In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, we’re talking about 12 easy self-care habits for a healthy mind, body & soul with Dr. Zoe Shaw. If you’re one of those people who kind of rolls your eyes when they hear the term “self-care” or feels like it’s something you don’t have time for – this episode is for you.

Listen in to the episode or keep reading for this interview with Dr. Zoe Shaw!

12 easy self-care habits for a healthy mind, body & soul with dr. zoe shaw

For the whole month of February 2021, I want to focus on self-love and reclaiming that idea. To start, we’re talking about how to make self-care easier and more accessible with small shifts for big change. 

Dr. Zoe Shaw is a licensed psychotherapist, motivational speaker, podcast host, life coach, and fitness fanatic. She’s also the author of a brand new book, “A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself”. We’re talking with her about the true definition of self-care, why self-care isn’t selfish, and some really tactical ways to infuse it into your daily life.

“self-care is when you’re replenishing your mental and physical energy without harming anyone else. allowing you to be more present for yourself and those you love” – dr. zoe shaw

what about your story led you to write this book?

Zoe doesn’t consider herself to be much different from other women who set out to do all the things – before finding that it’s not really possible to do it all at the same time. She wrote her book during a pandemic and is a working mom of five children, who she homeschools.

Somewhere along the path after grad school, taking care of kids, and starting a practice, she found she was putting herself on the backburner. She came to a place of burnout, finding herself wanting to throw everything out and start over. Instead, she started on a journey of figuring out what she needed.

How can I take care of myself so that I can enjoy the things that I am making, creating, and the people I am nurturing in my life?

She had to put herself first. But she also found so many people resonating with this idea she had around self-care, trying to figure out where the line between selfishness and self-care is.

What is self-care and what is just indulgence? Zoe explored that idea, figuring out how to best take care of herself in a healthy way. She found a way to balance along that line. In her book, she is sharing a way for people to get bite-sized chunks to care for oneself that can easily be folded into your life routine.

how has having a full life shaped your view of self-care?

It always seemed like self-care was talked about in terms of physical care, like taking care of your body, taking a rest, sleeping, and eating good things. But in her own definition of self-care, Zoe added that it’s being a good “mom” to herself and nurturing herself well. Moms make you eat your vegetables, go to bed on time, and do things that don’t always feel good in the moment but do take care of you long-term.

Zoe looks at self-care like a 360-thing. It doesn’t always feel good in that moment, but it’s taking really good care of the mind, spirit, body, and emotions. 

Surface self-care didn’t make enough difference in her life; it was nice for a short period of time, but then when she went back to her day she was in the same place. After all her work, self-care for Zoe is defined as:

Self-care: when you are replenishing your mental and physical energy without harming anyone else, allowing you to be more present for yourself and those you love.

It’s about external relationships, internal relationships, your body, your mind, your emotion. It’s focusing on all of those together. It’s daily exercise that is free but priceless. It is a reckoning with your soul where you declare, ‘I am worthy to be cared for’.

“to decide that everybody else is worthy of nurturing but not us… how in the world is that fair?” – dr. zoe shaw

what would you say to someone who doesn’t feel like they’re ready to say they are worthy to be cared for?

If you were to communicate with someone you spend your life nurturing, do you ever think they don’t deserve the nurturing you give them?

Many of us, especially women, are nurturers, but without a lot of people nurturing us. This flipped narrative can be a helpful way for anyone feeling hesitant to engage in self-care to see that maybe it is okay and necessary to give that nurturing to oneself.

The whole concept of self seems narcissistic and it’s become very popular, and unfortunately very exploited. While people may have that initial connotation with the word self, there’s also a societal-level issue. For example, Zoe has had a few men express their opinions to her that self-care is selfish. They probably, though, don’t recognize the self-care practices they already engage in on a daily basis without calling it self-care. And, yet, they feel the way they see self-care expressed by women is selfish.

It might be something that we have to reframe, but we have to take care of ourselves. It’s important to recognize that there is a line between self-care and indulgence. The exploitation of self-care might look like rationalizing what’s actually indulgence. But that doesn’t mean self-care in a healthy way isn’t absolutely necessary.

“it’s really something that we just have to reframe for ourselves. I don’t care what you call it but we’ve got to care for ourselves” – dr. zoe shaw

how do you differentiate between instant gratification/indulgence versus actual true care?

Get the idea that self-care is just what feels good out of your mind. Feeling good is not equal to self-care. Ask yourself, is this being nurturing to myself? Whether you are a mother or have had a mother, asking is this being a nurturing mother to myself? What would a nurturing mother tell you to do to take care of your body? Take that torch and become that for yourself.

It’s not that self-care shouldn’t feel good, we should feel good about what we’re doing in the process of it. We do need an aspect of it to be enjoyable, but it also has to be caring.

We can also differentiate between pure entertainment and self-care. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment – but looking at it from the viewpoint of a nurturing mom, that entertainment doesn’t equate to care.

“I want you to get out of your mind that “self-care” is just what “feels good”. Feeling good is not equal to self-care.” – dr. zoe shaw

why is it important to not just check off a box when it comes to self-care?

There’s a lot of pressure to achieve self-care. It can start to feel like a should and something we compare ourselves to others on.

You need to stay in your lane when it comes to self-care. It’s not something to check off, because self-care should be an experience. If it’s just another to-do, you won’t get the full benefit of it.

Pay attention to what you need by looking at your life and care for yourself well, not just checking off a box. If a suggested practice just doesn’t resonate with you, don’t think about it and try a new one. Find something that works well for you and build on that.

“I will not simply check off the self-care box. I am far more valuable and complicated than an item to be checked off” – dr. zoe shaw

12 months of easy self-care habits

Zoe’s book A Year of Self-Care is structured around 12 months, each month with it’s own theme.

When planning her book, she was thinking about the seasons of life as well as the seasons in a year. At different times in the year you can really focus and align with whatever is going on in your life with self-care.

  1. January is a month of reset, really looking at the past year and moving forward.
  2. February is focused on relationships, including your relationship with yourself.
  3. March is spring so the focus is on self-care through renewal
  4. April is motivation
  5. May is simplicity, clearing things out that aren’t working.
  6. June is encouragement
  7. July is purpose
  8. August is discipline, a great time of year to start focusing on that fourth quarter.
  9. September is boundaries. It’s important to have strong, clear boundaries for self-care.
  10. October is affirmation
  11. November is gratitude
  12. December, the time when we are the busiest, is about focusing on rest.

Even if it’s not January when you start this book – remember that just like coming to a podcast when there are hundreds of episodes already, you don’t have to start at the beginning. With Zoe’s book, her suggestion is to find that date in the book and start there. That mindset helps us not get into a checking off the box mentality. It’s not about doing it a certain way in the beginning, it’s just about diving in wherever you are and getting started.

boundaries and self-care

If you are allowing everyone to have complete access to you at all times, you are actually creating uselessness in yourself. If everyone is pulling from you constantly, you cannot do the thing that you were created to do.

Women especially have to have strong boundaries to care for themselves. It might look like saying, “I will not do this certain thing”, “I will only give this much to you”, or “I am only available during these times”. When you do that, you create time and space to do the things that you were created to do. Women without boundaries are generally resentful and miserable. If you find you are often resenting people, the reason probably comes from weak boundaries.

This comes up a lot around how we spend our time during the past year. The routine and structure we had before is completely different, we have to set up completely new boundaries.

Often when we feel resentment, we want to put the blame on another person when in actuality we need to look back at ourselves. Boundaries are not something you put on other people, they are a line you draw for yourself. People are going to push and test, and often people don’t even know what your boundaries are. It’s your own line to uphold.

“We overestimate what we can do in a small time with big changes and we underestimate what we can do in a long time with these small changes” – robyn conley downs 

what’s a small shift that has made a big change in your life?

On a physical level, Zoe started doing push ups daily a number of years ago. It has transformed her body in terms of core strength significantly, and it only takes 10 minutes before bed. She started small, and now she pushes up her age every night. That’s one tiny shift that has made a big difference.

Zoe makes small shifts in her personal life all the time. Every six months, she reevaluates a list of priorities to see if her actual life and routine are lining up with those priorities. It might not sound small, but something important for Zoe is that she has cleared her Fridays for her writing – which has made a big difference in the kind of writing she wants to get done. To make it happen, she shifted other things throughout her week to leave her whole Friday open for her writing work. 

She started this out by setting aside two hours on Fridays to spend in a coffee shop. She ended up getting so much from those two hours that she found ways to create a full day.

We always want to jump to the end, but most of us didn’t start there so it just gets left out of the story. Start small and stick to it.

what is your hope for this book?

Zoe hopes this book will take women on a self-care journey so that when they get to the end it will have become a routine. Her hope is that readers incorporate self-care into their lives and, more so, that they learn it is good, that they deserve it, and that self-care is not selfish.

what does it really mean to be healthy?

“I think healthy is when you are walking and living your life in such a way that is exactly the way that you think you ought to… I find that the biggest distress people have is when they are not living in a way that feels authentic to them” – Dr. Zoe Shaw

guest bio

Dr. Zoe Shaw is a licensed psychotherapist, motivational speaker, podcast host, life coach and fitness fanatic. She is passionate about helping women who struggle in difficult relationships – especially that sometimes difficult relationship with themselves. After 15 years in traditional psychotherapy practice, Dr. Zoe jumped off the couch and now helps women using a different modality with a mix of virtual therapy, coaching services and programs designed specifically for women trying to have it all, who sometimes struggle in the superwoman game. Dr. Zoe is a graduate of UCLA and Pepperdine University. She is a frequent blogger (writing about helping women redefine their Superwoman) and loves answering women’s burning questions at her advice column at the Grit and Grace Project (online women’s magazine)

connect with Dr. Zoe Shaw on instagram: @drzoeshaw

checkout her website at:

read her book A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself


A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for caring for Yourself, by Zoe Shaw

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