Self-care is a touchy subject. That’s because our society largely views self-care as selfish, slothful and overly indulgent.
Yet, it’s anything but. Taking good care of yourself not only makes your life more fulfilling and contributes to your well-being, but it also extends to others.
As Cheryl Richardson writes in her book The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time, “From years of personal experience, as well as from the work I’ve done coaching many caring and hardworking men and women, I’ve learned that when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others – our families, our friends, and the world – in a healthier and more effective way.”
She further explains that through self-care, “We become conscious and conscientious people. We tell the truth. We make choices from a place of love and compassion instead of guilt and obligation.”
In The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Richardson provides a variety of nurturing and empowering activities for readers to try. Below are three of them.
1. Discover when, where, why and how you feel deprived.
First, it’s important to figure out where you feel deprived in your life. From there you have a good idea on how best to approach your self-care. Richardson suggests asking yourself these key questions:
- “Where do I feel deprived?
- What do I need more of right now?
- What do I need less of?
- What do I want right now?
- What am I yearning for?
- Who or what is causing me to feel resentful and why?
- What am I starving for?”
Be specific with your responses. As Richardson writes in her book, instead of saying “I feel deprived because I have no time to myself,” you might say, “I feel deprived of solitary, uninterrupted time away from my children and husband, which allows me to do something just for me, such as read a good novel, have lunch with a friend, or take a quiet bath.”
2. Find your own rhythm and routine.
Routine isn’t boring. Rather, routine gives our lives stability, security, safety and serenity. And routine is rejuvenating. (Think of uplifting routines like getting enough sleep, participating in physical activities you enjoy and having a date night with your spouse or a girls’ or guys’ day out.)
To develop your own rhythm and routine, Richardson suggests asking yourself this powerful question: “What one routine could I put into place this month that would improve my life the most?”
Once you’ve named the routine, write it down on an index card. Then think of how you’ll schedule it into your life for the next 30 days. After a week of engaging in your new routine, consider if you feel more relaxed and healthier and less overwhelmed.
3. Create an “absolute no list.”
Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do. This list represents the things that you refuse to tolerate in your life. The ultimate goal, Richardson says, is to create a list that “makes you feel safe, protected, taken care of, and free to be your best self.”
She asked her friends what’s on their lists, and they give these great examples:
- Not rushing
- Not using credit cards unless you can pay them off fully at the end of the month
- Not keeping anything that you don’t love or need
- Not answering the phone during dinner
- Not participating in gossip.
According to Richardson, create your own list by “looking for those activities you no longer do, no longer want to do, or would like to give up at some point in the future.”
Also, she says to pay attention to the things that frustrate you. For instance, maybe you’re tired of volunteering for organizations that aren’t very organized, she says. Use that for your list! So you might write the following, according to Richardson: “I no longer volunteer for any organization that doesn’t have a concrete vision, plan and sufficient staffing.”
When creating your list, it also helps to pay attention to your body. When do you typically feel tension, tightness or aching? This might be a hint that this activity needs to go on your list.
Post your list in a visible place, and read through it every day.
Extreme self-care takes practice. At first it might seem awkward to say no to something or someone. At first, you might feel guilty for taking time for yourself. But with practice, it’ll become more natural and automatic. And you’ll notice that you feel a whole lot more fulfilled.
Learn more about Cheryl Richardson and her work at her website.