Cultivate a Practice of Soulful Self-care to Avoid Burn-out

inner critic

I am a recovering self-care skeptic. My love-hate relationship with the concept spans two decades. In the twilight days of my mothering, I confused self-care with selfishness. I thought a much-needed respite was a trademark of weakness.

Self-care cultivates a vibrant spiritual life, manages stress, prevents burn-out, fosters a lifestyle of healthy living, and helps achieve balance at home, work, and school.

Last spring, I hosted a healthy living workshop at a local retreat center. In the early planning stages of the event, I toured the venue. Francie, the host, and director of the retreat center, showed me a room reserved for moms who need a soulful reprieve.

Francie and her loving staff know the value of self-care, particularly for those in thick of motherhood.

We encompass both body and soul. To you thrive, it’s necessary to nurture and nourish both. As a reformed self-care skeptic, I now realize that self-care refills and replenishes.

I silence the chorus of guilt and mute the choir of voices, whispering, “you shouldn’t need time for yourself.”

To make it easier to remember, I created the 6 “Ds” of soulful self-care: doubt, deconstruct, define, decision, dimensions, and direct.

Spoiler Alert: Free Self-care planner template

The 5 D’s of Soulful Self-care


If I had a dollar every time I either read or heard a woman dismiss the need to add compassion care to her schedule, I would be writing this post from a beach resort in Belize.

While mom-fatigue and feelings of overwhelm are a part of the mother load, it shouldn’t stop there.


Sometimes it helps to dismantle a concept to gain a deeper understanding then rebuild. So that’s what we’ll do here with self-care.

Self-care should serve a higher purpose than just rewarding yourself with a well-deserved mani-pedi. It’s more than getting your physical needs met.

We live in a relationship with others at home, church, work, and neighborhoods. To fulfill our commitments and commissions, we need to take care of ourselves.

Our body, mind, and soul must be nourished and nurtured to both survive and thrive.


Soulful self-care refers to:

healthy living practices and activities that you engage in on a regular basis so that you can thrive in your relationships with others and sustain your well-being in order to pursue and fulfill your God-given calling.

Soulful self-care refers to: practices and activities that you engage in on a regular basis so that you can thrive in your relationships with others and sustain your well-being in order to pursue and fulfill your God-given calling. Click To Tweet

What we need is permission to exercise self-care. And here are just two examples from Scripture where God offers and provides self-care amid duty. After defeating the prophets of Baal, Elijah is left frail, famished, and fatigued.

God does not rebuke Elijah; instead, he provides food and sleep. The task to which God assigns Elijah depletes him physically and emotionally. God restores his servant’s basic needs of food and sleep.

The primary example, While on earth as an embodied person, Jesus needed food, prayer, and rest so that he could meet the needs of others.


Whenever I travel by plane, I am the passenger who hangs on to EVERY word of the airline emergency procedures. You want to sit next to me on a flight. I will get you out in a code red situation.

As the flight attendant demonstrates the emergency plan, I am memorizing and practicing every step in my head.

I get why I have to put on my oxygen mask before helping others. I can’t help anyone if I am passed out in the aisle from oxygen deprivation.

We need to take the same approach with soulful self-care. You neglect yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, how can you serve others well?

Dimensions of Self-care

There are five dimensions of self-care:

 1. Spiritual

Types of spiritual self-care include

  • Bible studies
  • meditate on Scripture
  • participate in a personal retreat
  • explore spiritual formation/spiritual growth (podcasts, books, webinars),
  • listen to worship music
  • maintain a gratitude journal

The idea is to capture time alone to develop one or two of these practices.

soulful self-care

2. Physical

Optimal physical wellness includes a combination of nutrition, sleep care, healthcare, and physical movement.

Here are some of the easiest ways to incorporate physical self-care into your daily routine.

An essential routine would be your eating plan (not a diet). Recent studies show that an eating plan based largely on unprocessed foods, mostly plants, and some protein sustains and maintains health.

  • meal plan
  • hire a health and wellness coach
  • take a cooking class
  • read real food cookbooks or follow recipe blogs
  • keep a food journal
  • set wellness goals

Add physical movement like soulful walking and an exercise plan to your daily self-care routine.

soulful self-care

Sleep health, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being.

  • establish a bedtime routine
  • get to bed early
  • avoid electronics an hour before bed
  • darken the room
  • diffuse essential oils that induce relaxation and sleep

Adequate sleep also helps you to fight off infection during cold and flu season.

If you continue to lack proper rest, nurturing your crucial relationships becomes increasingly tricky. A state of perpetual sleep-deprivation can make you grumpy with your kids, husband, and friends.

3. Emotional

Emotional self-care boosts your ability to cope with change, challenges, and stress. A few emotional wellness practices include building boundaries, avoid an overloaded schedule, fast from social media, gently confronting conflict, and practicing forgiveness.

Simple emotional wellness activities

  • maintain a gratitude journal
  • take a bath infused with essential oils and Epsom salts
  • see a counselor
  • connect with a friend
  • exercise

4. Intellectual 

Intellectual wellness means exploring new ideas and concepts with your mind. Your intellectual self-care can expand your knowledge, and as the author, Andrew T. Le Peau, reminds us, “increase your treasure house of memories, knowledge, emotions, and abilities. The more we have in our bank, the more we can draw from.”

Practical ways to exercise intellectual self-care:

  • learn to play a musical instrument
  • volunteer your time
  • read or listen to a book outside of your reading list, branch out
  • start a new hobby
  • visit a museum
  • join a book club
  • take a class

5. Social

We are wired for human connection and communication. Both deep and casual relationships are beneficial. Social wellness helps maintain relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

soulful self-care


How will you direct your soulful self-care practice?

You’ve heard the saying “Practice makes permanent,” so the idea with self-care is to develop and cultivate a practice. The practice will allow you to thrive in your daily living. Some of the suggested activities may only take ten minutes.

Here are the steps to cultivate a soulful self-care practice:

  1. Find some accountability. Get some help from a friend
  2. Start simple, maybe with one practice, do it for a week, a month, then add another dimension to your self-care.
  3. Be specific about how you will implement the practice. Here is a self-care planner
  4. Select the timing, duration, and frequency of your practice (use the planner for this)
  5. Set a reminder 10-15 minutes before your practice so that you can wrap up projects or conversations.
  6. Keep a journal of your practice. Return to your journal to find out what’s working and what’s not.

self care

Some of our greatest innovators had their “Eureka! Moment” while daydreaming, showering, or walking.

Establishing a soulful self-care practice will unleash creativity/productivity, enhance your wellness, and enables you to be the best version of yourself.

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  1. Christine Wood on December 12, 2019 at 2:49 pm
    Thank you for this comprehensive article. There is so much wisdom here, I will save this for future reference! I love the way you separated out the different aspects. We truly need a balanced approach in all areas to be a well person.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on December 13, 2019 at 10:38 am
      Christine, so glad that you were able to stop by and share your comment. I am glad that you grabbed a bit of insight from my mistakes:)
  2. Christine Wood on December 12, 2019 at 2:56 pm
    Thank you for this comprehensive and helpful information. Self-care is so important and we need to intentionally plan it into our lives. I’ll be saving this for future reference!
  3. Christine Wood on December 12, 2019 at 6:09 pm
    I also learned the hard way that self-care isn't selfish. It's so important to have an intentional self-care plan so that we can offer our best selves to the world. Thank you for this comprehensive article. I love how you have covered all of the different areas.

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