Extreme self-care. What does that mean really? If you are in the throes of grief, loss, or a significant life issue, hearing buzzwords such as extreme probably makes you want to run in the opposite direction. Especially at a time when we need to be gentle with ourselves. People see the word extreme and think “Not for me!” Self-care may translate to “selfish”.
You already know about taking care of yourself but anything extreme. Well, you just don’t have the time or energy for that. Besides, people in your life need more of your time and care, not less. You’re doing alright, yet you wonder what would it take to feel better or how might you feel healthier, stronger, or happier without the rob Peter/pay Paul scenario.
We've all been there trying to balance those shifty priorities.
Finding the time, resources, commitment, persistence, achievability, sustainability and stamina (Whew, I’m tired already!) to start an extreme self-care regimen feels like too much effort. After a long day, it is all too easy to pick up a pizza. I often justified grabbing fast food to carve out an extra evening hour of downtime. And if, like me, you are dealing with any emotional challenges, well then, just forget about having the energy to cook, exercise, clean, and walk the dog too. We’ve all been there trying to balance those shifty priorities.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I promise this isn’t going to be an essay on the “7 Best Steps to Extreme Self Care”. A simple online search will reveal all manner of strategies for your personal self-care shift should you choose to accept the assignment. If you need something to click, One Fit Widow, may be a place to start your search. I am going to talk about how I’ve applied extreme self-care to improve my life. I am so grateful I finally figured it out!
In my opinion, the definition of extreme self-care is relative for each of us personally, working within our limitations. Let’s just say for the purposes of this narrative, that a significant shift in your self-care is your extreme.
Have you ever wondered why we attach the word extreme to self-care in the first place? Could it be perhaps an attention grabbing marketing ploy that some of us just can’t resist? Will I feel a greater sense of accomplishment once I’ve achieved it because you know, it’s EXTREME, which is way beyond extraordinary? Or will my resistance say, “I don’t do anything extreme. I ascribe to the ‘everything in moderation’ adage. Therefore, extreme can’t be good for me.” Huh, see what I did there? I just gave myself an out.
We should be able to take care of ourselves without feeling guilty or selfish. I believe we can teach ourselves to get as much joy from one chocolate rather than eating the whole box. Believe me, there was a time when my willpower was dialed down so low I’d eat the whole box.
How about if we start by noticing all the things we are already doing? Off the top of your head, how many self-care activities can you list that you are already doing? You may be surprised and start to feel better just by giving yourself credit for that foundation.
Extreme self-care for me is an easy mix of eating, exercise and mindfulness activities many of which only take a few minutes. Here’s my typical day with self-care in bold.
During the 15 minutes it takes to clean up the kitchen after dinner, my husband and I blend our green smoothies for the next day’s breakfast. Doing so preserves the morning peacefulness without the roar of the Cuisinart. More importantly, we don’t skip making them in the morning when we are still sleepy. And the smoothies help the vitamins go down.
As I fall asleep and before rising the next morning, a few deep breaths of gratitude and intention for all the good in my life takes about 2 minutes of my time, and it’s relaxing!
Sample self-care list
- green smoothies
- deep breathing
- honor commitments
- release fears
- create balance
For the 5 minutes it takes to floss and brush my teeth, I read affirmations or inspirational quotes taped to the bathroom mirror.
It’s a 10-minute walk to the bus stop where I use public transportation to honor my commitment to volunteer a half-day per week at our local art center. Besides the satisfaction of helping others, I am surrounded by curated art in a beautiful environment, for free. While I’m walking to and from the bus, I’m taking deep breaths to release tension and fears, noticing the nature surrounding me in a walking meditation of sorts.
I choose to eat gluten free because it has had a profound impact on my health. I adore vegetables and use almond milk.
The rest of the day fills with challenging my mind with creative pursuits such as writing this blog and taking a variety art classes. Building technical solutions, running a small business and planning our next travel destination keep me very busy. Balancing the hard tasks with the enjoyable ones keeps stress in check most of the time.
While this may sound Utopian, please note I eat meat. I drink caffeine and alcohol. I fall off the self-care wagon periodically. I have health conditions that require some attention but guess what? In just a couple years, I lost 20 pounds, migraines are now rare, and my digestive system is back to normal.
Did I implement all these at once? Certainly not. These shifts have happened over time, and their priority changes periodically based on my needs.
And the #1 self-care shift is . . . mindfulness!
You know what the #1 extreme self-care shift was for me? Mindfulness. I found how powerful reframing the problem can be for the more challenging changes. I thought in terms of I could do them rather than I should do them. That made all the difference. Once I understood my responsibility to make good choices and gratefully recognized the numerous opportunities right in front of me, I saw how I was truly the master of my feel good domain. And since I have a control freak personality, this was totally in alignment with who I am. Now, this was sustainable!
What does self-care mean to you? Have you implemented some forms that feel sustainable? How did you get started?