What does self-care mean to you?

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I just returned from leading a self-renewal retreat for women at a new retreat center in the Midwest. The beautiful women I gathered with from Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Missouri were all at different life stages but shared the same desire: to reconnect with who they are, to live more intentionally and to experience more joy in daily life.

How do we do this? By making our self-care a priority. The practice of nourishing ourselves is much more than scheduling an occasional massage, it’s about attuning and responding to our needs and desires, moment to moment. When we shift our relationship with ourselves to be kinder, gentler and more compassionate–our relationship to everything and everyone around us shifts.

The practice of self-care has affected me profoundly over the last 14 years–as a wife, mother, friend, entrepreneur and creative being. By regularly putting my well-being at the top–rather than the bottom–of my to-do list, I’ve cultivated the ability to:

• regularly slow down, check-in and ask “what do I truly need in this moment?”

• live more intentionally and make choices that nurture me inside and out

• have more energy, take better care of my body and have much greater acceptance and ease around aging

• be more connected to myself, my family and to know how to “find my center” when the going gets tough

• be a much better parent; most of the time I can go with the flow, little things don’t have to turn into mountains

• own my personal power, speak my truth and develop an unwavering allegiance to self (read Do you abandon yourself?)

• practice self-compassion, and self-kindness which allows me to feel more generous with others

What does self-care look and feel like to you? If you envision pedicures and chocolates when you hear these words, think again (read more). Embracing self-care has changed my life more than any other practice or teaching I have ever studied. After 14 years, I continue to be amazed by how wide and deep this discipline is (I’m still working on this daily!) and how many gifts continue to flow my way as a result of putting my well-being first, rather than last.

Just starting out? Take baby steps, find your tribe and practice self-compassion. “Self-care is not about self-indulgence, it’s about self-preservation.” Audrey Lorde

P.S. Stay tuned to learn more about our Year-of-Self-Care Mother’s Day Giveaway launching Monday, May 5th and you could win a week-long self-care retreat at Omega Institute. Details here.  Interested in having me support you in creating your own self-care practice? Check out our 2014 self-care retreat schedule. 

Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work-life balance speaker/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum.  She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.




  1. Self care means a daily minute to minute practice of being aware of whether things feel good or things feel bad and course correcting as a result of this.

    • Hi Deborah—thank you so much for your insightful share! Hang in there–the giveaway doesn’t start until May 5th though, so pop back over next Monday when the fun begins (the post will be on the Year-of-Self-Care giveaway)–until then …. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for your powerful work, Renee!!

    Self-care is about cultivating the courage to be your true self, developing the capacity to live your life’s purpose, and being part of a movement that is changing the world.

    • Katherine-thank you so much for your beautiful share! Hang in there–the giveaway doesn’t start until May 5th though, so pop back over next Monday when the fun begins (the post will be on the Year-of-Self-Care giveaway)–until then …. 🙂

  3. Terri Harrington says:

    For me, it the contestant struggle to say no to things that seem like a priority, but really aren’t. I need to check in with myself constantly to make sure I am doing the things that are necessary for me and my family and that includes laughing, dancing and hugging much more. When I forget this and get caught up in the culture of “doing” I am more stressed, less happy and more prone to anger. These are the traps I have finally learned are my signals to stop and reassess what is really important. Thanks, Rene, for reminding me of this during your retreat in MA last fall.

    • Hi Terri, make sure and share this on the Year-of-Self-Care Mother’s Day Giveaway post (www.reneetrudeau.com/blog) that goes live/launches Monday a.m. I love your share and want to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to win! Good to hear your voice! Big hug–Renee

  4. crystal fisher says:

    Renee I very much appreciate your work – thank you so much for sharing your light with everyone!

    I have found, like you, that self care is the practice of life. It is understanding myself and manifesting the life I wish to live in today. For me that means, having an early morning yoga practice, taking regular breaks during my busy day to slow down and notice the beauty that surrounds me always (I spend part of my time at the State woman’s prison as a grief and loss therapist for incarcerated mothers so, finding beauty within prison walls, surrounded by razor wire, and immersed in crushing psychic pain can be tricky at times), regularly buying myself flowers, “unplugging” when I get home and consciously tuning into my family, embracing my foibles and gifts and smiling at the contradictions inherent in my human experience.

    Peace Rene and I hope to join you on a retreat one of these days…. 🙂

    • Crystal–thank you, this is inspiring and beautiful. The giveaway starts May 5th, so please post this under the comments section that day (you’ll get a reminder). I’d love to see you win this, so please enter. Peace to you …..

  5. Thank you for this opportunity to share. Although there are many things I do that could fall under the category of ‘self-care’ the one I am most inspired by is connecting with others and sharing who I really am. I believe that by sharing ourselves authentically we have the possibility of creating meaningful relationships based on trust and reciprocity. These types of relationships are pure nourishment for my soul. Sharing ourselves through these authentic relationships can produce miracles. I believe this so much because I have had the blessing to live this. Last year I brought people together who share a passion for creating health and well-being. One year later, we are now a network of people starting to grow both locally in Vancouver and abroad, sharing our vision and inspiring others to create change. Follow us @BridgeforHealth and use #sharingourselves to tell your stories! Gratefully yours, Paola

  6. Kara Murphy Haire says:

    Self-care means ….after 20+ years of caring for others first, I learned recently, and through very tough circumstances, that taking care of me, first, is not selfish and helps not only me but the people I care about most. I am still a work in progress (newbie) in developing my mindfulness practice everyday. And even if it feels like a struggle some days, I know in my heart that it is the best path for me and my family. Happy Mother’s Day.

  7. Karen vanWisse says:

    I am just realizing now (and I turned 50 this year) that “taking care of myself” does NOT mean indulging myself. I had this realization that by “treating” myself to an ice cream or dessert or whatever, I am harming myself, keeping myself down, and perpetuating the myth that I am fat or ugly. I look back at pictures of myself and think I looked great – but I always thought I was fat. Now, I really am overweight – and I have done it to myself – by internalizing all the negative messages and body shaming vitriol. I am ready to stop hating myself by “treating” myself. I will care for myself by moving or eating fresh fruit and I will continue to seek other means of self-care and comfort that are really good for me in the long run.

  8. Renee–Thank you so much for posting this question!

    I pondered it on my walk (which is a mandatory part of my daily self-care).

    My first thought when I was walking, was that self care means so many things to me.

    Self-care includes doing the thing I feel most passionate about (when possible) first thing after I walk in the morning. (And being okay with not feeling passionate about anything, when I am not.) I like starting off the morning by doing something I feel passionate about because it sets a good tone for the rest of the day.

    Then I realized that self-care used to be optional for me, but now it is mandatory for me following an injury in a car accident that changed my life.

    Then I realized that ultimately, self-care has allowed me to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my son. It has meant that I have opportunities that I might never had without it.

    It has opened the door for many things in my life that are incredibly meaningful to me and that make my life what it is today and that give meaning to my life.

    And, self-care also allows me hope that tomorrow will be even better than today.

    Here’s the blogpost I wrote about my mandatory self-care and my abilities to be a good-enough mother:


    (Help!–I am not sure that the above link comes up on this post, can you help me fix it or should I copy the whole post to the comment?)

  9. Susan Fox says:

    1. Choosing to take the drive over the mountain so as to walk the beach and refresh my Self. The drive is approximately 45 minutes…there are many other places I could walk that don’t require that allowance of time, gas {hybrid ;-}. And yet, I KNOW my bod-mind are cleansed at the ocean in a way no other can provide.
    2. Allowing my pup to sleep in my bed. Breaks prior self-imposed “rules” of how to insure I get the best night’s rest. Yet, even if I awaken to a sigh or a stir {that Goddess no snore! ;-}, I awaken with a smile.
    Oh to realize the limitations I’ve exacted on myself in the name of order and orderliness. Nevermore!

  10. Self-care is one word “Gratitude”

    Taking time and making the conscious decision to create a daily Gratitude practice has allowed me to define “what” self-care is for me. Each night before slipping off to sleep I journal what I am most grateful for. Since beginning this practice, it became easy to allow myself to see nature as something to be grateful for….a beautiful sunrise, sunset, blue sky, and puffy clouds to name a few.
    It was then easy to transition into the gratitude of silence. Turning off the t.v., radio, and “listen to my soul.” As silence became part of my personal self-care, I began to hear what I needed. I was naturally gravitated to a new community of teachers and friends who continue to teach me about “Living.” I can now see that I was not living before I had gratitude, I just existed. I have added beautiful rituals into my life and this wonderful new community of people has been generous in sharing their wisdom on how to have a more quality life with understanding that I deserve to nourish myself with quality food and exercise. In my humble opinion, I have more am able to “give” more to others now that I made the decision to give to me first.
    Thank you for giving all of us this space what Self-care means to us.