Self Care During Times of Uncertainty

It has been months since I’ve written a blog post. After publishing my book “Successful Strokes – A Realistic Guide to Creating a Lucrative Massage Business” last March and spending energy promoting it, I needed to take a break. I have three other books partially written but haven’t decided where to focus my attention. So, taking my own advice, I decided to take time off and just do nothing for a while. For me, doing nothing means taking lots of walks, spending time in my garden and getting lost in a book.

I was starting to feel relaxed. Allowing that void to be empty, knowing that creative ideas would soon form.

Then the election happenedYoung beautiful woman with reddish hair sitting home by the window with cup of hot coffee wearing knitted warm sweater. Christmas tree with decorations and lights in the room, snowy winter outside and I was totally unprepared for the result. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. Really? How could this be possible? There must be some mistake. Is this really going to happen?

My adrenaline, which had settled into a nice, quiet tide pool was suddenly churning in tsunami waves. Suddenly all I saw in my Facebook feed were articles that scared me to death. I felt sick. My stomach was in knots. I no longer needed to watch my diet as I had no appetite. It was immobilizing. All I could feel was panic and a sense of dread.

I want to live in a world that works for everyone. Unrealistic? Maybe, but truly, that is what I want. I know we are a very long way from that ideal, but I have seen over time that the quality of life has improved in countries around the world and slowly things have been getting better. The thing that blindsides us is that technology and communication have made information so much more accessible than it ever was, so we hear about more terrible things happening than we ever did. But, in general, people have more freedom and a higher quality of life than they did, say, 50 years ago.

Things were getting better in our country, too. The economy was better, there was more advancement on human rights and equality.

Then I woke up to an election that favored a man who wants to set us back 70 years, back to times of terror and struggle, who wants to undo so much progress we have made over hard fought battles.

I have been seriously distraught, unable to write or make anything. I even thought maybe I’d start working on a sewing project but realized my creative juice is zapped.

Anyone else feeling like this?

As I sat with this, I knew that it is not healthy to allow oneself to turn into a tight little ball of fear and that I had to keep going somehow, so I tried to analyze what was going on.

I feel like I just woke up in the middle of a dystopian novel. And it’s a cliff hanger.

And that, dear friends, is what’s driving me crazy.

Right now we don’t know what to do because we aren’t sure what’s going to happen. And so we read the scary headlines and we panic and despair.

Uncertainty is hard. When there is a crisis, we figure out what we need to do and we get to work. The surge of adrenaline gets channeled into action. If we see a vicious storm coming, we batten down the hatches and lay in a supply of food. Right now it’s unclear what to do and yet we want to do something.

It is emotionally overwhelming to focus too much on things over which we have little or no control. The key to mental health, is to take action on things where we do have some control and that’s what I’m doing now.

I have taken some steps to cope, and I’m sharing them in case you’d like ideas of how to get through these times as well.

  1. Take breaks from the news and social media. This has become a major habit of mine, since I’m constantly checking to see what my friends have to share. New rule: no news or Facebook after dinner. I do not need to see upsetting articles as I’m winding down from my day and preparing for sleep.
  2. Do small, simple tasks that make you feel better about your life. For me, that amounts to tidying up my house, cleaning out drawers and going through piles of accumulated papers to make my environment clean and orderly. I have been getting my garden ready for winter, pulling weeds and mulching the beds. It gives me peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment to see messy things get tidier.
  3. Connect with friends. During stressful times it helps to channel more love. I’ve been calling people I haven’t spoken to in a while and making dates to get together and that makes all of us feel better.
  4. Do random acts of kindness. Hug people. Smile and chat with strangers. Help whenever you can. As much as possible.
  5. Donate to organizations and causes you believe in. I started a few recurring monthly donations to human rights organizations and other places I want to support. Even tiny donations add up and feel good to do.
  6. Do simple tasks you enjoy. Cooking has always been a way for me to express myself and I especially love to cook during the cold winter months. A couple of times a week I whip up something hearty and satisfying for my family. It’s productive, its fun, and it’s appreciated by others.
  7. Focus on things you can control. Back in August I started a fitness program that combined healthy eating with exercise and I have religiously kept that up, sticking to a healthy eating plan, doing frequent brief workouts and walking eight thousand steps each day. So far I’ve lost 9 pounds and am almost at my goal. The walks are especially helping as I love walking among the trees and enjoy the patterns of fallen leaves as I go down my neighborhood streets.
  8. Read good books. Just finished “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. She’s the writer for the TV shows “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” It’s hilariously funny and very uplifting.
  9. Participate in things that uplift you spiritually. I occasionally attend Center For Spiritual Living, a non-denominational church that recognizes all religions and spiritual paths as having value. I’ve been going more often.

All of this is helping. And hey, I just wrote a blog post.

Body Tweaking

My latest self-care practice, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, is that I signed up for a fitness program. Yes, the kind that you pay for. I was determined that my nemesis, those stubborn ten pounds, were not going to get the best of me. They have slowly creeped up over the past few years and I have dismissed them, excused them, helped hide them and accepted them as a new normal. Ten pounds may not seem like a lot to some people, but when you’re 5’ 2” it’s quite a bit.

Image: By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Image: By Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I’m not fat shaming myself or being obsessed with a certain look. I could feel it dragging me down. I was losing my juice. I could see how easily we gradually succumb to sluggishness. As we age we need to take care of these little things before they become big and turn us into lethargic sloths.

I was about ready to find the tree limb on which to crawl and spend the rest of my days when this program popped out at me. I checked it out and it seemed healthy, in line with the way I live so I decided to give it a try. Clearly I was not succeeding on my own.

I signed up for the 8Fit app because it both includes meal plans, fitness workouts and the shining crown – a Personal Trainer. Yes! A real human with whom I can email and ask questions! There are short video workouts to do as many times a week as I can.  You grade each one as easy, perfect or difficult and they keep tweaking what they give you by your feedback. It’s pretty cool. The rest of the time I walk until I reach at least 8,000 steps, as the app has a built in pedometer.

I like the idea of a trainer I can actually work with. Reaching goals is so much easier when I have someone to be accountable to. It seemed worth a try for $79/year. They offer a money back guarantee during the first week, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose. Except hopefully a bit of blubber. I can squeeze that roll on my stomach with my fingers and I say nasty things to it, as I try to drive it away. Hopefully this will be more effective than that.

So, the plunge is taken and I am diving in and giving it my all. Everyone who knows me will think I already eat healthy, but one thing I’ve already learned is that I eat too much fruit and the excess glucose turns to fat. Who knew? Those sweet, heavenly mangoes, and my precious homegrown raspberries, turning to ugly fat? I shivered in horror. No, please don’t take my favorite foods away!

I learned that sugars, even natural sweets found in fruit, need to be balanced by protein in order to be used by the body. Otherwise they will turn to fat. That was quite a revelation! At night I frequently grab a handful of figs or an apple, thinking I’m staving off hunger responsibly. Now I balance fruit with nuts or cheese.

I thought I was doing a good job tracking my calories with the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, but I cheated. I did not track all my fruit. Or that occasional piece of dark chocolate, or the slice of cheese and cracker that I ate in a ravenous stupor when I came home from work famished. I was definitely having an affair with undocumented foods.

By The Numbers

My delightful 8Fit coach, Alice tells me not to focus on the numbers but to pay attention to how I feel. Is she serious? I know she means well, but I have so many feelings going on at any given time, all I can say, is that they are extremely unreliable. Bloated, blubbery, excited, hopeful, disappointed, frustrated, exhausted, despairing, fierce, resilient, hopeful (again), grateful, alarmed, worried, relieved, elated, sleek, fat, acceptable, unacceptable, fit, hippo. Basically every body image and emotion possible, depending on my mood. Each of these feelings takes only a second to come and go, meaning that in any given minute I can cycle through 60 of them. They are highly unreliable.

When I turn a certain way I can look at myself in the mirror and my waist looks positively thin. And at 26 inches it’s not bad. But right above that is a roll of blubber, which I never had before, an unwanted guest in my body that has definitely overstayed its welcome.

Whereas the numbers are scientific. The number on the scale gives me a data point. It can be 128 pounds of fat or 128 pounds of muscle, but it tells me what I weigh and over time I can watch those numbers go up or down.

Same with food. I track my calories and I have used the 8Fit meals as a guideline, but being fiercely independent I ultimately design my own. The program has given me some new ideas, like blending Greek yogurt with uncooked rolled oats at breakfast, something I never thought of before. I like that I get oatmeal combined with protein. I add some fresh fruit to that for sweetness, chia seeds, flax seeds, and some chopped almonds. Nine almonds. 63 calories of almonds.

If I walk at least 8,000 steps the app tells me I burn 250 calories,. This is in addition to the calories it takes for me to run my basic bodily aliveness. Since there are 3500 calories to a pound, if that’s all I manage I will at least lose ½ pound per week, or eight pounds by New Year’s. The app’s brief workouts also burn a couple hundred calories so that will help, too. What I love about the workouts is the strength training. I’m using muscles that I normally do not challenge and I realize how weak I’ve allowed myself to become. I don’t really like standard exercises. I would rather walk or dance. But it feels incredibly good to be getting stronger and fit.

The really rewarding thing about this? It’s something I have control over. There are so many things I have put effort into that did not yield the results I was hoping for. Most of my creative endeavors are like that, especially the ones where I tried selling something I made. But this is something where it’s scientifically laid out. If I take in a certain number of calories and burn a specific number of them I ought to get results.

Without a clear plan we fool ourselves.

We tell ourselves lies. We sweet-talk ourselves into falling in love with our fantasies, into those things we want to be true. Especially when we feel lost and don’t have the energy to make changes. We know exactly how to turn our heads and not look at the parts we don’t want to see.

But now I have Alice. I even sent her a photo (I took “before” photos as another motivator to keep on track) so she knows just what that belly roll of fat that I want to get rid of looks like. She is incredibly supportive and helpful and we are slowly getting to know each other.

So we shall see.

Radical Self-Care Step Ten – Creativity

Follow the Juice of Your Curiosity

Radical Self-Care Step Ten – Creativity

What do you love to do so much that the hours go by and you hardly notice? What absorbs your imagination so completely that you forget about the 24-hour news cycle, your to-do list and the fact that you really should lose ten pounds? What is that thing that you get so wrapped up in that you are wondering what you can give up so that you can do it more?

Molly Weaving

Molly Weaving

That is your creative passion. So, tell me. How often do you do it?

In the past nine steps I have talked about various elements, which I consider to be essential for a true recharge of your body, mind and soul. Most of these are part of the first order of survival needs, such as rest, financial security, and nourishment. Others are important for emotional health, such as journaling, de-cluttering and honoring your authenticity.

This step is a little different. This is the one that really makes life worth living. This is the shine. The glitter on the forehead. The thing that makes you forget to look at the clock. Where you get so absorbed that everything else disappears.

Having a creative outlet is a very important way of channeling your energy into something that lights you up inside. When I talk about creativity, I don’t mean, necessarily being an artist, a writer, painter, sculptor or craftsperson, although there are many avenues in the arts in which to pour creative energy.

I have never been able to draw well. My drawings still look like a five year old

made them.

It’s just not where my talent lies. And my very first semester of college was at an art school! But I still can’t draw. I went there because I was fascinated with fiber and weaving and wanted to be a fiber artist. I learned how to weave and made my first loom when I was 15. A couple of years later, when I was first living on my own I discovered a weaving studio and was introduced to complex floor loom weaving. Weaving, crocheting and sewing clothes are creative outlets for me. It also helps that I hate clothes shopping, which has motivated me to make many of my own clothes.

Open Studio Show

Open Studio Show

Writing has also been a creative outlet since my earliest years. It has been second nature to pour my thoughts and feelings into poetry and essays.

I love music but have never learned to play an instrument and I cannot carry a tune to save my life. Much as I love music, it is not someplace I can pour my creative energy. I am very envious of people who have those talents because making music looks so satisfying.

We often think of creativity as applied to the arts. But there are so many other ways to express our inventiveness. Decorating your house, designing a garden, planning a party, creating a photo album, making videos, putting together music mixes. Even starting a

Open studio show

Open studio show

business is a very creative endeavor.

Cooking is a great opportunity to let your experimental energy flow. Instead of using a recipe, just experiment with ingredients that sound good. If it doesn’t work out, then try something else. I am always fooling around with new ideas in the kitchen. Some of the things I make are flops. But I don’t mind. It’s fun to play around and see what happens.

One of the important aspects of creativity is knowing that it’s

totally okay to screw up. Yes, that’s right. Embracing the fact that some of the things we make will be failures gives us the permission to experiment. Anyone who has ever made anything that you admire has had plenty of failures. That’s the whole nature of experimentation. It’s fun to play around and try things, whether or not they end up panning out. Our failures are where we learn. We learn so much from our mistakes. If you don’t have a few failures it means you’re no

Wallet detail

Wallet detail

t really reaching very far.

“What happens if I do this?” is one of my favorite questions. I am trying new things all the time and many of the things I try to do don’t work out. But a few of them do. And the thing is, I learn so much from experimenting and trying new things.

It’s really engaging.

It’s always disappointing to spend time cooking something that turns out unappetizing or writing something that my critique group politely shakes their head at, but it just inspires me to try something else. There is no shame in trying something new, whether or not it ends up working out.

I repeat: There Is No Shame In Trying Something New

This is the only reason that anything was ever invented. Somebody got an idea and decided to try it. Some things worked out. Some didn’t, but if people didn’t experiment, nothing would exist!

Green evening bag

Green evening bag

The reason that channeling your creativity is such an important part of self-care is that it makes you feel alive. Creativity is the juice of the Universe!

Think of something you’ve made that you were very proud of. Remember how, when you were figuring it all out that all of your focus was on that moment. While you were working on your project, it became your whole world for a while. Time stopped. Or it flew by. When you are caught up in a creative project time does not even exist. Only putting your ideas into productivity matters.

Another reason that this is an important part of self-care is that you don’t need anybody else to make this happen.

Leaf design hanbag

Leaf design handbag

The point of these self-care steps is that they are all things that are easily within your power. They are all ways to make your life better. Nobody else is necessary in order for you to do any of these things. When you decide to repaint your kitchen, or put in a rose garden, or whip something up to use up the leftovers in the fridge, it is your own personal inspired moment.

Just go for it. Incorporate more creativity into your life.

 

Radical Self-Care Step Nine – Nourishment

A Hedonist’s Guide to Healthy Eating

Are you Hungry? What sounds good?

Feeding ourselves well is an essential part of self-care. How could it not be? Eating is primal! Among our most basic needs.

I am a massage therapist, which translates to a pleasure-seeking hedonist! Therefore, my relationship to food is all about pleasure. Well, pleasure and health. Part of what makes me enjoy my food is knowing that the things I eat are enhancing my physical well-being. I love foods that are rich with vibrant colors, delectable textures and fresh flavors.

Everything you eat, if possible, should consist of foods you love. This way you are feeding more than your stomach. You are providing a feast to all of your senses. Choose foods that have bright colors, artistically presented, with fresh, rich intense flavors.

Tomato, cheese, crackers

Tomato, cheese, crackers

Here are some tips for making your meals as restorative as possible.

Your favorite foods will likely be different from mine, so as I describe the way I play with these concepts, know that you will create your own way of eating mindfully and joyfully, but the main thing I want you to take away from this is about quality, not quantity.

My very favorite foods are fruits. Mangos, raspberries, crisp apples, strawberries, grace my meals every day. I love foods that look beautiful, taste divine and feel like they are benefiting my health with every chew and swallow.

I try to eat about half my food intake in the form of fruits and vegetables. They are healthy and they are beautiful. They come in a rich variety of colors and have intense flavors. You can arrange fruits and vegetables so that a plate looks like a work of art, making it all the more appetizing. When I was in Italy, a country well known for its epicurean delights, I was struck by how simple and delicious much of the food preparation was. Vegetables were grilled or pan-fried and embellished with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, some chopped garlic and that’s it. Simple and delicious. Play with garnishes. That’s what students learn in culinary academies. The art of garnishing. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s tasty and you can make healthy food very appetizing that way. Take some broccoli, steam it, drizzle with olive oil that has had some garlic sautéed in it and then decorate it with a tablespoon of chopped, toasted walnuts. Yum.

Experiment.

Root vegetables

Root vegetables

cooked root vegetables

cooked root vegetables

Try different fresh herbs as a garnish. Some chopped fresh basil, perhaps, or parsley. Or try grating some fresh lemon or orange zest. I became quite an aficionado of zesting and began collecting a variety of zesters. It really adds great flavor, texture and color to all sorts of dishes. And it is chocked full of powerful antioxidants, the substance that fights cancer in your body.

Making good food can be very easy. One of my favorite summer dinners is steamed vegetables topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese. This is particularly good on asparagus, summer squash, broccoli or green beans. As the egg yolk breaks and soaks into the vegetable it is rather luxurious! I try to get the freshest eggs I can find, buying them at the farmer’s market whenever possible. The green vegetables, topped by the egg, with its bright orange yolk, create a beautiful presentation! Get in the habit of treating yourself like an honored guest, creating food presentations like you would for company or that you might receive in a fine restaurant.

Hummus platter

Hummus platter

Preparing gorgeous, appetizing food is a form of self-love. It’s nourishing way beyond nutrition. I know a lot of people who think if they don’t have someone else to cook for it’s not worth bothering. These people eat very poorly when they are by themselves. I’m talking about watching TV mindlessly gobbling potato chips, frozen pizza, or some quickly micro-waved frozen dinner. Please treat yourself better than this.

I promise you, that if you start caring for yourself the way you would treat good company your life will change. For one thing, you will become a happier person if little pleasures become part of your daily life, no matter where you are, whom you are with or what you are doing. As you become happier you will radiate positive energy and people will become attracted to that energy and will want to be around you and will automatically be good to you and treat you to things.

When I go out of town on a solo getaway, which is what I like to do in order to recharge and write, I want to keep my costs down so I bring food with me to minimize the expense of eating out. I’ll bring a ripe avocado, mash it with lemon juice, garlic powder and sea salt, making a delicious guacamole. I’ll take a carrot and slice it into slivers for dipping. I may also cut up a red bell pepper and chop up some tomatoes. With a little cheese and crackers it makes a beautiful, healthy meal that I can put together in a hotel room.

I pack fruit, graham crackers, peanut butter and goat cheese for breakfast, cups of instant hot soup that only required boiling water from an electric hot pot I bring with me. I add chopped peanuts to garnish the Thai noodle soup that comes in one of those “just add water” cups and voila! A tasty and beautiful meal. I carry a couple of plates and a nice bowl for my food so I can transfer everything to my pretty dishes. It’s easy, delicious and beautifully presented. And healthy, as well. Most importantly, eating this way, with care to presentation and quality, simple ingredients makes me feel incredibly good.

Ratatouille tart

Ratatouille tart

What would your meals be like if every serving were in some sense a work of art? We see pictures of food in magazines, on websites, in TV commercials, in restaurant ads, foods that have been carefully arranged by a food stylist to make them appear appetizing. What if you did that for yourself? Every time you eat?

You don’t need a lot of money to live well. You just need to make the most of the little things. Food is a pleasure you can use to treat yourself multiple times throughout the day, every day.

This is a way to care yourself physically, emotionally and can become a habit of yummy creativity.

Feed your eyes.

Phyllo mushroom pizza

Phyllo mushroom pizza

Feed your taste buds.

Feed your stomach.

Feed your heart.

Feed your creativity.

Feed your soul.

 

 

 

Radical Self-Care Step Eight – Balance

Finding the Balance or Managing the Feel-Good Meter

On one of my trips out of town, I was overcome with the feeling that helping others is what life’s all about. In big ways. In small ways. Offering to give a hand to a friend whom you know is struggling. Tipping the person who prepares your coffee. Helping a confused person find their way. Being friendly to strangers when you’re out running your errands. Being helpful whenever you can. Meeting a person’s eye and smiling. Or just holding their gaze for a moment so they know they have been seen. There are a thousand ways big and small to help other people.

Society Hotel, Portland. The lobby cafe

Society Hotel, Portland. The lobby cafe

Thinking about things like gratitude practices, I wanted to promote the practice of kindness and helping others. Whether it’s doing something practical like helping someone get something done or doing something that lifts a person’s spirits, spreading helpfulness is one of the most powerful spiritual practices we can do.

Giving doesn’t only make the other person feel good but it makes your own heart feel good.

I went to Portland a few months ago for a writing retreat and every place I went I encountered helpful, friendly people who made me feel good to be alive and happy about humanity. I met many strangers who were extremely kind to me and helped me with directions, when I was walking through the city, because I’m terrible at finding my way in new places. I’m famous among my friends for getting lost or taking the wrong turn. They took the time to explain to me where things were, and how the city was laid out (numerically and alphabetically) so I could figure out how to find the address I was looking for.

Society Hotel, Portland. Lobby fireplace.

Society Hotel, Portland. Lobby fireplace.

The women at the writing workshop shared their fears and vulnerabilities in words and tears and exquisite pieces of writing that made me feel less alone and not so different. I went to this writing retreat hoping to become a better writer but really, what it did was open my heart. I saw so many ways that people were doing what they could to help other people. The presenters gave us all books from writers they knew, whom they were supporting by sharing their books. They said they take a percentage of what they bring in from the workshop to help upcoming writers. A beautiful practice of Helping.

At the hostel-like Society Hotel, where I was staying, the staff were very friendly and chatty. They greeted me with smiles every time I entered the lobby/lounge/café area. They had a little take-out bar where they made healthy breakfasts and lunches and they remembered each day that I wanted yogurt with their homemade granola and a fresh orange for breakfast.

The people at the front desk were patient in explaining how to find places in town and how to navigate the neighborhood. And in order to get a good night’s sleep they gave me a quiet room on a top floor away from the street noise.

I was so overcome by the openness and friendliness of the people I was meeting in this city, where I arrived alone, discovering the fresh, artistic nature of Portland. My heart was blasted open.

On the flight home, as I reflected on my four-day excursion I thought about how delightful it was to go to a place where the people were so forthcoming and inviting. Life is all about helping each other and being good to one another, I decided.

But then I had another thought. Being an open, giving person is all very well, but we need to take care of ourselves, too. We need to have a balance between giving and receiving. When we talk about balance between giving and receiving, how much is too much?

One of the reasons we are here – or if I want to get all pompous about it – one of the meanings of life, is to find the balance between helping others and taking care of ourselves. When people go too far to the extreme in either direction, devastating things can happen.

Society Hotel, Portland. Coffee bar.

Society Hotel, Portland. Coffee bar.

When taking care of oneself obliterates everything else it turns to greed, which can become meanness or even war, at the extreme level. And giving too much of oneself, without taking time to recharge, can result in a state of severe depletion, or become an addiction to being needed at its worst.

Finding that balance between helping others and helping oneself is a tricky dance. Like any balancing act it is easy to tip to one side or the other. It feels so good to do something for someone else where you can immediately see that your action is making a difference. It also feels good to unplug, slow down, and indulge in some self-care. When tackling anything big, the best thing to do is take small bites. Go back and forth. Find the comfort zone between manageable acts of kindness and bite sized treats of self-care.

Radical Self-Care Step Seven – Happy Finances

Mindful Money Management – Or The Zen of Budgeting

Taking care of yourself so that you are not stressing about money is the ultimate in self-care. It is number one in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – survival. Creative art expression, indulgences, rest…these are all secondary to making sure that your basic needs for financial security are met.

Steps on the ocean - 3D renderInterestingly, this has very little to do with how much money you make.

You can be a millionaire and still be broke because you bought too many cars, houses, or tropical islands. Or you could be an average person accumulating a slew of credit cards in lieu of actual cash in order to fund the things you want. It really doesn’t matter how much you have, but how you go about allocating it.

This principle is especially important because many people hate to think about it. I have known people in every economic bracket who don’t want to take a realistic look at their finances.

Since I have been self-employed my entire life I have never felt a certainty about how much money I could count on. Not having a set salary, I never felt I had the luxury of accumulating debt because I couldn’t count on being able to pay it back. So rather than rely on credit cards and loans, I have mainly lived on a cash basis.

The guiding principle: Keep your irreducible expenses low. Here are some tips I have developed over the years.

There are many ways to live comfortably while still keeping your outflow at a minimum. I happen to live in a part of the country where housing is quite expensive, but I have managed to find inexpensive solutions. I’ve found places on the outskirts of town that had small inexpensive rentals on rural property where the housing itself was very basic but in the midst of beautiful surroundings. I once even lived in a converted chicken coop. Outfitting and decorating a simple home to appear beautiful and exotic can be very creative and fun. Other options include living in a shared community house with a group. Once I got my massage business launched and stable I was able to buy a house in a sweet older neighborhood, but it is fun to remember my early roots.

Beyond housing, which is generally our biggest expense, there are a wide array of options regarding transportation, food, clothes and everything else. My father used to have a saying that went, “Scrimp on necessities so you can splurge on luxuries.” As I write this I am thinking that perhaps this is where I adopted this attitude at a very young age, because in a sense, that is exactly what I do.

For instance, for the past year I have been taking 3-4 days each month to drive off to a little cabin on the coast where I find the quiet ocean setting very peaceful and relaxing. Friends have said they wish they could afford to do this. However, these same people spend money on eating out and purchasing coffees whereas I almost always prepare my own food from scratch and am not a coffee drinker. I figure the cost of a take-out sandwich and a beverage 5 days a week is the same as the amount I spend on my getaways. It’s all a matter of tradeoffs.

I have one friend who lives on a fixed disability income and she is an expert at all the free entertainment we have in our community as well as how to live well very cheaply. She turned me on to the publication Freecycle, where people post things they want to get rid of and are giving away. You can sign up for the edition in your locality.

Budgeting can be very creative. Sometimes it involves more time, such as harvesting seeds from plants to grow new ones, instead of making a trip to a nursery, or making your own food instead of getting take-out, but there is also a great pleasure in taking charge of these things and not feeling helplessly at the mercy of high costs. There is a great sense of peace that comes from spending less than you earn and having a sense of plenty and abundance.

One of my tricks is that I have a number of savings accounts, all for different purposes. One is for taxes, one is where I save for getaways and I have an envelope where I tuck bits of cash to save up to get massages. In addition, I have an emergency account for whatever crazy unexpected thing comes up.

The point is, regardless of your income, if you spend as much or more than you are bringing in, you will always feel strapped and little problems start to become big problems. But if you work at ways to keep your costs down reserving enough to occasionally splurge on pleasure you will feel abundant. This is key in truly taking good care of yourself.

What is Radical Self-Care?

Part of the secret to radical self-care is knowing exactly what the right recipe is for your unique, particular needs. If you think of your life as a dish at a fabulous culinary feast, what are the ingredients that make it as delectable as possible? What spices and seasonings are going to make it taste both delicious and satisfying.

Someone asked me the other day, “Why ‘Radical Self-Care?” “What do you mean by the worwoman relaxing on grassd ‘radical’?” The word ‘radical’ means extreme. And I choose to call it radical self-care because sometimes it really takes an extremely big effort to take good care of yourself. Particularly if you are in a profession or play a role in your life where you are taking care of others, it can be almost wrenching to stop giving, step back, take a breath and figure out what it is that YOU need in order to recharge. And the next step is to set aside the time to do something just for you. It is very easy to get burned out when you are giving all the time and even though intellectually we know this, it still remains a challenge. So how do we do this?

I’m sharing with you what I have learned on this wild trip through life. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt (pink Himalayan sea salt, of course) and tweak it so that it works for you! Know that your life may require different ingredients but what I hope you get from these posts is the importance of knowing what your unique flavors (needs) are. And that it’s really essential to give that to yourself. This may sound simple on the surface, but we spend a lot of time doing what is expected of us. And we can get caught up thinking that our entire value has to do with living up to everyone elses expectations. This can be so deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize it.

After quite a few decades of working very hard to please others – clients, partners, friends, family, you name it, I started realizing that I had to take control of my own well-being. Because no matter how much I did it never felt like enough. I had goals that were difficult to attain and even when I did they didn’t satisfy me like I thought they would. Basically I had bought into our very driven culture, even though I had carved out a professional niche in the field of relaxation. Ironic, isn’t it?

I began making a point of doing simple things to slow down, disconnect from my own self-imposed hamster wheel and started treating myself with the same quality of care that I have given to others. And here in these posts I have broken it down into steps.

Hey, I write these posts as much to remind myself as I do to remind you.

Please come along with me and use these posts to jump-start your own loving practice of radical self-care. Let these thoughts be the catalyst to give yourself the life you deserve. In essence it is very simple. And this means that true inner contentment is totally within your power.