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What Is Radical Self-Care?

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If there ever was a time for Radical Self-Care, it's now.

Stay well! We yell to each other from across the street when we see our neighbors. But what we actually do to keep well when we close our doors is our own private heaven or hell.

And historically, women haven't been the best at taking care of themselves being so busy taking care of everybody else.

We know now through research that the health of the mother figure in the family is the most important determinant of the health of the other family members. We often give lip service to keeping moms well but the sad truth is that according to statistics released by the CDC in January 2020 the maternal death rate in the US is more than disappointing.

Eugene Declercq, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health says this:

"If you compare the CDC figure to other countries in the World Health Organization’s latest maternal mortality ranking, the US would rank 55th, just behind Russia (17 per 100,000) and just ahead of Ukraine (19 per 100,000). And “If you limit the comparison to those similarly wealthy countries,” such as Germany, “the US would rank 10th — out of 10 countries.”

So when I came across the term Radical Self-Care in Almost Everything, Notes On Hope by Anne Lamott (2018), I naturally thought of both moms and childcare providers and how much we need that sort of thing.

Anne Lamott’s been one of my very favorite authors for 26 years, ever since my friend gave me a copy of Operating Instructions (1993) and she never fails to amaze me with her truth and compassion. Here's her definition of Radical Self-Care, found on twitter.

Radical self-care is the secret of joy, resistance, freedom. When we care for ourselves as our very own beloved—with naps, healthy food, clean sheets, a lovely cup of tea—we can begin to give in wildly generous ways to the world, from abundance.


To me and hopefully, to you, Radical Self-Care means getting down to the basics and giving ourselves the care, love, and attention that we should have had from the very beginning of our lives. But this time, doing it for ourselves.

That way anything else others do for us is just icing on the cake of happiness. From that point of loving, we can effortlessly give some of our time, wisdom, and kindness to others without feeling drained of our own vitality.

Why do we need more of this Radical Self-Care now? I believe in uncertain times we need all the help we can get to calm the "Mitote" in our minds.

Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, describes the Mitote in our mind's as," a dream where a thousand people talk at the same time, and nobody understands each other. This is the condition of the human mind - a big mitote, and with that big mitote you cannot see what you really are."

Each of us has our own personal mitote. Do what you need to do to calm the Mitote in your mind and feel good about yourself. Desperate times call for desperate measures when it comes to caring for ourselves in a world where so many seem to de-prioritize it.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas for Radical Self-Care but please create your own and never, ever let anyone make you feel guilty about caring for yourself in the best way you know how.

  • Cook yourself a 5-course meal and serve it on your best dinnerware.

  • Eat organic vanilla ice cream for dinner in your favorite PJ’s on the couch.

  • Watch a Cold Case marathon till you fall asleep.

  • Fill a room with sand, a kiddie pool, lawn chairs and full-spectrum lighting. Read for hours.

  • Exercise in your favorite way for 40 minutes the first thing every morning.

  • Refuse to take things personally.

  • Believe in yourself even when others question you.

  • Sleep on your own schedule and eat healthy food when you're hungry.

  • Take a slow walk in the sun.

  • Watch Beauty and The Beast

  • Spend more time looking at family photos and talking about them.

  • Tell your family you're taking 30 minutes to yourself for teatime and rejuvenation and close the door!

  • Make up your own mind about whether or not you want to attend a function.

  • Go for a walk when you know you should be writing.

  • Get creative and make some rocks!

If it makes you feel lighter, happier, and more able to cope with stress when you're done, you know it was Radical Self-Care at its best. Send us your ideas for Radical Self-Care, we'd love to hear!

Now go have some good old-fashioned fun, you deserve it!

Nanci J Bradley BS MA, 60+, is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, SELF-care facilitator, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI

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