Do You Sabotage Self-Care?

Self-care is the energy source that recharges your vitality. When you feel amplified, awakened, excited, turned-on, curious and tuned in, you radiate from your true nature.

Leslie Santos
Aug 25, 2017 · 6 min read

I work with women who want to live life intimately connected to their essential self. They come to me because they need help figuring out why their life-force is slowly draining. To begin, each new student answers a baseline questionnaire.

Over the years, I have seen a pattern in response to one question: What is your self-care practice?

Eighty percent of the women respond in one of two ways: (1) I don’t have a self-care practice. Or (2) my practice is inconsistent, but I do get an occasional massage.


Self-care is any action we take to meet our own need for care. Pausing to drink water when we’re head-down on a project is self-care. A massage, a walk in the park or tea with friends is self-care too. Self-care is inclusive: if the action brings peace, joy, rest, vitality, connection or healing than it’s self-care. Anytime we’re aware of our discontent and we take action to ease it, we’re practicing self-care.

With this broad definition of self-care, my students recognize that they are practicing self-care more than they realize. High five.

Self-care is a vehicle for wholeness, so if we want more vitality, an intentional self-care practice is a good place to start.

A Self-care Practice

A self-care practice is the personalized, daily ritual we intentionally create to heal and nurture our mind, body and spirit throughout our lifespan.

Let’s break this definition down: (1) Self-care is designed intentionally through the rituals we create. (2) These rituals are guided by our personal priorities and unique preferences. (3) Our preferences and priorities evolve and change over time in ways that nurture and heal the whole self. And importantly, (4) self-care is a daily practice.

Self Assessment

You too can start with the baseline question: What is your self-care practice?

If I asked you right now to tell me three ways you nurture your mind, how would you answer?

Can you name three ways you heal your mind?

What is the difference between healing and nurturing?

When does your mind need nurturing and when does it need healing?

What about your soul, how do you nurture and heal your soul on a daily basis?

Now check in with your body, how does it communicate with you when it needs nurturing or healing?

If you find that these questions bring you pause, I’d invite you to consider how you might benefit from a more intentional focus. To help you get started, I created a self-care framework that can provide structure to your design.

Time In

Time In means turning your focus inward to feel, see, sense, intuit, discover and explore your inner landscape.

There are many ways to drop in and commune with your higher self. Take any of the many roads that lead to the soul: meditation, monitoring the voice in your head, solitude, silent self-reflection, journal writing, nature walks, gardening, breath work, fine arts, forest bathing, journeying with plant, animal or mineral, Tai chi, bhakti, kirtan, trance drumming, music, dancing, yoga, drawing, painting, nature photography, sound bath, Tibetan singing bowls.

Focus Time

Focus Time means a mindful focus on something that is important to you.

The key word is mindfully — a moment-by-moment awareness without judgment — giving complete attention to something valuable to you. Create an environment that is disruption free. Focus on one thing: walk slowly in nature, sing, play an instrument, volunteer, work on a meaningful project, cook, bake, read poetry, find a sit spot in nature and listen, eat mindfully, give yourself an abhyanga Ayurvedic massage, play with your child(ren), play with an animal, talk to your partner/friend/sibling, write a heart-felt card to a loved one, garden.

Down Time

Down Time means creating space in the day when you gift yourself nothing to do.

Gifting yourself nothing to do is not synonymous with having nothing to do. Down time means that you give yourself permission to do nothing because your task list is endless. If permission to ‘do nothing’ feels too luxurious, start by sitting down anywhere without your phone for five minutes then build up from there. If your inner critic starts yapping, spend time in monitoring the chiding, judgmental or critical voice in your head.

Physical Time

Physical Time means moving your body.

Physical time is less about fitness and more about movement that feels nourishing, healing and fun! When was the last time you took a nature walk, swam in open water or danced like no one was watching? Move your body and discover what makes your spirit sing: 5rhythms, aerial circus, stand up paddle, kayaking, hiking, backpacking, foraging, surfing, snow shoeing, horseback riding, fly fishing, skiing, laughing, hugging, kissing, dancing, rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering.

Sleep Time

Sleep Time means eight hours each night. Even better, allow yourself to wake naturally without an alarm.

Play Time

Play Time means doing something that is purposeless, all consuming and fun.

Play, like self-care, is misunderstood. If you’re running to improve your time or get fit, then running is not play. You’ll know you’re playing when time stands still, you wish the activity could last longer, you feel spontaneous joy, and the activity is done for its own sake. Play feels like kissing your beloved — no instruction needed, consuming, effervescent and always leaves you wanting more.

If you find yourself in a mind pretzel trying to think of something playful then apprentice yourself to the experts: play with your kids or your dog (or borrow a kid or dog to play with).

Connection Time

Connection Time means connecting with others and with our planet.

Our true nature is oxygenized by nature and by our close connections with others. Spend time in deep conversation with loved ones. Rewild your self-care by spending time in nature. Even better, take a walk with your beloved and soak in the sun, eat the stars, drink the moon.

How To

When designing your self-care routine, try to incorporate small segments of each category daily. If this statement causes anxiety, or creates a strong desire to roll your eyes and tell me to come back to reality, then you may be sabotaging your own self-care.

  1. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that five minutes is better than nothing then have fun designing novel ways to pair your self-care categories. For example, forest bathing saturates me in connection time, physical time, play time and time in.
  2. Playfully sample one new self-care practice a day until you find your formula. This simple, brilliant self-care digital workbook by Sonja Gibson was written to help you do just that — kickstart new life-changing habits. I highly recommend it.
  3. Start with short, easily accessible practices. For example, reading a poem to start your day takes five minutes.
  4. If you forget, try again. Don’t hesitate. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,

don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty

of lives and whole towns destroyed or about

to be. We are not wise, and not very often

kind. And much can never be redeemed.

Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this

is its way of fighting back, that sometimes

something happens better than all the riches

or power in the world. It could be anything,

but very likely you notice it in the instant

when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the

case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid

of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

-Mary Oliver

Originally published at

Leslie Santos

Written by

Resilience Mentor and Mother.