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 Brené 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!