Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Checking In: Radical Self-Care

Progress, not perfection.

After eight weeks of blog posts about Radical Self-Care, I thought I’d give you a progress report.  

Progress, not perfection.

Because as I said in my very first blog post on the subject, radical self-care is a journey.  It’s not a destination.  Radical self-care is a work in progress.  It is not a perfect ending.

Progress, not perfection.

Just to do better, feel better, be better today than yesterday, that’s all I’m striving to do.  One baby step at a time, five minutes of self-care today and 10 minutes tomorrow - that’s all I have to do.  

I spotted this quote on Pinterest, which originated here (link: ).  It spoke to me about my own radical self-care journey, because ultimately that’s what I’m striving for: the best version of me.  

Listen, here’s what I think.  I think one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is that of self-love, of self-care, whatever we determine that to be.  That’s the first step - recognizing where we can use some extra tender loving self-care and then giving that to ourselves, with all of our might.  By fiercely loving ourselves, by embarking on a radical self-care journey, we are declaring that we are worthy.  It is that recognition of our absolute worthiness which fuels our radical self-care journey.  And that self-worth?  We’ve had it all along, by the way - just as Glinda the Good Witch said to Dorothy - “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself”.

That’s my progress to this point.  I realize that I am worthy of self-care.  And that when my radical self-care plan is in motion, and I’m taking better care of myself it is so much easier to take care of the people I love.  My cup is full to overflowing, and what spills over is what I’m able to share with everyone around me.  That is the journey to becoming the best version of me.  That journey has been well-thought out and planned.  Those self-care activities are on my calendar and protected fiercely.  

Am I finished?  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  But I am on my way.  Well on my way.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

27 Ways to Fit Radical Self-Care Into Your Crazy Busy Life

Life is crazy-busy.  So busy lately that I find myself forgetting what day it is.  (Of course, I don’t know how much of that is busy-ness or middle age.)  It’s not easy fitting self-care into my already cram-packed days.  But I do it.  Here’s how.

I put it on my calendar.  Yup.  I make an appointment with myself.  At first it seemed absurd.  Surely I could just grab five minutes here, 30 minutes there.  But guess what, life gets in the way, and before I know it I’m putting on my pj’s and getting ready to hit the sack.

So, the calendar.

And now I find that I look forward to those 5 minutes, 30 minutes, a splurge of an entire afternoon.  By putting at least one thing on my calendar that I enjoy doing for myself every day, just like goal-setting, I’m much more likely to actively participate in my self-care plan.  Funny how that works.

I started with baby steps - 5-10 minutes each day.  Rather than embarking my new self-care plan all at once, I focused instead on just one new self-care activity that I wanted to incorporate long term in my life.  I know myself well enough to know that starting small would give me the best chance for success.
At the beginning, I found it a little tricky getting those things on my calendar.  I was over-committed.  I determined what commitments I wanted to let go of or say no to, commitments or events that weren’t really serving me or that I didn’t necessarily enjoy and that didn’t require my participation or attendance.  It freed up quite a lot of time.  In fact, it freed up a surprising amount of time.

Next, I broke my list down into tiny little bites.  What could I do if I found myself with a minute or two, 5 minutes, a half an hour?  Here’s what I came up with.

If you have one minute:
  • Light a candle.  Unbelievable what a little candlelight will do for a stress level.
  • State a positive affirmation that really resonates in this moment.  Allow yourself to feel it with your whole being.  Here are a few of my go-to affirmations:
    • The beautiful plan for my life is unfolding right now.
    • I am bodacious and awesome. 
    • I trust my journey.
  • Rub your temples.
  • Sit back in your chair, close your laptop.  Now breathe.  Notice how your breath feels going into and out of your body.   Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Take a minute to be grateful for all the wonderful things your body does for you.
  • Hydrate.
  • Diffuse some essential oils.
  • Stand up wherever you are.  Stretch, jog in place, do a few neck rolls.
  • Write down the highlight of your day so far.

If you have five minutes:
  • Start a gratitude list.
  • Next time you’re out running errands, before you jump out of your car, stay seated and meditate.  If meditation isn’t your jam, throw on your sunglasses (to avoid awkward eye contact) and just zone out.  Seriously.  Do nothing.  Take a little, well-deserved break.  If you’re eating ice cream, even better.
  • Call someone close to you who inspires you, or who just digs you for who you are, quirkiness and all. Crank up the volume on your favorite feel-good song.
  • Cut up an apple and dip it into peanut butter or eat it with a slice of cheddar.  Good food is good stuff.
  • Talk to your dog.
  • Get your face in the sun.
  • Grab your journal (or a napkin from your glove compartment if you’re still in the car).  Do five minutes of “purging on the page” to get all of that stuff on your mind OUT so it doesn’t take up any more of your bandwidth.
  • Hey, here’s an idea: write out a radical self-care plan for tomorrow.

If you have 30 minutes:
  • Do yoga.
  • Take a bubble bath.  Or a hot shower.  Throw some lavender into the mix.
  • Run to the grocery store and pick up an inexpensive bouquet of flowers.  Take them back to your office or home and put them in a pretty vase.
  • Clean out a drawer or organize a pile that is out of control.
  • Start a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Curl up in your favorite chair and look at a magazine or read a chapter out of your book.
  • Take a nap.
  • Plan a trip for an upcoming weekend.  Make hotel reservations or call a friend and let her know you’d like to come visit for a weekend, even if she only lives across town.

If you have an entire day
  • Take a Sunday drive (even if it’s Tuesday).  Roll down the windows.  Crank your road trip tunes.  Or drive in peace and quiet.  Pack a picnic or take yourself out to lunch.
  • Have a task that’s been hanging over your head for awhile?  Take a day to tackle it.  Checking things off the to do list opens up space for more positive energy to come your way.  
  • What does your dream day look like?  Here’s mine: get up early.  Meditate.  Journal.  Get my miles in.  Long hot shower.  Get a mani-pedi.  Maybe a massage.  Take myself out to lunch.  Have a glass of wine in the middle of the day.  Go to a movie.  Eat a tub of popcorn.  Pick up a fresh baguette and salami and cheese for a “picnic” dinner at home with my beloved.  What would you indulge in if you had 24 hours all to yourself?

Organizing my self-care activities by the amount of time I wanted to devote to each one, then putting that little block of time on my calendar, has changed my life.  Truly.  I have a little self-care moment every day.  Most days I have several of them, of varying duration.  I have dates with myself throughout the week, even if that date takes place right at my desk for two minutes.  I’m so much happier (and probably making everyone around me happier in the meantime).  Everybody wins.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

50 Journal Prompts for Radical Self-Care

I write (mostly) every morning.  For me, writing is the very foundation of my self-care practice because it’s time that I can really focus on me - what’s going on with me, where I need to be supported, what I want to celebrate.

I get up at 5:00 and find my way to my cozy chair with a hot cup of coffee and get under a quilt with my journal.  Usually I don’t have much on my mind at 5AM so I just start writing the first thing that comes to mind and see where it takes me.  Once my hand starts moving across the page it’s really only a matter of 5 or 10 minutes before I’ve started a good juicy thread.

Some mornings it takes me absolutely nowhere.  

And that can be frustrating because I only have so much time before I need to get in the shower and get to work.  This doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does I’m ready.  I’ve got a list of writing prompts in the back of my journal.  I pick them up along the way from my reading or they come to me when I’m driving (particularly maddening when this happens on my way to work on a morning when I was not able to think of anything to write about a mere two hours prior to this genius moment).  

Anyway, as they come to me I jot them down then add them to the list in the back of my journal.  Now on those mornings when I’m sort of stuck I just go to my list of journal prompts and pick the one that is all sparkly and and jumping up off the page shouting, "pick me, pick me, oh please pick me!”

Here are 50 journal prompts I’ve curated.  Feel free to add them to your list, or start your list with these as your inspiration.

1. Where are you the happiest?  Describe that place in full detail.  How do you feel?  What does it look like?  Smell like?  What do you hear?  
2. What one city in the world would you like to visit?  Imagine it in living color then describe your first day there.  Your last day there.  Your favorite day there.
3. What’s your super power?
4. What is your dream guest list for the ultimate dinner party?  Who's there?  What are you all talking about?  What do you serve your guests?
5. What is your favorite season?  Why?  Describe it.  
6. What is your “walk-in song”?  Why?
7. Who do you miss?
8. Glass half full or half empty?  Any desire to change that outlook?  
9. What scares you?
10. What is the best advice you ever received?  Who gave it to you?11. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done?
12. What’s the most outrageous thing you’d like to do?
13. What was the most fun you ever had?
14. How could you simplify your evening routine to make it more relaxing?  (P.S. Give it a try tonight.)
15.Where could you use more balance?  How can you get it?
16.Write yourself an affirmation to support you where you need it most.
17. What are you looking forward to the most?
18. What three things can you not do without?
19. What’s your saddest memory?
20. What makes you the happiest?
21. How do you deal with anger?  How do you feel about the way you deal with it?
22. Forgive?  Forget?  Forgive and forget?
23. What is your favorite Sunday morning ritual?
24. Favorite quote?  What is it?  Why is it your favorite?
25. What does “living authentically” mean to you?
26. Did you ever run away from home as a child?
27. Is there anything you did this week that you wish you’d done differently?
28. What was your favorite toy as a kid?
29. What made you feel good this week?
30. What was the biggest mistake you ever made?
31. If you could relive a life experience, what would it be?
32. Guilty pleasure.  Discuss.
33. Who inspires you?  Why?
34. What things are you procrastinating right now?
35. Write yourself a love letter.
36. How do you stand out in a crowd?
37. I practice Radical Self-Care because I want to feel.
38. What is your favorite item in your wardrobe?  Why?  How do you feel when you’re wearing it?
39. How do you unplug?
40. What are you really, really good at?
41. Describe yourself to someone who has never met you.  Don't forget to tell them what you're really, really good at.
42. How could you add more joy to your life?
43. What two moments of your life are the ones you’ll never forget?  Describe them in detail.  What makes them so unforgettable.
44. Write your personal mission statement.
45. If your body could talk, what would it say to you?
46. What always brings tears to your eyes?  
47. You’ve come a long way, baby!  Write about how much you have changed in the last 5 years.  10 years.  
48. What energizes you?  
49. What does “wanderlust” mean to you?
50. How does it feel to be the age you currently are?

Now, go write something, beautiful!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

14 Things in my Radical Self-Care Tool Kit I Can't Live Without

I call it a toolkit because that’s how this started out.  I had a basket full of goodies that I’d pull out when I needed a little pick me up.  Most of these items are now just part of my daily routine and fixtures around our home.  Now every day is a Radical Self-Care Day!

Here’s my absolute must-haves on a daily basis to make myself feel cared for and cherished, to make our house feel like home, and yes, even the occasional pick me up for good measure.

  1. Journal and favorite pen - I journal every morning before I go to work.  Starts my day off right.
  2. Walking shoes - even when I’m not training for a 10K I like to get out there and get my miles in.
  3. Essential oils - I have two diffusers, one upstairs and one down, so I can have fresh good smelly stuff going on throughout the house.  Plus, a little lavender does a lot of good things - it has calming properties, helps ease feelings of tension, and it’s a natural deodorizer.
  4. Hand cream - I once saw a woman on Oprah who was in her 80s but looked to be 40, swear to goodness.  When Oprah asked what her secret was, the woman answered, “moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.”  
  5. Lip gloss - see Hand Cream above
  6. Desk stretches - I have a little list that includes neck rolls and cross body arm stretches.  When I’ve been sitting anywhere too long, I just have a little stretch and I’m right as rain.
  7. Fresh flowers - need I say more?
  8. A fountain - we have a little gurgler in our garden right outside our French doors.  When the windows are open, it’s such a soothing sound.  In fact, I love it so much, I’m going to make an indoor tabletop gurgler when I have to shut the windows for the winter.
  9. Scented candles - candle light just makes the dreariest day brighter.  And I love me a little vanilla or sandalwood.  Or both.
  10. Tea - when I need to feel cozy.
  11. Wine - when I need a little something more.
  12. Dark chocolate - lovely with each of the last two items.
  13. Fuzzy socks - I wear them even in the summer.  Rubbing a little foot cream on first is like a little mini-spa day.  Almost.
  14. Jazz in my iPod - I have a bunch of my dad’s old jazz cd’s copied onto my iPod.  Listening to them takes me right back home on a Sunday morning.  Mostly Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Errol Garner, and Ahmad Jamal.  With a little Buena Vista Social Club thrown in for fun.  

What’s on your list?

Saturday, September 23, 2017

If It Was Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It

I just did it!  I finished my 10k!  And I made my goal - I  finished in under 2 hours!!  1 hour and 53 minutes to be exact.  I wish I could relate to you the sense of accomplishment and awe and joy (and relief!) that I was experiencing at the moment this photo was taken.  When they read my name as I came across the finish line I started crying.  It was just all so amazing!  

I have been working towards this day for months.  My sister-in-law, who ran the half-marathon at this same race, reminded me that it was just a year ago when I did my first 5k.  After that race, I felt like I could do anything, and it just motivated me to keep my body moving.

I hit the road and walked my miles nearly every morning.  I walked more miles on the weekends.  I walked on the treadmill when it was too dark to walk outside alone.  Did I want to walk every day?  Absolutely not.  But did I do it anyway?  Mostly yes, because let's be honest here, some days, no matter how much better I knew I would feel if I would just walk those first couple of blocks, I simply couldn't get up for it.  And that's okay.  Because the net outcome of all of those days and miles was that photo above.  I finished my first 10k.  

I know there are people who see a fat, middle-aged woman in this photo.  But let me tell you what I see.  I see perseverance.  I see strength.  I see determination and grit.  Mostly, I see a beautiful body that carried me 6.2 miles along the Columbia River.  I see a fierce woman with fire in her soul.  I see a woman who doesn't give up, whose left foot is blistered, who has possibly a loose toenail on her right foot, who is thirsty and stinky and sweaty...and who is happy as hell and having the time of her life!  She is a goddess, she is a warrior, she is strong.  

She finished her first 10k!!!

And though she's just crossed the finish line, she is by no means finished.  Not by a long shot.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to Practice Radical Self-Care Like a Boss

So.  I’ve got a Radical Self-Care Plan.  Now what?

Once I pulled my plan together, I sat there at my desk, stared at it, and uttered those words aloud.  

I wanted to get this into play just as soon as I could, so I did a lot of noodling around on the internet, read a stack of books, and have discovered - am still discovering - some amazing practices that are helping me establish my self-care routine, carving out the me-time I need, and catapulting me towards the creative life I dream about living.

I’ve been incorporating a lot of new tools into my daily routine, some work, some don’t, it’s all trial and error.  As I go through this process of trying new practices to support myself and establish a self-care routine, I find my priorities shifting and my perspective clearing.  It’s hard to explain here, but I can feel myself going through a very powerful transition and it’s really, really exciting!

Let me first say that the beginning and end of my day really influences what goes on for me in between.  So, those beginnings and endings are very important and I’ve learned to protect them fiercely.  

And it’s so simple, really!  I’ve read about it, heard about it, poo-poo’d it in the past.  But my friends, let me tell you, I have drunk the Kool-Aid!  You may already know where I’m headed here - because I’m certain you’re far more evolved than I am.

Yup.  I begin and end my days in gratitude.

I’ve heard so many teachers and writers speak of it: before they even get out of bed in the morning they practice gratitude.  Wayne Dyer’s practice was quite simple - before setting his feet on the floor, he would sit on the edge of the bed and simply say, “thank you, thank you, thank you”.  Other teachers state a few specific things - health, happiness, home - plans for the coming day, or the people in their lives they are grateful for each morning.  I tried a few different ways to go about my morning gratitude, but in the end a reverent “thank you” three times with a full heart has become my favorite way to start the day, and I find that the rest of my day takes on that energy.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m finding myself more mindful, slowing down, becoming an observer.

At the end of the day, before I close my eyes, I review my day.  What were the high points for me?  What were the obstacles?  And then I express my gratitude for all of that - the highlights and the challenges because all of it is what makes up my little corner of the world.  It’s all what is making me grow personally.  Doesn’t mean I’m crazy about all of it, but I own it and fall asleep much more grounded and at peace than I have in a long, long time.  Maybe ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither grateful nor peaceful all the time.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  (Just ask my partner.  We have a schtick that goes something like this:
Me:  Honey, it’s not easy being me.
Her: Honey, it’s not easy being with you.
And we laugh hysterically at how humorous we are.  

Anyway, life does get in the way.  A self-care plan doesn’t always take top billing.  What I will tell you though, is that my self-care plan is now on my radar, it’s in my planner and it does get the attention it deserves, I deserve.  No, sometimes I don’t want to get my miles in.  Yes, sometimes I’d rather have a slice of chocolate cake and a glass of pinot noir for dinner instead of something more sensible.  Sometimes I’m too worked up about something (likely trivial or out of my control) to even think about my self-care plan, or doodling, or purging on the page, or a long bubble bath, or whatever.  But those are just hiccups.  And sometimes those hiccups count as self-care.  Maybe I don’t feel like getting my miles in because my body is tired.  So, I don’t do my miles.  Maybe cake and wine isn’t a sensible dinner, but maybe I need a little decadence that evening.  The important thing for me is to get back to my healthier choices as soon as possible.  Like, the next day, or that evening, or after cake.  

You see where I’m going with this.  I am in control of my self-care plan.  No one is grading me on my self-care activities.  No one is judging me on my choices (and if they are, who cares?  Not me.)  If chocolate cake and pinot noir feel more like self-care that moment than walking three miles then hey, that’s what self-care looks like that night.  The important thing is to get back to the activities that are supporting me in a healthier, more sustainable way.  I have a huge list of self-care activities that I can easily access  whenever I need some self-care inspiration.  Here are some of my faves:

  • Go outside – move, breathe in fresh air, take a walk – not a power walk, not a training walk, just a walk, paddle a canoe, take a hike, breathe in fresh mountain air, dip my toes in the ocean.
  • Hydrate - with water, not pinot noir – amazing how throwing back a huge glass of water can set a girl right again. 
  • People watch – go to the mall, a museum, the airport, a park, any place where people gather…then observe humanity.
  • Artist date – one of my favorite takeaways from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way – go to an art supply store and buy new pens and a sketch book, go to a museum (again!), grab a camera and go on a photo safari, take an art class, be a tourist in my own town, and the list is limited only by my imagination.
  • Journal someplace other than at home – a coffee house, the library (mine has some cozy chairs by a fireplace), a hotel lobby (also an excellent spot for people watching), anywhere that feels comfy and quiet and conducive to writing a little bit.

And that is how I practice radical self-care like a boss.  I have a plan.  I have a back-up plan.  And when all else fails, I have chocolate layer cake and pinot noir.

Until next time friends, be good to yourselves!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

From Blah to Aha

If you read my last post, you know I've uncovered some pretty big stuff that needed attention.  Next, I needed to find a solution.  I needed to get creative.  I needed to lose “I can’t” and “There’s no time / money for this”.  Because thinking this way has sabotaged my efforts in the past, and blocked my ability to create solutions.  Those thoughts also give lots of room for that negative self-talk to take up residence.

When coming up with my plan, I took another look at those areas that I wanted to support.  What does it feel like when I don’t move my body, take time to be quiet with my higher self, write it out?  I went there for a few seconds to let myself feel it.  Uncomfortable, yes.  But then, I imagined the polar opposite.  I was high on post-walk endorphins, inspired by being “in spirit”, and had a clear head ready for creative thoughts.  THAT is how I want to feel all the time.  THOSE are the feelings I want access to 24/7/365.  Now, how can I readily access those feelings?  What simple activities could transport me from blah to aha? 

For example, those days I can’t find my inspiration, my muse, I’m muse-less - this is one of the areas I often need to support.  When I’m uninspired, it’s nearly impossible to even think of writing something of substance, playing in my art journal, painting something.  And the longer my muse eludes me, the more miserable I become.  It’s a terrible spiral.  So, my go-to activity to get me out of that funk is to get out my journal and just write.  Purge on the page.  I don't have to have anything important to say, I just need to  Just putting my pen to the pages of my journal starts to wake up that muse of mine who’s been out collecting seashells or baking cookies or whatever it is she does when she’s not inspiring me.

And there I go, from blah to aha in about 30 minutes.  It’s awesome.

It’s incredibly important to have a plan.  Believe me, I learned this the hard way, over many, many years.  It's taken me a long time to get here, and a lot of frustration and tears.  But here I am, bruised and battered and all the better for it.  The huge aha for me is that I must actively plan my radical self-care rather than just hope it happens. It’s an active choice, and I’ve got to treat it that way.  I book it on my calendar and I tell people in my life that I’m on this journey in order to increase my commitment.  Then, I actively seek out opportunities to practice my radical self-care plan.

As you begin to create your own plan, remember this: radical self-care is a highly personal journey, so be sure to choose those activities that truly flip your skirt.

Unlike ordinary self-care (taking a bubble bath, heading to the beach for a weekend), radical self-care does more than just feel awesome in the moment.  It transforms us.  It transforms the way we view ourselves.  It increases our capacity to handle future stress, and it opens our minds and hearts to possibilities we couldn’t see before.

I know, right?  This is RADICAL!

Radical self-care is all about establishing habits and thought processes that will empower us and make us feel more in control of our lives.  It’s changing my life every single day.  And if any of this is inspiring you to make the commitment to putting yourself first, to embarking on your own journey of radical self-care, think about downloading my Radical Self-Care Plan template and getting started.

This may be a huge paradigm shift for you.  I know it was for me.  This is a lifestyle change.  This is about creating the life of your dreams and living it today.  Yes, today.  It is waiting for you.  Your Radical Self-Care Plan can’t wait to meet you!

This is my plan.  I’ve got sub-steps to each of these categories that I carry along with me all the time in my planner.  I haven’t integrated all of it yet, baby steps, but I’m making progress and I know I’m on the right path.  It’s a journey.  A delicious journey that is all mine.  


What do you think?  Are you ready to start your journey to Radical Self-Care?  You can grab a journal and start writing out what your Radical Self-Care Plan might look like.  If you like, download my Radical Self-Care planning template.  I’ve also created a ginormous list of Radical Self-Care activities and ideas to get you started and your creative juices flowing.  You can download it here.

Oh, I just can’t wait to hear how this goes for you.  Please check in from time to time and let me know about your journey towards Radical Self-Care.  I’ll do the same.  This is big.  This is important.  And it is so, so good to have cheerleaders, supporters, and partners in crime.  Sending you lots of good juju as you get started.  Enjoy, enjoy.  Yay you!