Radical self care, or “exquisite self care” as I’ve recently heard it called, is a huge component of any smooth transition, and is a balm for the less than smooth ones. It refers to the activities we engage in that nourish our Body, Mind and Spirit during times of change. I have recently introduced the concept to many of my clients in the form of a worksheet that covers all three of the above sectors. We look at things they currently do to nurture their Bodies and brainstorm activities they’d like to try in this realm. The women I work with usually quickly mention eating healthy and exercise as activities they’re currently doing or want to do. We dig down from there into specifics (i.e. What kind of exercise?/ How many times a week?, etc.) We look at activities that are palatable and doable. No sense putting down “Climbing Mt. Everest” if that’s something that’s just not going to happen! We also look at activities like getting massages, facials or mani/pedi’s, weight loss, walking with a friend, etc.
We then move onto the other two categories: Mind and Spirit, which have to do with activities that feed our brains and our souls, respectively. Some pastimes that are mentioned are reading self help books or 12 Step literature, listening to podcasts, engaging in lively conversations, or even working at a job someone loves. Meditation can go in the Mind category, as well as in the Spirit box, because it nourishes both. Going to church, attending a support group meeting, like Alanon or CODA, and prayer often come up in the Spirit column. I’d like to point out that low cost or no cost activities, like prayer, meditation and exercise, can be found, so self care doesn’t have to be expensive.
Next we explore three other categories: Self Care Goals, Resources Needed (if any) and Support People who are in your court and can act as your coaches or cheerleaders. And lastly we do an Action Plan including when you’ll start a new behavior, what might get in your way and work-arounds to these potential barriers. With new self care behaviors it can be tempting to say “I’d like to ride my bike” for example. But it’s much more powerful and effective to put a definite start date on this plan and even to calendar the activity.
So what does this all have to do with getting through a difficult transition? I see it as all about self love. If I’m kind to myself, and do loving things for myself, I find that I can weather most storms. Recently I’ve found myself working three jobs, while winding down on the old one, ramping up on the new one, and maintaining an active private practice. I have to admit that I get a little crispy around the edges with this schedule. My self care plan includes getting enough sleep, hiring someone to help me clean my house and scheduling some much needed time off in the near future. And Ice Cream. Did I mention ice cream? I know I can’t pour from an empty cup. And the most logical person to fill my cup is me! I just have to give myself permission to love myself enough to do the things that make my heart sing.