Radical Self-Care


The words “radical” and “self-care” usually do not go together. Perhaps we might say, “radical sacrifice” or “radical output” or “radical giving”, but radical SELF-CARE? Who thinks like that? It takes a special soul to put those words together, someone who is refreshingly resistant to many of the trappings of this world. Are we willing to join the ranks of the refreshingly resistant? What makes it so hard?

1—We think it’s more altruistic to ignore personal care. We bought in to a myth that God will be really impressed if we run ourselves into the ground.

2—Who was the wise soul who said that denial is more than a river in Egypt? Self-care might mean paying attention to real problems that are difficult or threatening to face.

3—A lot of us don’t want to work that hard. Self-care takes time out of our schedules, money out of our budgets, and sometimes involves physical demands.

So, why do it?

1—So we can sustain the output that gives our lives meaning.

2—It honors our created order as human beings. Self-care helps us recognize our creatureliness.

3—Radical self-care helps us enjoy our fleeting time on this earth.

In the counseling profession, therapist burnout and self-care is something that is talked about in graduate school and internships in preparation for doing the work. It is radical to be preemptive about self-care, and very few of us think like that! How much is radical self-care discussed in preparation for parenting, an intensive training program, a relationship loss, a recession, or for processing tough emotional content? If we can recognize the seasons of life when we are pressed to the limit, we can approach these seasons with a plan for radical self-care and hopefully, prevent the extreme emotional fatigue that can lead to depression, anxiety problems or worse.

What blocks do you face when trying to apply radical self-care during the stressful seasons of life?

Stay tuned next week in “Radical Self-Care, part 2”.  I will offer questions to facilitate an honest look at areas of your life where you may benefit from radical self-care.


  1. Maybe the concept or term self-care needs a new name. In our self focused culture “taking care of me” has a distinctly narcisstic element to it. We are encouraged to go shopping, absorb ourselves in entertainment, hobbies or food, thinking such activities will provide us “me time” to relieve our strain. I am guilty of all the above, but rarely find the solace I seek. I like Stephen Covey’s description of “sharpening the saw” in his 7th habit. It denotes the active work you seem to be implying. I’m looking forward to part II.

  2. Good point about self-focused culture. By starting a discussion around self-care I fear that some will jump to pampering, which is not what I mean! There is a deeper process I’m hoping to get at. More on this next week!

  3. The use of the word ‘deeper’ in your comment is apt, Janice. And, Rob’s cautionary note about the potential for aggrandizement and superficiality in self-care is important, too. The word ‘radical’ comes from the Latin ‘radix’ meaning ‘root’. A radish is a ‘root’ vegetable, for example. We also find the square ‘root’ of a number under a ‘radical’ sign. As a gardener, I know taking good proactive care of a plant’s root system is vital to it’s vigorous productivity, health and beauty.. Looking forward to Part II!

  4. So, If we’re going to do this stuff, how do we correctly distinguish between self-care and self-ish?? obviously they are not the same, but how do we know when caring for myself has become catering to my “self”?

  5. Good questions in the comments. Seems like a fine line to walk. My take is that getting healthy is a totally self interested decision, but that this is different than a selfish decision. I look at it from a Christian perspective where Jesus leads His to a kind of life where we are healed, reconciled to God, full of joy & peace, and healthy fruit is born. I am all in for that.. sounds great.

    Only catch is that to do that, I have got to die to myself. So the look inward towards self health is all about turning from the ways that I am wrapped up in myself and surrendering my heart, mind, soul, and strength over to God. Ultimately, the focus turns away from myself and over to God in this process.

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published.