Saturday, November 19, 2016

Radical Self Care: Suggestion Number One

I first encountered the phrase "radical self care" when reading one of  Anne Lamott's books.

Think about that phrase: radical self care. Radical self care isn't just getting a mani-pedi every two weeks. That's superficial care, affecting the surface of our lives. Sure, pretty toes and fingers might make us happy, but as anyone who's ruined a manicure within three minutes of leaving the salon can tell you, that brand of happiness is fleeting.

Radical self care goes deeper, promoting fundamental changes in our soul that grow us in some way and make us better people. We need radical self care, especially when stress and chaos and conflict rear their ugly heads. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we would ever be on others, letting our inner critic run amok in the tender places of our souls. Radical self care seeks to squash that inner critic...or at least turn it to constructive, rather than destructive, commentary.

Radical self care makes perfect sense. Safety briefings on airplanes include the warning to put your oxygen mask on in case of emergency before helping someone else. You're at your best when your mind is oxygenated, sharp, alert. Deprived of oxygen, you become confused, disoriented, stupid, and possibly dead. Put your own oxygen mask on, and you can help yourself and others. Neglect it, and you and those you might have helped will suffer.

When we feel battered and bruised and buffeted by the slings and arrows of fortune, we have to take care of ourselves.

I just love these! I want to put this in my house somewhere!:

Many of us, however, simply don't. Our own needs go unmet because we are too busy caring for others...and our souls suffocate. Sadly, too often, we don't even realize we're gasping for air. We're miserable and have no idea why.

Do you need to engage in some radical self care? Feeling lost and unsure where to start? Well, let's spend some time exploring various ways you can take care of yourself...radically. Today we will start with one of my favorite forms of radical self care: a hobby.

Researchers have found that people who enthusiastically participate at least one hobby are happier, smarter, and mentally and physically healthier, than people who don't. The best hobbies are those that incorporate making something...building Legos or model airplanes, cooking, sewing,  knitting, painting, and such, or hobbies that take you outdoors, like photography, birding, and hiking.

(Sadly, reading doesn't qualify as a hobby as researchers define the word, but reading is its own category of radical self care that we will discuss later in this series.)

Years ago, I took up paper crafting, starting with calligraphy, then moving on to making handmade books, and then to making greeting cards and scrapbooks. You might say (and George would agree with you) that I got a little carried away with paper crafting, but along with reading, it's absolutely the best form of self care for me with the deepest and most fundamental positive effects.

My Crafty Headquarters

The positive effects are, in fact, so varied and numerous that they would fill a book, but here are four big ones to get you thinking about your own preferred hobbies in a different way or to encourage you to consider finding a hobby for your own radical self care.

First, paper crafting gives my soul a creative outlet. From that, I've learned to let go of perfectionism (well, mostly) and to embrace process and failure as good and necessary. For someone who had her panties in a perfectionist bunch for years and who bulldozed her way to each and every goal, this was a revelation. I've slowed down and enjoy the process in all its messiness and mistakes...and am working to generalize this lesson to other areas of my life.

Second, paper crafting allows me to focus intensely on something other than the news, bills, my son's special education plan, my aches and pains, the mess in my basement, and our POTUS elect. Essentially, I make my crafting time a form of meditation. Being able to intentionally focus on a positive and enriching activity boosts my mood every time. A concentrated break from the chaos to create, get inky fingers, make a mess of my own that's well within my control to clean up...these things are sometimes all the therapy I need to put all those other things in proper perspective.

Third, I learn new things all the time while paper crafting, which helps keep my brain and creative self excited. The thrill of trying a new technique, watching a new product video, and reading new ways to use old supplies all get my creative juices flowing and energize me to grow and improve my skills.

Fourth, it's a hobby that connects me to other people. The products of my paper crafting almost always go to other people, and by blogging my crafty explorations, I have connected to wonderful people all over the planet. I send cards to friends and family and strangers in New Zealand, and also donate them to my church's card shop. Some people save all the cards I send them, others toss them as soon as the occasion has passed. Either way, they received a bit of love from me. And that makes me feel good.

Creativity, meditation, learning, and connection...four healthy side-effects of engaging in a hobby.

Now it's your turn. Share your hobbies with us and tell us a bit about how they enrich your life and contribute to your radical self care. 


  1. excellent column. at the moment, no hobbies and suffering for it. anxious to get back to my craft room and to mani-pedis!!

  2. I also love Ann Lamont's writings - she hits the nail on the head and makes me smile at the same time. Great post. Hope you don't mind, but I shared it on our stamping/scrapping group on FB.
    I too get the 4 benefits ... plus the one of passing on the joy to others by giving them the cards or mini albums. I love gardening too, but seldom get out of my studio these days (oops). Love the connection with nature and being outdoors ... just not enough hours in the day.

    1. Isn't Anne wonderful?!?!? Thanks for sharing this post...of course I don't mind!

  3. Well Susan, you hit the nail right in the head. Everybody has some kind of chaos, whether big or small, in their lives, mine is caring for my 93(going on 94)year old mother, who has dementia, by myself, meaning with absolutely no financial or emotional help from my siblings, they have literally abandoned her and me, to our fate. I stopped asking for their help one year after she got here,(she's been here almost 5 years)it was useless and very frustrating so I followed the advise of one of my daughters, she said to me "Mom, you need to stop asking your brothers and sister for help, it's like trying to squeeze water out of a rock, you're only getting hurt....."Words to live by, at least for me so, I immersed myself into my hobby, which is hand made cards, water coloring and learning how to blog, I participate in challenges, have won several times awesome stuff and I've met a big group of people from all around the world who share this same passion for creativity and learning and are my card swapping buddies, it's thrilling to send cards to England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand as well as all around this Country and wait for mine to arrive in my mailbox.
    My other escape.....Triathlon, not competing anymore, but I still swim, bike and run almost every day, it's a cleansing thing for me, helps me feel energized and ready to face what's at home waiting for me. Our youngest daughter lives next door so she keeps an eye on grandma for me when I'm at the YMCA or out for a run or a ride, my hubby also supports me and puts up with me when I'm moody and tired from dealing with her care.
    Paper crafting has given me all of those 4 benefits you mentioned, I've learned how to work this computer, my latest accomplishment was learning how to do a watermark for my cards when I posts them on my blog, I had a lot of help from my blogging friends and my youngest daughter, and now, my blog posts have my cards with my watermarks and they look awesome.
    So yes Susan, thank you for another wonderful post and for letting us share our thoughts.
    Big Hugs,

    1. Blessings to you, Maria, for caring for your mother and for yourself. Sounds like you raised a very wise daughter, too! Big hugs and a very happy Thanksgiving.

  4. I love paper crafts for all the same reasons as well. Knitting is another hobby, that equals therapy for me. I can do it while I watch a movie or show, I can bring it along to a waiting room or a train ride. So it's a great boredom buster at times. I love to look at and shop for yarn. Over the years I have made many baby blankets to give as gifts, scarfs etc. Most people are really appreciative of a gift like that, and I enjoy the process of making it.

    1. My sister and SIL both knit and love it. It's certainly more portable than paper crafting, although people who love to color say they take stamped images to color with them on the go. I don't do it enough to make it better than reading for my waiting-room/travel activity, LOL!

      Happy Thanksgiving, Petra!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!