What is Radical Self Care?

The question keeps coming up…”What is Radical Self Care? It sounds like exactly what I need…but how do I get it?”

Wow. What a question.

I have been pondering this myself for several months, as my own needs have shifted and I have had to redefine my outlets and my sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in the world.

Here’s the tricky thing I’ve recently realized – radical self-care is as changing as our moods! Consequently, it requires not only a wide array of options, but also the awareness to match a need with a Self-Care Optimal Solution (S.O.S.)

In its most simple definition, radical self care is the bold act of putting your quality of life as a primary part of your life. It’s acting on the premise that your need for sleep, time out, socializing with your friends and exercising is JUST as important as getting the kids to soccer practice, doing laundry, and going to work. When we neglect our self-care, the tendency to spend too much money, eat too much food, lose our temper, get depressed, or drop everything and run to Tahiti increases. A balanced and vibrant life demands that we take our needs into consideration and act upon them. And while some things are beyond our control (we can’t fire our co-workers) other things are completely in our power if we open up to the possibility of allowing ourselves to seek and receive creative solutions.

When initially exploring radical self-care, it helps to first define your needs. Do you need more sleep? Motivation and support to get those workouts done? Do you need to place a ban on bringing in holiday cookies so you can keep your blood sugar and weight in check? Do you need to give yourself a break? What area of your life is lacking? There may be several, but choose one or two of the most acute areas to address first.

Next, determine your solution. This is where you get creative. Ask yourself, “How can I..?” You may have been saying, “I can’t” or “There’s no time, no one, no money for…” and that needs to STOP. When we think in this way, we block our ability to create new solutions to situations. We say no without giving our ingenious brains an opportunity to find a “Yes”. So instead, ask, “How can I..?”

Reach out to others. Ask them what they do, ask them how they do it. Share this concept and see if you can work together to find answers. Sometimes it’s easier to see solutions for others than ourselves!

Case in point: it’s hard for me to play. I have a very difficult time just cutting loose, being silly, and completely “unproductive”. So in the last month, I’ve been exploring what play means to me, what it looks like, and how I can gift myself that. I am working through a lot of judgments and beliefs about what I am “supposed to” do and how I am “supposed to be” that really have nothing to do with who I truly am! I really want to get finger paint and glitter and see what that leads to and I find it challenging to justify this simple desire (Problem #1 – the belief I have to justify anything about who I am or what I want). I’ve had exhaustive, repetitive conversations with friends and mentors about this topic. I’ve got some ideas now about what I need and I am actively making baby steps at changing how I live and operate in my life in a very fundamental way. I am working to integrate this notion that life is meant to be fun and enjoyable, not just about work and production and results (even if its correlated to things that I enjoy – like my career or athletic goals).

Next, branch out and get diverse with meeting those needs. Explore what fulfills you when you are sad, what you need when you are frustrated, what you need when you feel unappreciated or overworked. Different needs arise from different emotions. If you are feeling sad, you may need a hug from your daughter, but from your spouse words of appreciation may work better than a hug. The clearer we get on our needs and how to meet them, the greater our ability to increase the amount of joy and vibrancy in our life.

Finally – the best advice I’ve been given: “This is new. You don’t know it all yet. Just get out and try different things and you will find what works.” Let go of any expectation that it should work or has to work. Radical Self Care and your unique SOS’s is a new area of exploration! There WILL be a learning curve.

It’s encouraging and inspiring to me to know that you all are there, desiring and exploring this as well. I would love to hear how you are exploring Radical Self-Care, what the results have been, and what personal SOS’s you intend on implementing!


November 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

Good stuff! As the mom of a toddler, I’ve imposed Radical Self-Care on myself. I try to get away for an overnight or two every few months so I can recharge w/ solo time. I also get to our basement to dance or exercise every night after said toddler goes to sleep. I’ve found I actually have to mark the calendar on my smartphone — and set a corresponding alarm. Then, I do it — even if the kitchen is a disaster. My mental trick: I ask myself: “What’s more important … my sanity or a clean kitchen? Really?” The answer becomes pretty clear.


November 26, 2010 at 10:17 am

Thank you for posting this at a time that many of us are embarking upon a most precarious emotional season, when expectations and demands are at an all-time high! My SOS is to begin saying “no” to 14-hour workdays and bringing work home to ensure adequate time to pursue my running goals, as well as to commit more time to meditation and staying on my spiritual path.

cindy pingle

November 26, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I just found this site I was reading your articles about yoga streatches for conditioning after a day on the slopes I ive in California and love to ski at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. can’t wait to try some of these moves So glad I found your site look forward to reading more articles.

Robin Juris

November 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

Wow….you just justified my booking a massage! I am a mother of three girls 9, 13, 14, some of you reading this may say, “wow, those girls aren’t little anymore and she must have time for herself!!!”..nope, in fact, it’s worse than having toddlers., just a VERY different busy…So, here goes my take on Radical Self Care, of which I truly believe is VITAL. We all need to take a step back and look at our lives, see what we can change, improve and in enrich it! What is your passion?…don’t put it off one single minute longer. With the holiday season approaching finding time to do those things will seem even more unreachable!….Here’s my suggestion.. I call it “mini me”…Do those things that you want to do everyday, choose one…or two…do it mini style. For instance, while running the bath, fold a load of laundry, when done jump in and soak, if only for 15 min. you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment., that you’ve done something for YOU. What about those little indulgences that you just don’t take the time to do….make em’ mini….who drinks the entire cup of tea anyway, add a slice of lemon and its’ gourmet. When I sneak away on the slopes sometimes I go into the glades, pop off my ski’s plant myself angel style and absorb the beauty of the snow so artfully decorating the trees. Nature is my connect to my inner self., if I’m not in my element for so many days at a time I become a caged bear! Living in the north east we certainly have our share of sub-zero days making it even more difficult to enjoy my love of the outdoors, each year I indulge an a new Athleta product meant for a MAINEy-act like me, it’s a double hitter….now I’m prepared for the outdoors and looking the part too!….somedays when getting outside seems impossible I open the windows in the house, turn on my fav. music, dance in my Athleta gear and drink tea! I made it happen, even if it is “mini”.

Aimee Gallo

November 30, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I love it! Small steps are still steps – and Mini Me is still room for ME, which is the most important thing! Thank you, Robin, for bringing to light the importance of carving out even a little time for self if we don’t have the time to do what we want in full (like a 15 min bath instead of a spa day, or asking a family member for a back rub instead of a 90 min professional massage).

Because most of us haven’t been taught radical self care, it is often easier and more realistic to begin in these small steps. With “mini-me’s”, we begin to practice placing importance on our needs and ourselves in small ways, which gets our self-care muscle moving and growing stronger so that we can transition from a 10 minute bath to something larger and even more restorative, like Velia’s overnight breaks to recharge.

Practice, practice, practice! I’ve been getting lots of opportunities myself to practice! Each time it gets a little easier, we recognize more of what we need, and can begin to create even more of what we want our life to look like!


December 07, 2010 at 9:00 am

FANTASTIC! Now I have a name for it. For two months I have been practicing Radical Self Care, and it is working. I have three boys 5, 3, & 1. I injured my back two years ago and it has been getting worse, especially after my last pregnancy. I was limiting my physical activity, so not to hurt myself. I lost all my baby weight but could not regain the mobility prior to my back injury. I hired a personal trainer who is awesome, I work out with him 3 days a week, and I enjoy the steam sauna after every workout. I feel awesome both physical and mentally. My time with the trainer is coming to end, and I hope to continue taking the time for myself.

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