Mindy Caliguire with a friend speaking about self care and soul care

The Difference Between Self-Care and Soul Care (And Which Is Better)

Mindy Caliguire, co-founder and president of Soul Care, begins this month’s conversation on “healthy boundaries” by discussing one of the biggest indicators that boundaries are needed in your life: experiencing burnout.

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On one level, Soul Care is my personal commitment to my own way of life that came as a result of a season of pretty severe burnout that was so heavy that it brought on physical symptoms for me. I have also done a lot of work with leaders and this topic of burnout has become the most frequent introduction to almost every talk I’ve been invited to give at companies and organizations. Regarding boundaries, I have found that, unfortunately, most people don’t even think to set boundaries until they get to the point of saying, ‘I’m not going to keep living this way.’

Think about exhaustion like it’s a bank account. When you’ve exhausted the funds in an account, you can write checks, but they won’t clear. We as humans have a finite amount of resources available. They can be replenished, but they can also easily be exhausted. We’re wired to invest and give of ourselves. Those expenditures aren’t bad or wrong but without a strategy for replenishment, you will exhaust all of your reserves and you will encounter burnout.

As you get deeper and deeper into depletion, symptoms of ‘soul neglect’ start to manifest. I’ll share an example of this from my own life. My husband and I met at Cornell and got married while he was at Dallas Seminary. We jumped into a church planting internship at Willow Creek in the early 90s. Then, we went out and started our own nonprofit, raised our own money, and went to plant a church in Boston. We were doing a hard thing in a hard place in the hardest possible way.

I loved it and felt very called to it but did not even think about how to build a life for sustainability, to ensure that I had a cared-for soul out of which my leadership and service would flow. Eventually, while I was running the back end of the church, doing all the things, leading three small groups, raising a two year old while pregnant with our second son, all the heavy loads started to press in at once. And everything in my field of vision was moving. Like I feel like I want to move my computer to show you what it was like. It sent me on a several months journey of being completely sidelined. I was incapacitated. I couldn’t function, couldn’t walk in a straight line, couldn’t hold food down. Everyone thought it was because of my pregnancy. But I knew that wasn’t what it was.

Soul care is a way of intentionally caring for our soul by carving out the time and space to become aware of and responsive to God’s ongoing work in your life. Self-care addresses more of the physical level of a person, and can even dip into a mental level of rejuvenation. With soul care, you’re going deeper, to a more spiritual level.

We all know the data: women generally hold more of the household and child-rearing responsibilities than men do. There is a disproportionate sense of everything that needs to happen that I think women tend to carry around unfairly. Often, they not only are aware of what needs to happen, but they also feel responsible to make it happen.

Anyone in leadership is constantly aware of what everybody else needs and what the organization needs. Until we as a society start to elevate that what the organization needs most is you, its leader, healthy, it’s hard to prioritize your health over getting your next round of funding, onboarding the new hire, or handling a really awkward transition. These are the things that weigh heavily on us as women leaders.

I know for me, the harder a challenge shows up in my life, the more likely I am to pull myself into self-reliance. But the reality is that there is a God Who is good, powerful, wise and able, and He invites us to partner with him. When we immerse ourselves in that reality more and more, over time it will become our sense of what’s real and we then start to operate accordingly.

Mindy Caliguire is the co-founder and president of Soul Care. As an organization, Soul Care cultivates soul health among leaders by providing guides, practices, and pathways that help them, and those they serve, personally flourish and achieve missional impact. Mindy serves as an Ambassador for the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), and in the past has served in executive leadership both in the marketplace and in ministry at Gloo (www.gloo.us) and the Willow Creek Association (now GLN). Soul Care serves ministries and organizations across the US and beyond including LeaderCare, C-12, Compassion International, The Navigators, Christ Church of the Valley, Dallas Theological Seminary, Plum Creek Church, and many more. Mindy‚Äôs most recent book is coming out in September Ignite Your Soul: When Exhaustion, Isolation, and Burnout Light a Path to Flourishing.