our strength and mobility.

Even our skin loses its youthful glow, becoming thinner and more prone to wrinkles.

Mental Mayhem:

Constant cortisol surges can create a whirlwind in our minds. We become more susceptible to anxiety and depression, experiencing heightened fear, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Sleep becomes elusive, further perpetuating the stress cycle.

Mental disarray can negatively impact our relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life.

Energy Exhaustion:

Ironically, despite the initial energy boost, chronic cortisol elevation leads to burnout. Our adrenal glands, responsible for cortisol production, become exhausted, leaving us feeling drained and fatigued.



anxiety - walking and hiking



The key, then, lies in finding the “just enough” sweet spot.

Engage in regular exercise, but listen to your body.

Rest when needed, prioritise sleep and manage stress through healthy coping mechanisms.

Remember, self-care isn’t just about doing things; it’s about balance, about understanding our body’s signals, and respecting its limitations.

OK is OK – Give Yourself a Break

Striving for perfection can create a cycle of stress and negative self-talk, ultimately harming your mental well-being. So if you can, try to let go of idealistic expectations and celebrate more realistic, small victories.


Remember, progress, not perfection, is the mindset. And progress can mean maintaining.

It can mean doing Just Enough.




🌐 Sources

  1. National Health Service (NHS) – 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing
  2. The National Hypnotherapy Society – Dealing with Anxiety: Tips, Strategies, and the Power of Hypnotherapy
  3. Mind – Self-care for Mental Health Problems
  4. Priory Group – Mental Health and Self Care


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