Radical Self-Care Is The Key To Becoming Your Best Self

African American Woman and Kid Meditating Yoga

What is Radical self-care? Radical self-care is about taking care of things at the source rather than just sugarcoating or managing the symptoms.

Think of it as a model of wellness that is built around the concept of the indivisible self; this is that part of you that is the intersection of all things.  It includes five basic elements of “self”: Coping Self, Social Self, Physical Self, Essential Self, and Creative Self.

Self-Care for Your Coping Self

To deal with the unpredictability of life, the frustrations you face, the hurt you experience, you need to have strong and accessible coping skills. These can be found in the way you intellectually respond to these assaults on your well-being and how you balance them in your behaviors.

  • Make sure that you challenge beliefs or messages that aren’t realistic or based on truth. Rejecting these is caring for yourself. Don’t measure yourself against others’ expectations of who you should be — don’t let your self-worth be diminished by the negative influence of people who don’t appreciate who you are or what you care about.
  • Make sure there’s time for stress management activities and pleasurable activities in your life. Carving out space to nourish your resources is key to well-being.

Self-Care for Your Social Self

Research continues to indicate that having a healthy social support system is tethered to having a long and healthy life. Humans need love and humans need friendships. Humans are social creatures and we crave a sense of belonging and mattering, needs to be met through our social relations with others.

  • Radical self-care for your social self may require that you cut ties with those individuals who no longer support you or, more concerning, actively diminish you or your sense of self-worth.
  • Boundaries are an especially essential aspect of radical self-care. While humans cannot survive except in relation to others, we thrive when we have the space to be “in relationship with others.

Self-Care for Your Physical Self

When we get “stuck in our heads,” we may forget to take care of our bodies. However, we have to care for our bodies because it is our bodies that will take care of our minds.

  • Making time for physical exercise on a regular basis can not only keep our bodies in good shape, but it also helps minimize both depression and anxiety.
  • Nutrition also deserves attention — by staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet, we also are doing important self-care for our brains. Radical self-care is blocking out time for fitness in your schedule and blocking out time for shopping and meal prep.

Self-Care for Your Essential Self

This is the part of you that is what makes you unique, that part of you that reflects your cultural identity and spirituality and that innate sense of self. This is the space from which we are driven to find meaning and purpose in life. It is that part of us to which we “come home to” when we feel battered by life or need to seek a sense of security. It is where we feel optimism and hope. It is where we feel a connection to something beyond ourselves, whether it is organized religion, faith, spirituality, transpersonal connections, or goodness and morality.

Radical self-care of our essential self is needed when we feel disconnected from others, despair about our lives or the world, or feelings of depression or hopelessness.

  • We care for our essential selves through time alone when we need it, spending time with those who truly “get us” and accept us as we are.
  • Some of us might turn to prayer to nurture our essential selves.
  • Some of us might turn to meditation and mindfulness practices that tune us into that quiet place deep within.

Self-Care for Your Creative Self

Our creative self is the aspect through which we express ourselves in this world — and this expression can be through words, images, music, art, poetry, actions, dance, movement, and whatever other ways that you let yourself communicate. Our creative self includes our thoughts, feelings, sense of humor, and how we exert control over our lives, and in what types of activities and pursuits we engage, including our vocations and occupations. We create each moment as we move through this world as artists and composers of our own lives. This aspect of self is how we “show up” in life and an aspect that can be limited or bounded by others’ expectations as we are growing up or within relationships.

Radical self-care for our creative self includes checking in with ourselves to make sure that our thoughts are based on truths and not reflecting distorted perceptions of the world or others in the world.

  • It can include learning how to honor our emotions and manage them in ways that are healthy.  Giving ourselves space to sort through confusing emotions and to clear our heads. 
  • Refusing to let others tell you what you do or do not feel and giving yourself space to laugh, to cry, to hope, to dream, to ponder the mysteries of the universe is radical self-care.

The more complex our world and lives become, the greater the need for radical self-care. When we are able to put in place practices and boundaries that protect each aspect of self, we build up the necessary resources that will protect us from the next assault on our sense of self. Radical self-care is about strengthening our core and active engagement in self-protection. It is assertively carving out the space where you can safely heal and grow and make sense of the world around you and the world within you. It is only radical because we live in a world that demands so much from each of us that we feel unable to demand space to feel ourselves.



Rodrigua Ross

Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas