Home Mental Health & Well-Being How to Avoid Toxic Self-Care and Focus on Mental Health Management

How to Avoid Toxic Self-Care and Focus on Mental Health Management

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Self-care can be a great tool but may also negatively affect your mental health if the advice comes from toxic influences. The key is learning what’s right for your personal growth journey. Here are some possible adverse side effects of the movement and how to enjoy healthy habits and avoid pitfalls.

Tips for avoiding toxic self-care advice

Toxic advice can sometimes come at you despite your best intentions to avoid it. Here’s what to look out for.

1. Watch for universal promises

You can find wellness products almost everywhere. They’re in stores that sell supplements, groceries and even home goods. Research shows that the wellness market was worth $4.8 billion in 2022 and will rapidly increase in value as the years pass. Part of that profit comes from making universal promises in ads and product packaging.

Some self-care brands sell products that promise they can solve your mental health symptoms nearly overnight. Unfortunately, that doesn’t typically happen for everyone. Although self-care products can soothe your mind, they aren’t going to treat underlying mental health conditions like anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

2. Avoid anything that feels overwhelming

You might think you need to afford expensive solutions and elaborate self-care routines to enjoy the mental health benefits, but that isn’t true. Treating things like anxiety and depression shouldn’t cause more stress than you already feel daily.

You don’t have to break through a paywall or schedule appointments for numerous wellness services to benefit from self-care activities. Anyone can participate without leaving home. You could turn off your phone to reduce your anxiety and stress with a nightly digital detox. Taking a bath or sitting beside an aromatherapy diffuser could also soothe your soul.

Self-care is anything that helps your overall wellness, so you don’t need a big budget or extensive free time to improve your mental health. It’s easy to fit into any schedule. You only have to pick habits that suit your life, like reading a book or practising meditative breathing during your commute. If your new self-care routine feels overwhelming, adjust it to your needs. Your busy phase of life may require simplified ideas that treat your mental wellness at home or on the go.

3. Note any emphasis on appearances

People often confuse self-care ideas with efforts to change their appearance. Although stress-relieving face masks can also benefit your skin, products and habits should prioritize your mental wellness.

Any products promoting physical changes like weight loss over stress or anxiety relief are likely from toxic self-care companies. You’ll know you’ve found a positive source when the brands or professionals focus on strengthening your internal sense of self-worth rather than changing you to reflect unhealthy beauty standards.

4. Treatments may not address actual conditions

Luxury retreats and specialised supplements often promise to solve mental health symptoms. Although they can relieve your anxiety or stress in the short term, they may not be the treatment someone needs for an underlying mental health condition. Instead, they perpetuate toxic positivity by trapping people in self-care routines that consume time and financial resources without making meaningful changes.

Self-care brands may ultimately be a distraction that causes you to put off much-needed appointments with a doctor or therapist. Depression and anxiety might spiral when the condition causing the need for radical self-care treatments goes unaddressed.

How to prioritise your mental health

Take charge of your mental health by focusing on ways to prioritise emotional wellness.

Reflect on your individual needs

Toxic self-care ads and packaging are more effective for people who haven’t reflected on their mental health needs. Consider what you deal with, like how your body responds to stress, if you get enough sleep or which thoughts are most present throughout your day.

Once you have a mental or physical list of your most frequent symptoms, you can easily find healthy self-care solutions. You might journal to process your emotions, take occasional evening walks to relieve stress or eat better to support your body with essential nutrients. You’ll know exactly how each new habit serves your mental health and manage your wellness more effectively.

Connect with a therapist

Toxic self-care resources promise that you can handle everything by yourself. It’s better to recognize when you may benefit from the help of a therapist.

There are numerous benefits to working with a therapist while establishing self-care habits. They’ll identify any underlying conditions you might live with and recommend the most effective treatments. A mental health professional will also teach you to process any lingering trauma that could perpetuate the adverse emotional side effects causing you to try self-care solutions.

Adjust your routine with time

Your daily life changes as the years pass. The self-care habits that helped you manage stress in college might not work with the new sources of stress in your post-graduate life. It’s healthy to adjust your routine as your mental health changes. Positive sources of self-care will recognize that and assist with those adjustments as you make them.

Approach self-care with open eyes

The wellness industry can provide significant relief to people seeking self-care options. Ideas like scheduling at-home spa days, drinking nutritious smoothies or setting up staycations can make life more enjoyable as you achieve your wellness goals. However, keeping your eyes open when trying new things is vital. You’ll confidently navigate the wellness world as long as you’re not overspending and know what’s happening in your body.


Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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