the art of self-care

self care has been a highly discussed topic of conversation in the last few years, as it should be. we have become so busy being busy that we often forget to stop and breathe, or feel guilty for doing so. our culture has perpetuated this idea that if we are not busy, we are not worthy. and that is simply not true.

the definition of self care is “the care of self without medical or other professional consultation.” in other words, we do something that we enjoy simply because we enjoy it. dr. charity byers, a licensed psychologist, defines it as soul care; exercises and practices that are good and healthy for your soul. there is a slight but distinct difference between the two. it’s easy at times to fall into the trap of self indulgence when practicing self care rather than consciously taking care of yourself. when you use self care as an escape from your life, rather than intentionally resting and recuperating, you come back to your circumstances more exhausted than before.

when i had the chance to hear dr. byers speak on self care, i could relate. i had never been taught how to practice self care well, and i kept finding myself emptier than i was before. it’s nice to escape life for a few hours sometimes, but we can’t let that become our crutch. soul care cannot be an option for us dreamers and chasers. in order to bring value to other people’s lives, we must first be healthy by appreciating and noticing the value in ours.

mike foster is the founder of people of the second chance, a nonprofit organization that creates study guides and leadership training that helps people live free from shame and guilt. he created a self care exercise he calls the “canteen exercise.” this exercise can be freeing if we allow it to be. the idea is that you have a canteen, and you fill your canteen by practicing specific self care exercises that are just for you. they are not for your family, friends, or spouse; they are solely for you to enjoy. you break the canteen into four categories: daily, weekly, quarterly, and annually, and you assign each category a monetary value.


you decide, according to your budget, what you can afford. maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the quiet of your home, or maybe you enjoy your coffee at a cute cafe. you are free to decide, as long as it fits within your monthly budget. for me, this is my shower time. i do my best thinking in the shower, so i usually take 30-45 minutes and just allow myself to relax. bonus: a bath or a shower is fairly inexpensive!


this might mean going to a movie by yourself, or enjoying a nice meal on your own. maybe it’s going to a bookstore and purchasing a new read. use your creativity! i personally love going to the theater and book browsing, so i switch off every other week. there are no limits to this, only you can define what is good for your soul. if you don’t know yet, test some things out! do you relax better while reading in a park, or doing diy projects?


once a quarter, you take what you’ve been saving up in your monthly budget, and you spend it. maybe you love shopping, go on a shopping spree! or maybe you love plays and musicals. i use this budget to alternate between going on a long weekend trip or to a concert of one of my favorite bands.


this typically means a vacation. a week or two somewhere new to refresh your mind and see life through a new lens. it isn’t required though, the annual category can be anything you want. the point is, it’s something you love to do that brings life and rest and perspective.

here is a free download for the canteen exercise graphic we have put together for you. we encourage you to use it; print it out and hang it somewhere you will see every day. it’s easy to be distracted by everything we have to fit into a day, and the world makes it difficult for us to focus on ourselves, but if we do we will have a greater impact on this world and everyone in it. we are all dreamers, so we must allow ourselves space to dream. relax, rest, and then set your sights on your dreams. pursue them with all of your heart, but remember your heart deserves rest too.

link to article posted on Wild Hearts Co.