Author and life coach Cheryl Richardson is well known for her dedication to self-care. I’ve enjoyed her books Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers and The Unmistakable Touch of Grace, so I was very happy to receive a copy of The Art of Extreme Self-Care.
The book is set up as a year-long transformation to extreme self-care, with each month focusing on a different element to move you forward. Cheryl begins with an explanation of her introduction to extreme self-care, from her first coach Thomas Leonard.
She describes extreme self-care like this:
“It meant taking radical action to improve my life and engaging in habits that allowed me to maintain this new standard of living. For example, it wasn’t enough to take a weekend off from helping others so that I could enjoy some downtime. Thomas wanted me to schedule time for myself (on my calendar, in ink) every day for six months.
Extreme Self-Care also involved surrounding myself with people who were smart, self-aware, and only interested in two-way relationships. It meant taking bold steps, such as eliminating clutter from my life, for good; creating a soul-nourishing work and home environment, and keeping it that way; getting my financial act together so that I always had choices about how to live my life; and not making any commitments whatsoever out of guilt or obligation.
In addition, Thomas explained that making pleasure a priority was critical for Extreme Self-Care – real pleasure, not just a massage every couple of months, an occasional bath, or a yearly vacation. It means leaving work in the middle of the day to get out into nature, enjoying a great massage once a week, and developing daily habits that made me feel happy and nurtured, including listening to music I loved, drinking my favorite tea, or ordering fresh flowers for my office.”
Do you feel kind of exhausted even reading that description? I do.
When you are transitioning out of therapy, it’s easy to look at where you want to be in your life in terms of self-care and become overwhelmed at the amount of work you might need to do to get there. If you start to feel dread, panic, or overwhelm at your self-care vision, the first step to take towards self-care is to be kind to yourself in this very moment.
It’s great to read a vision like Cheryl’s and adapt it to suit your ideal as long as you can remember to frame it as a long term goal, not an immediate life overhaul.
For example, if you are currently living above your means, accumulating consumer debt, working at a job you don’t love, “getting my financial act together so that I always had choices about how to live my life” is a fantastically complicated self-care goal. It is not something likely to happen overnight (or even possibly this year – or next) and it is going to require a lot of small and large steps before you can come anywhere close to it.
The ultimate qualities needed in living a life of extreme self-care are the same ones that got you through therapy: patience, grit, determination, and a refusal to settle for living something less than your best life.
Like therapy or any other kind of transformation, adopting new self-care practices takes time, effort, compromises and commitment. One of the most key elements of your self-care plan can be a kind commitment to improving your self-care in a gentle, loving way. It might mean that it takes you five years to work through the ideas in The Art of Extreme Self Care instead of one. That’s wonderful – there is no rush. It might mean that your vision from your self-care plan is a vision for ten years from now instead of ten months – and that is perfect.
Sometimes we can get caught up in a type of endless-self-improvement cycle after getting out of therapy, where we are always chasing the next level of growth, believing that then we’ll be happy. The radical extreme self-care choice might be to decide that you are good enough right now, that your life encompasses many delights today, and that any additional growth you want to do is because it sounds like a fun adventure.
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