How to Practice Radical Self-Care

Not gonna lie–the past week has left me reeling. Talks with close friends, long walks in the autumn sunshine, strong coffee, and a few glasses of wine have helped me find my bearings. These things are a comfort to me during times of stress and anxiety.

I know I’m not alone in feeling stressed, irritable, and overwhelmed at times. I read a lot of mom blogs, and the topic of self-care comes up frequently. We moms are pretty much universally busy, tired, and stressed. Just reading the words “self care” in a headline stirs something inside us, a longing for that precious time to recharge.

Most of these articles recommend short-term fixes like hiring a babysitter for a date night or weekend trip, taking a bubble bath, going for a massage, and getting some extra sleep. These things are all great, and short-term hits of pleasure can do a lot to help you get through the week. But what I want to talk about is a little bigger. I want to talk about what I have started calling radical self-care.

Radical self-care goes beyond quick fixes. It’s about structuring your life so that it works for YOU–even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. Here are a few ways I practice radical self-care in my life:

  • I choose to work. I’m more productive, engaged, and energetic when I work full-time. I’m a better mom and wife for working. Even though I could probably afford to stay home (with some sacrifices), I choose to work.
  • I live in a small home. I have no desire for a big house, and I know moving away from my beloved Broad Ripple would encourage depression. Even if navigating the school system will take a bit more work for our family, I know we will be much happier here than if we move to the burbs. 
  • I’ve chosen a low-stress job. I spent the first five years of my career working in a high-stress industry. I met some wonderful people and gained strong work experience, but I also struggled with depression more than I had in years. I came to realize that the high-stress environment just isn’t for me. I made a bit of a career U-turn, which I’m sure confused people who thought I was gunning for an executive job like everyone else in my field. Even though I took a pay cut, it was entirely the right decision. I absolutely love my current job. The organization and its mission carry personal meaning for me, it’s fairly low stress, I get to use my creativity, and I work with some really great people. I don’t make nearly as much money as many of my peers. I don’t have a fancy title, and sometimes it hurts my ego to see former colleagues of mine ascending to high-ranking positions at major companies. But, that life was not for me, and I know I’m immensely happier for choosing my own path.
  • I choose my relationships very carefully. I have a small network of close friends, and I’m pretty careful about who I let in. Toxic friendships drain me, and I’m selective about how I spend my time and who I truly let in.
  • I don’t have cable. This may seem relatively minor, but when I had cable, I could waste HOURS of my life rotting away to endless episodes of House Hunters and Chopped. Part of my self-care plan includes being extremely mindful of how I spend my time.
  • I exercise purely for mental health benefits. I make a point to get in 3-4 workouts a week purely for the mood boost and mental clarity they provide. 
  • I read books about personal growth and development. Finding my “spiritual gurus” to help me gain clarity on my values has been critical in designing a self-care centered life. Cheryl Strayed, Glennon Doyle Melton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, and Bren√© Brown have all dramatically influenced my perspective on how I define a meaningful and values-centered life.  
  • I joined a writing circle. I have been a member of Women Writing for a Change Indianapolis for more than five years now. Yes, I pay a tuition fee for this class, and I have paid it ten times now. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent. Every Wednesday evening, I spend three hours connecting with a group of incredible women, working toward my writing goals, and taking a time-out from the hectic pace of ordinary life. This class is a non-negotiable element of my self-care plan.
  • I volunteer. Helping others not only fill my gratitude tank, it also inspires me. 

If you feel miserable in your life, let me ask you something: Can you change it? Can you sell your house or quit your soul-sucking job? Can you break up with that toxic friend or distance yourself from an abusive family member? Maybe just start by taking a daily walk all by yourself and letting your mind wander, or giving yourself a couple hours a week to make progress toward an important goal.

Take care of yourselves, mamas! the-benton-house

One Response to How to Practice Radical Self-Care

  1. Vanessa November 22, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    Lauren you are my spirit animal!! Huge resounding YES to ALL of these things! Being purposeful with your life is the best gift you can give to yourself and those around you. Except giving up cable…girl…how do you do it? LOL

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