17 Mistakes People Make with their Emotional Health

17 mistakes people make with their emotional health

When we are going through emotional pain it feels like we are lost in the wilderness trying desperately to find our way back home. We forget how or when we first got lost. In our attempts to find our way, we often get even further off the path, spending significant time and resources just to find we have gotten nowhere. On my journey I’ve encountered many of the following deceptive trails and dead-ends:

1. Not wanting to feel/Avoiding emotional pain.

Wanting something to remove your feelings and treating feelings as a nuisance or an illness that needs to be cured or removed, especially negative emotions.

Our emotions guide us, protect us, and help us know what we want if we can learn to listen and understand them.

2. Not truly acknowledging where you are in your healing journey.

Not accepting that suffering is inevitable, it is part of being human. It’s a mistake to dehumanize ourselves and keep trying to escape it. That only keeps us in a hamster wheel, an inescapable cycle of suffering where nothing will change until we address who we are today, why we came to be who we are, and what were the things that affected us, hurt us, or traumatized us.

3. Not understanding your triggers.

Not addressing our triggers and fears also continues the cycle of self-sabotage and suffering. These responses are the body’s way of trying to protect us from repeat harm—it’s a natural response—but it can happen unnecessarily; using introspection to recognize and understand our triggers and how they affect us is necessary to emotional stability and health.

4. Dwelling in the past/ Ignoring the Past.

Painfully rehashing the past. We have already experienced trauma once and to keep recreating it is the cruelest thing we can do to ourselves. Dwelling on it or allowing ourselves to repeat it, even unintentionally or unconsciously is unnecessarily harmful.

Neglecting it can create irrational correlations that trigger us and keep us in the hamster wheel repeating the same behaviors, patterns, and mistakes. Revisiting the past from a place of compassion and understanding helps to stop this cycle.

5. Using living in the moment as an excuse to avoid facing emotional pain.

The trend to only live in the moment.Though this is a good skill in mindfulness, you can’t just turn away from things that happen to you and ignore them because they affect the present moment.

Once you work through the bad, you can face the present moment because you are the person that has a history within. It is not something you just let go of, ignore, or stop being.

6. Treating the symptoms instead of finding the underlying cause.

Cognitive therapies are effective but only after addressing the past and the source of your pain, otherwise they are a like form of escapism and won’t work.

Jumping into therapies, particularly cognitive therapies, without going through the right process is dangerous because it leads to dissociations, like seeking a quick fix, numbing, and dismissing our experience and feelings.

7. Suppressing or repressing emotional pain.

Likewise, jumping too fast on reframing and being positive leads to invalidating your own experiences, suffering, and emotional pain.

Getting too obsessed with living in the moment without addressing the past only adds a layer on top of all of the emotional pain.

It causes you to suppress or repress your emotional pain which leads to recreating trauma, making the emotional pain come back and show up over and over again.

For example, it’s like having stomach pains and taking Pepto-Bismol over and over again while you continue with bad health and eating habits, like eating things that irritate the stomach, missing meals, anger, stress, or other things that cause ulcers.

It’s addressing the symptoms, but doing nothing to stop the cause and continuing to do the damage.

8. Relying on others to figure things out for you.

Nobody can understand you better than yourself. What if the story you are telling your psychiatrist or helper or counselor is not true? Nobody can help you when your perception is not accurate, when you are making up stories in your head to defend your unacceptable behaviors and justify yourself.

Honesty about the things we do wrong, admitting to things we need to change, can only come from within us. Willingness to see and change, the decision to change our lives, can only be born from inside. Nobody can force us; we can be told truths but we won’t listen until we choose to see.

Likewise, it’s a mistake to look for people to solve your emotional crisis when they have never been through the things you’ve been through. I tried this and their confused expressions, comments, and solutions were not going to match with me and my needs. They were not going to work because they have not felt what I’ve felt so they did not understand.

9. Seeking validation from others.

This is a huge mistake because then we are trusting our life decisions and our perception on the story of someone else’s conditioning and baggage. It’s a skewed perception limited to their experience. Nobody can understand us if that is not their reality, so they will continue to invalidate what we are feeling by telling us we don’t have a reason to feel the way we do or we should not feel the way we do. This is invalidation and it feeds the “I’m broken” perception of ourselves.

10. Believing that one thing will fix it all.

We are all unique and only one method or therapy won’t work to address our uniqueness.

We need multiple opportunities to try different cognitive therapies to find what clicks with us in specific situations. For example, you might find that Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping (EFT) will help you cope when angry and essential oils help to calm anxiety. Maybe for someone a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) exercise is enough while someone else might need to check their diet and sleep patterns for better results.

11. Thinking and contemplating changing but not making the decision.

Just fantasizing about life being different and creating a metaphorical future will not make it happen. Some people let doubt and fear keep them from the opportunities to change their life. They let bad experiences from the past hold them back.

The mentality that someone could not help you so nobody will be able to help you is wrong, and that is something that I’m glad I didn’t embrace. I kept trying everything, I kept a curious mind, and I never let anyone put me in a box with a label. DBT was not developed for bipolar diagnosis, but I tried it anyway. Without that leap of faith, I would have not given DBT a shot and would never have discovered how life changing it is.

You can’t sit still and do nothing, and you can’t give up. You must begin, and you must keep trying.

12. Not being consistent.

Finding something that works and not doing it consistently—thinking that it’s something you do once and then you’re done.

Unfortunately, self-care practicing, cognitive therapies, and anything and everything that has brought to you some stability must become a non-negotiable part of your everyday life. When you stop doing what works, you will go back to depression and self-sabotage again.

You can’t think that one day everything will be bliss and constant happiness because that’s not reality. You also can’t say you’ll never be happy like others—that’s untrue. We all have ups and downs—different seasons in life. Emotional health and stability is learning to work through the bad and embrace the good.

13. Not prioritizing your emotional healing.

Not making it a priority to learn how to cope with distress, change, disruption, and suffering.

Making these things second to making money, pursuing hobbies and entertainment, or anything else you might put first instead of recovery is a mistake. Not making, building, and fostering your emotional resilience your priority will cost you in time because time goes on, always moving forward.

How you face the waves of life, the changes, and emotional pain have a huge consequence in your life. It affects how you think, how you act, what decisions you make; it can sometimes take years to recover from an episode that costs you losing friends, a job, etc.

Short term reliefs, like numbing with alcohol or retail therapy, cost you more in the long term because they are not addressing the cause and you need to keep spending money because the relief doesn’t last long. When you finally start to feel better it has a ripple effect in how you feel about yourself and think about yourself, and that shows like a glow. When you exercise and eat healthy, you’re emotionally strong and healthy, and you take care of yourself, it radiates and spills over in your relationships and everything you do. Take charge of your own life–your recovery. It is possible.

14. Not getting the right support.

Although we are working on ourselves, other people might not be. Friends, coworkers, family, and others might not be ready to see things differently and understand your journey and the changes you are making. So many of us make the mistake of staying in an invalidating environment that eventually brings us back to our old self, and we hold onto toxic relationships that hinder our healing.

Sometimes we can’t control the environment—like at work—and we are vulnerable despite our efforts to create the right healing space. We need to learn how to have interpersonal relationships and how to deal with people and environments without being harmed and affected by them.

15. Disregarding the importance of nutrition.

Topics like emotional hunger or punishing ourselves with foods are usually not addressed and are important to include in our emotional resilience journey. We have to address our health and how to build new habits and mindsets that will empower us to stay in emotional balance in a way that is progressively done, not a sudden change in one day.

16. Not having a plan to replace hurtful behaviors.

Motivations goes away and momentum fades, and without a clear vision of why we need to learn coping skills and keep practicing them, we’ll just go back to old behaviors and patterns.

Self-sabotage, self-harm, and self-defeating behaviors serve a purpose; they are a solution to deal with emotional pain. Simply removing those habits does not work because no matter how bad they were, we needed them to get through. We need healthy habits and coping skills to take their place and fill in the role that they filled. That is what cognitive therapies do—they fill in that role by giving you something to go to. They teach hands-on, reliable skills and habits to replace the harmful ones.

17. Just hoping something ‘works’ without developing structure.

Not having a plan for recovery and instruction without direction.

I see people (and I experienced this myself) go to therapists and counselors, but there is no structure or follow-up. There is no ‘map’, no beginning and end, no goals, and no clear path to follow. For me, it felt like I was always in a labyrinth, and I didn’t know where I wanted to go, where I started, or where I was going. 

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  • Chaz Galupi

    It’s odd but somehow reassuring I opened this today. I was just thinking to myself last night “You’re looking to others for approval. You’re looking to others for validation. You’re looking for a shortcut to being whole again but you know the rule: You didn’t get
    broken overnight, you’re not going to be able to fix yourself in one day either and it’s going to take some work on your part.There is no shortcut to dropping 40 years of baggage.”

    • You are not ‘broken’. Understanding ourselves is the key to our liberation. Be patient with yourself. We are all in this journey together. Nobody has it figured out. Embrace progress.