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Shed the Shame Podcast Episode 117: When Taking Care of Yourself Does More HARM Than GOOD (and what to do about it)

December 06, 20236 min read

"You are different from everyone else - so be your own map maker! Create a system that flows with YOUR lifestyle and needs, and make sure the practices that you’re implementing align with YOUR values and YOUR goals. That is important. If you’re participating in something that you don’t believe in…you’re never going to make it a habit."

- Jen Whitens, Shed the Shame Podcast


Taking care of yourself is essential for your well-being and overall health and now more than ever we are finally getting the message and encouragement to make time for ourselves and our wellness, which is great advice. This self-care can range from exercising, eating healthy, meditation, spending time with loved ones, and mental healthcare for example. 

However, there are times when taking care of yourself can cause more stress than good. It can lead to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, despite your efforts to nurture and care for yourself. When the very act of taking care of yourself starts to cause more stress than it solves, that’s when it stops being categorized as self-care. 

Today I’m going to help you identify if this is the case for you (because you might not even know it!) and show you how you can eliminate this overwhelm to make sure you feel balanced and fulfilled.

Firstly, let’s take a look at why this can happen. We live in an impossibly face-paced world that includes an impossible amount of to-do’s - you know I don’t need to even elaborate on what those are. Let’s just say that not many people have the luxury of being bored because there’s just too much to do and not much time to get it done. However, we are inundated with what seems to be examples of people who are seemingly doing it all, even with a damn smile on their face. Perfect lives seem to play out on the high-light reels of social media, leaving you in comparison mode and thinking that the idea of bubble baths, face masks, and meditation sessions are the ultimate solutions to all of life’s problems. But the reality is that taking care of yourself can sometimes become a full-time job in itself, complete with stress, anxiety, and the feeling of falling short if we don't follow through with our self-care routines.

So how are you to know that taking care of yourself has become too much for your nervous system to handle?

Here are some signs that your self-care routine is not benefiting you as it should:

  1. Feeling more anxious or stressed despite implementing self-care practices

  2. Noticing your wellness practices are starting to feel like a burden

  3. Feeling guilty or ashamed for not following your self-care regimen

  4. Adding more tasks to your to-do list

  5. Feeling like you don't have enough time for everything

  6. Neglecting other important life tasks and relationships

These signs can have long-term negative effects on your physical and emotional health (feeling like a failure, negative self-talk, guilt/shame, overwhelm), relationships (little time for loved ones and being present to the good things in life), and overall well-being (burnout). You might feel dissociated/not really able to be present, exhausted, scatter-brained, or literally frozen and unable to accomplish anything. This is your nervous system literally screaming at you to slow down! 

It's crucial to recognize the signs and make changes to your self-care routine BEFORE you ever get to this space, but if you are already there or heading in this direction, here are some tips to ensure you make taking good care of yourself less overwhelming and stressful:

  1. Set realistic expectations- When creating a self-care routine, start small and gradually build up. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH! Don't try to implement too many things all at once, or you'll end up feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. We are actually practicing this inside my membership, the CCCC. We are incorporating new healthy habits that support your body, mind, energy, and relationships to support mental and emotional wellness slowly over time to ensure our nervous systems can acclimate, we get the support that best suits each of us as individuals, and using techniques (like flexibility) to instill these new habits for life. Another aspect to remember is that you can change or adjust your routine as you go, so don't be afraid to experiment.

    Along with setting realistic expectations is creating habits that are simple and effective. When you make the habit easy to win at, it will be easier to maintain. Remember that you can always built on it once you’ve made it a routine that has already stuck. When you make a routine easy to master AND it feels good when you do it, THEN you’ve really found your bread and butter. Sometimes it’ll be a habit that physically feels good, and sometimes it’ll be a matter of sitting in the moment to relish how good it feels to take care of yourself. Whatever you do, make sure you are getting feedback that is positive to reinforce the habit so it sticks and gives you what you need!

  1. Prioritize your needs- Listen to your body and emotional state, and prioritize the practices that bring you joy and comfort. This is crucial! You don't have to follow a set routine or follow what others are doing. Be your own mapmaker and create a system that flows with your lifestyle and needs. Make sure the practices you're implementing align with your values and goals.

  1. Connect with others- Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you to practice self-care. Share your struggles and successes with them, and learn from their experiences. Remember that many times when we are communicating our experiences with others we not only help them, but we also give ourselves the opportunity to reflect more deeply on our behaviors and open the door for great ideas and feedback that could be helpful from others as well. Connecting with others who also prioritize self-care is motivating and empowering AND helps to hold you accountable by keeping your goals front and center in life instead of slowly fading right off our priority list, which is a common struggle for many of us.

  1. Be present- Engage in activities that bring you peace and joy, and focus on the present moment. Avoid multitasking while engaging in self-care practices, as it can lead to feeling stressed and overwhelmed. An exception I have to this rule is habit stacking, which can ease overwhelm, make your life easier, and ensure your habits stick. For example, healthy food-prep while listening to music/audiobook/podcast; exercising outdoors and/or while jamming out to your fave tunes; long, hot, relaxing showers or baths and meditation; reciting positive affirmations while you do your skincare routine…what self-care practices can you habit stack to save time, make life easier, happier, and healthier?


Remember, the goal of self-care is to feel good, NOT stressed. By recognizing when your self-care routine is causing more stress than good, you can make changes that support your well-being. Be kind to yourself, and don't put too much pressure on yourself to follow a set routine. Your well-being is important, so take care of yourself in a way that feels good for you AND sets you up for long-term success!

self-carestressoverwhelmprioritizebalancehabitsexpectationscommunitypresenceflexibilitysustainable habitsself-care routinesupporthabit stackingself-care practicespodcast

Jen Whitens

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