Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self

The art of extreme self-care, it seems, is all about making choices–every day, in large and small ways–that support you and your highest interests. Without fail or apology.

“The minute you catch yourself saying ‘I have no choice,’ you need to consult somebody else,” she says. “You need to go to somebody you trust, tell them where you feel stuck, tell them what you know you need and think you just can’t possibly get, and ask them to help you see a different way. There’s always a fresh perspective you’re just not seeing.”

Offering a fresh perspective is one of Richardson’s gifts. She began as a tax consultant advising small-business clientele, but her insight often spread to topics beyond deductions and tax codes. She found she had a knack for helping business owners grow their bottom lines by growing themselves. Her ability to pinpoint small changes that would pay big dividends blossomed into what was, at the time, a brand new field-life coaching. “I know a lot about growing a successful business by taking good care of yourself,” she says. Her spot-on suggestions gave clients practical solutions to take their lives (and their businesses) to the next level.

Connie Mears: Why do you use the term 11 extreme” self-care? Why is it considered extreme, and does that mean it’s only for people with extreme issues of self-neglect?

Cheryl Richardson: I use the phrase because it was introduced to me in 1994 by my very first coach, Thomas Leonard. He used that term with me early on when I was talking about the amount of time and energy I was spending on everybody else’s needs but my own. He said something like, “You don’t need self-care, you need extreme self-care.”

I have adopted that phrase in my own life and have also used radical self-care as the foundation of the work I’ve done with clients over the years. Practicing extreme self-care means making choices and decisions based on what your soul wants instead of what your history or your fears tell you that you should want. It’s really about listening to your inner voice and making decisions from that place.

The Extreme Self-Care First Aid Kit

This kit consists of 10 ways to take good care of yourself when you need the most support. To create your kit, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Whom can I turn to for support when I’m afraid? Who comforts me, makes me feel safe, and allows me to have my feelings?

2. Whom do I need to avoid? Who adds to my anxiety level, overwhelms me with questions, or has a tough time just listening without interrupting or offering advice?

3. What does my body need to feel nurtured, strong, and healthy?

4. What responsibilities or commitments do I need to let go of to clear some space so that I’m able to feel my feelings and do what’s necessary to honor my needs?

5. What unhelpful coping strategies or activities do I need to avoid?

6. What spiritual practice restores my faith or connects me with God or a Higher Power of my own understanding?

7. What do I need to feel comforted at this time?

8. How will I best express my feelings?

9. What object can I use as a talisman that will remind me to breathe, relax my thinking mind, and return my awareness to the present moment?

10. What can I do when I need to take a break from the emotional stress? What’s my best healthy distraction?

The answers to these questions will help you formulate a plan of action that you can use when faced with a big life challenge.

From The Art of Extreme Self-Care by
Cheryl Richardson (Hay House, 2009)

Mears: In your book, you write about the “Good Girl syndrome.” The “Good Girl” is the care-giving, martyr kind of person that results in part from what you call “conflict phobia.” Store owners must deal with conflict on a regular basis, from customers, vendors, or employees. Sometimes those situations get a little messy.

Richardson: First of all I would say that I write about the “Good Girl” syndrome but there’s also a “Good Boy” one as well. Because I write from my own experience I speak from a female perspective, but I’ve coached plenty of men and I know that it’s alive and well in the male population.

Depending on how conflict was handled in our past, many of us grow up afraid of the discomfort and anxiety that come with conflict. I think on a fundamental level, we don’t want to hurt other people and we don’t like the messiness of conflict. But the only way to live a life that honors your soul is to get really good at handling conflict. And the only way to get good at being with the anxiety that comes with conflict is to face it.

When you’re dealing with somebody who’s blatantly mean-spirited or irate or rude in some way, a normal reaction from men and women is to just get paralyzed. You’re so busy reacting to the fact that they are being so inappropriate, you don’t know what to say. And then, of course, you stew about it later. I could’ve said that; I should’ve said this.

Let’s say you’re dealing with an irate customer. It may be that you have to take a step back, take a deep breath. and literally say to the person, “You know what? I’m going to ask you to calm down and when you do we can have this conversation.” It’s OK to refuse to have the conversation until the other person can speak to you in a decent way. Sometimes it’s not an irate customer, it’s a hurt employee upset that somebody got the hours or the promotion they wanted.

Whenever we deal with conflict, the best thing to do is step back and take a deep breath. Find somebody safe to talk to about it first, so you sort of vent whatever emotions might be circling.

New Age Retailer, pg. 26

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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

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