What Self-Care Is (and Isn’t) & How To Add It Into Your Life


What do you think of when you think of self-care?

Do luxurious body treatments or an escape to the spa come to mind?

Sounds relaxing for sure.

But it’s not necessarily self-care…especially when it’s another thing on your to-do list.

Here’s the deal, true self-care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Some days it’s as simple as my bare feet in the grass.

It doesn’t cost a dime and it should never feel like an obligation.

These are common mistakes we make about what self-care means.

Sort of little lies we tell ourselves to keep busy and avoid taking care of ourselves. 

But they’re traps. 

In fact, I’ve identified three traps I see people fall into when it comes to self-care…

  1. You think it’s a luxury so you don’t make it a priority.
  2. They think it costs money so they save it for special occasions or don’t do it all.
  3. You do other things during downtime that are masked as self-care but don’t really cut it.

Are you falling into any of these traps? 

If you’re a coach, holistic practitioner or someone who is taking care of others, you want to be sure to avoid these traps so you can really stay on purpose.

But what kind of self-care will support you so you can keep your own tanks full rather than depleted?

Let’s talk about what true self-care is…

First and foremost, self-care is unique to you. I can’t tell you what to do for self-care because it needs to be chosen by you.  What do you really need right now? What speaks to you? Where do you need to replenish? The type of self-care that will nourish you depends on what is currently happening in your life and where you need to restore not only physically and mentally, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

For example, if you do a lot of taking care of others, then self-care might mean carving out time to do something for yourself. It could be as simple as time alone or a walk in nature or an afternoon without obligations.

Personally, I enjoy walking on a secluded nature path near my house where I might encounter deer, birds and other wild animals. I have a special tree that I like sitting under. Yoga is a practice that nourishes me.

Speaking specifically to women

Because I believe women today are in absolute need of more self-care – most of us do a lot of care-taking. We’re mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses/partners, employees or business owners, coaches, holistic healers, and leaders…to name just a few of our roles.

Today more than any time in history, we wear many hats and often carry the weight of multiple roles. As a woman, you’re good at shifting quickly from one role to the next (like texting your client while getting dinner on the table for the family while answering your kids’ question about their homework while the laundry just buzzes it’s finished.)

While we’re good at multi-tasking and transitioning from one thing to the next without missing a beat, the truth is, it taxes us on a level that is often unseen. It’s one reason why women today are experiencing burn-out, depletion and illnesses like chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone who was diagnosed with adrenal burnout but had no clue that they were exhausted, stressed out and depleted until they heard the news. We are so busy on the outside, that we’re disconnected from what’s happening on the inside.

That’s why I want to address self-care as more than just “time out” for you. Because I believe there are two levels of self-care, both an outer and inner level that both need to be cared for.

The first level of self-care is the outer level 

It’s physical and it’s about slowing down and giving the body a rest. This is crucial for optimal health and well-being. We weren’t built to run on empty and never slow down. You simply must make rest and downtime a priority, no matter how busy you are. 

While this may seem out of reach for you right now, this is level one of self-care aka the basics. So don’t say it’s impossible, instead start small. Find 5 minutes per day and build up from there. What do you do during those 5 minutes?

Maybe it’s a walk around the block or more extreme -locking yourself in your bedroom closet in the dark where no one can find you for a while and you can close your eyes and listen to your breath :).

Also, be sure not to mistake downtime with playing on your phone or numbing out to electronics. While this might feel relaxing, it is not truly restorative.

When you notice you are breathing deeply again throughout the day and feel less stress overall, you are ready for level two of self-care.

The second level of self-care is the internal level 

It goes deeper to create a more impactful layer of self-care. It’s spiritual in nature with the goal of connecting with our innermost selves. While the first step of self-care is about resting and restoring the body, this level is about tuning in and feeding the spirit.  I call this second layer of self-care…soul-care.

Soul-care is more than just slowing down or treating yourself to a massage. Instead, it connects you to your inner wisdom and your own spirit. Filling your tank at a soul level goes beyond just resting and relaxing and leads to deeper understanding, fulfillment, and feeling connected to something greater than your “busy self”.

For coaches and holistic practitioners, soul-care supports not only you as a person, but nourishes the part of you who is helping and healing others. The part of you who is holding the space for so many others. See what it means to be a Wellness Coach and Practitioner to learn more. 

When you’re a guide who helps others to make big shifts in their lives, you need to be grounded not depleted or frazzled. Soul-care helps you to stay centered and tap into your creative energies so you can truly fulfill your purpose.

For some, soul care is about connecting to divine wisdom to guide you with your mission and create clarity on your next steps. Because when we’re depleted, frazzled and over-wrought, we often don’t feel clear when it comes to making important decisions in our business or our life.

I’m speaking from experience here. When I don’t do the soul-care work, I find myself in a haze. I feel stress in my body and notice I’m just pushing myself to get the next thing done. Not only do I feel out of balance, but I notice I’m not enjoying life that much. 

Sure, a part of me (my ego) tells me how important I am and how great I am for accomplishing so much.  But the truth is, I feel overwhelmed and just too busy. I get easily annoyed with loved ones or snap at them when I don’t mean to. I feel too tired to do anything fun at the end of the day yet when I crawl into bed, my mind is racing. Can you relate? These are all signs I’m not doing my soul-care work.

So what does my self-care/soul-care work look like?

First, it’s simple. Because self-care should be simple and easy to do. You don’t have to drive across town or check-in at the spa (though enjoy it if you do!) It’s about being present in the activity so you can stop the mind from racing and connect to your inner self.

I’m going to share some of my most personal self-care, soul-care rituals with you here in this blog and others to follow in this series.

These are my personal tools I incorporate to keep me connected to my greater purpose and connected to my spirit. (BTW, when I say spirit, I am speaking in terms of that part of us that is connected to our spiritual nature. Some call it their true selves. Some call their inner self. Others call it God or the Universe. 

You can call this whatever you want and you can work with these concepts no matter your religious or spiritual beliefs. Feel free to adapt the words to fit with your understanding of spirit or a higher power.)

Many of the tools I mention are ideas that come from our ancestors, who did not have access to iPhones or YouTube.  I believe getting in touch with these elements can at the most basic level be reminders of simplicity.

Take parts of them or customize them to work with what feels right for you.

Soul-Care Rituals

1.Routines into Rituals – This first tool is about recognizing that anything we do that is mundane can actually be fulfilling if we don’t rush through it and we bring awareness to the routine. There are daily routines we all engage in that we usually rush through. But if you start to slow down and turn that routine into a mindfulness practice, it will become a ritual. 

Rituals are important for our soul. They turn the everyday tasks into spiritual experiences and nourish our psyche.  An example would be taking a shower or putting on your makeup.  While this might just be a routine, when you slow down and notice and take joy in it, it can be a ritual that fills you up. 

2. Notice Nature – Getting out in nature and experiencing nature are two different things.  Experiencing nature may not necessarily be a run or a speed-walk through your neighborhood, rather it’s about noticing nature. While you might want to exercise at the same time, noticing and experiencing nature is often slower. 

When we notice nature, a part of us is reminded that we are connected to something greater than ourselves. That there is a pattern to nature and we are not as separate as we think. Take notice of what you find in nature. Look for seasonal elements in nature to bring home, like a pine cone or a rock or a feather to remind you of your soul-care practice.

3. Connect to the Earth – Going a step beyond experiencing nature, connecting to the earth creates a sense of stability. The ground itself is “grounding”. To connect to the earth, consider ways you can get your physical body in contact with the earth or any element of nature. 

Plant a garden and feel the dirt in your hands. Grow vegetables in a pot and take care of them as they grow. Bring fresh flowers inside in a vase. Grind up flowers or herbs (as long as they are not chemically treated) into pastes for body care.  Applying earth to our skin is healing and a ritual that keeps us grounded.

I highly recommend choosing one of these to try out for a week.

When you focus on one thing, you can really pay attention and see how it works for you.

So choose your tool, customize it if need be, and be on the lookout for the next part of this series coming soon.

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About the Author

Suzanne Monroe

Suzanne Monroe is the author of Live Well Dream Big: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Your Best Self and Living Life on Your Own Terms. She has also written and published The Holistic Cookbook & Lifestyle Guide: 12 Weeks to a Healthier, Happier You, the co-author of 101 Ways to Improve Your Health and the host of the Live Well Dream Big Podcast. Suzanne was inspired to create the IAWP Wellness Coach Training & Certification Program in collaboration with other leading health experts in order to inspire people to create meaningful careers and spread the message of wellness.

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