The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time

The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time

by Cheryl Richardson


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This life-changing handbook by best-selling author Cheryl Richardson offers you 12 strategies to transform your life one month at a time. Designed as a practical, action-oriented program, each chapter challenges you to alter one behavior that keeps getting you in trouble.The book is filled with personal stories of how Cheryl and others have learned to make the practice of Extreme Self-Care their new standard for living. With chapters such as "End the Legacy of Deprivation," "Take Your Hands off the Wheel," "The Absolute No List," and "Does That Anger Taste Good?" you will stop the endless cycle of self-betrayal and neglect that stems from daily violations of self-care.Each chapter includes a relevant resource section that offers books, Websites, audio programs, podcasts, and more should you want to explore a particular topic further.The Art of Extreme Self-Care is a sane and sensible program that gives you the permission you need to dramatically upgrade your life!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401918293
Publisher: Hay House Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/2012
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 166,329
Product dimensions: 8.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Cheryl Richardson is the author of many bestselling books. Her work has been covered widely on national television, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today Show, and Good Morning America. She is also featured in many top newspapers and magazines, that include: The New York Times and Good Housekeeping.

Read an Excerpt

The Art of Extreme Self-Care

Transform Your Life One Month at a Time

By Cheryl Richardson
Copyright © 2009

Cheryl Richardson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4019-1828-6

Chapter One End the Legacy of Deprivation

Every book I write presents me with a challenging and unexpected opportunity to practice what I teach. By now I've learned that I should always count on something happening that will force me to engage in an intensive study on the subject of each chapter. What you're now reading is no exception.

Once I signed on to write about Extreme Self-Care, my husband got very sick. During surgery to have a small lump removed from his ear, he had a complication that affected his health in a serious way for more than two years. The timing was particularly bad. Not only was I running a company, hosting a weekly radio show, traveling to speaking engagements, and writing a book, but we were also in the final stages of building our dream home-a stressful undertaking that had been Michael's focus for the better part of three years.

As Michael found himself less able to monitor, and put energy into, the project (he was making critical decisions regarding the design of the house), I was faced with taking over some of his responsibilities in between doctor and pharmacy visits, as well as giving him the emotional support he needed to survive this very difficult time.

When hit with an unexpected life challenge, most of us revert back to the old coping strategies that kept us safe as kids. For example, you may have taken refuge in your bedroom to avoid dealing with parents who always fought. As an adult, when faced with a chaotic situation such as losing a job or dealing with challenges in your own marriage, you now find yourself isolating from others as a way to escape the stress. You don't ask for help. You don't reach out for emotional support. And you don't admit to yourself or others the way you really feel. Instead, you suffer in silence.

In spite of what I know about self-care, I'm no different. Several weeks following Michael's surgery, I found myself in "rescue mode" as I tried to juggle his needs with the demands of building our new home, managing my business, and writing this book. I made long to-do lists in an effort to keep myself on track. I flitted from one thing to another in a state of perpetual multitasking and often woke up in the middle of the night feeling anxious, ruminating about all that needed to get done. As my stress level increased, I started using food to stuff my feelings of resentment and frustration-a common response for caregivers who are always on call for someone in need. I felt like a pressure cooker ready to blow and, as a result, I did what I normally do when faced with having too much to do: I sucked it up, hunkered down, ignored my needs, and tried to do everything myself. Most days I felt alone and afraid, but I never told anyone. I just kept forging ahead. It wasn't long before I found myself struggling to stay afloat, barely able to tread water. What had happened to Extreme Self-Care?

I lived with the irony of my situation day in and day out. Here I was writing about Extreme Self-Care, but my life was reading like an advertisement for the exact opposite-extreme disrepair! To say I was running on fumes would be an understatement. My tank wasn't empty; it was MIA.

Eventually, when I was forced to admit that I was in over my head, I sought guidance from a professional who had experience supporting caregivers in crisis. She turned out to be a godsend-the right person at the right time. One day during a session, she touched a nerve with an observation. After listening to me complain about how exhausted I was, she said, "It seems to me that when you feel burdened, Cheryl, you do the opposite of what a human being needs to do. Instead of clearing the decks, asking for help, and giving yourself space to breathe, you fall into a pattern of self-neglect. Rather than asking yourself what you need, you shift into overdrive and immerse yourself in the needs of others. I'd say it's time to put an end to this legacy of deprivation, wouldn't you?"

Deprivation. Hmm. Now there was a concept I hadn't considered. Deprivation. Deprived. Deprive. I sat there for a while, letting variations of the word roll around in my head. Yup, that's it, I ultimately decided. I feel deprived. Although I was considered an expert in self-care, when faced with a crisis I had reverted back to my old coping habits. I'd fly solo, often encountering turbulence, but always steering toward familiar territory: a place where I automatically focused on others' needs, avoided talking about myself, and was the first to lend a hand when someone else needed a lift. But now I was tired-exhausted, really-and fed up with being a martyr. It was time to do something about it.

When I went home that day, I sat on my bed, pulled out my journal, and wrote the following in it:

I feel deprived of:

* Sleep

* Emotional support

* Time to myself

* Physical energy

* Companionship-I miss Michael, my partner and my best friend

* Peace-I worry all the time

* Hope-I'm afraid things won't get any better

* Touch-I miss the affection and closeness I normally have with Michael

As I looked at this list, I thought, No wonder I feel so empty and resentful all the time. I'm back to being the good girl who takes on too much and complains about it afterward. Yes, I was dealing with extenuating circumstances in caring for a sick loved one, but all the more reason to practice good self-care, right?

Fortunately, I had enough experience under my belt to know what to do. Awareness is a powerful catalyst for positive change, and as I started to recognize how deprived I felt, I immediately began to put Extreme Self-Care into practice. I started by clearing my plate. I let go of almost 50 percent of what I was working on to give me the emotional and physical space to be there for Michael and myself. I delayed the deadline for my book, put limits on phone calls and e-mails, and stopped scheduling all of my time. The goal was to give myself more breathing room than I thought I needed. I put some business projects on hold and eliminated those that caused me any stress. I also lined up some friends to be on call when I needed to vent, and I started asking for help in spite of how difficult and awkward it felt. Over time, as I became better at practicing Extreme Self-Care, I began to reclaim my life.

* * *

I've come to learn that overgiving is often a sign of deprivation-a signal that a need isn't being met, an emotion isn't being expressed, or a void isn't getting filled. For example, while you might dedicate hours to coordinating the family's social calendar, you may actually be yearning for deeper and more meaningful connections, stimulating conversation, or greater intimacy with yourself. You might also be available and generous with others because on some level you have an unconscious desire to get what you give, whether it's acknowledgment, affection, recognition, or support. Becoming aware of how and why you feel deprived can be a key to recognizing what needs to shift emotionally and physically to achieve Extreme Self-Care.

In what ways are you starving yourself of what you need to live a rich and fulfilling life? Since awareness in and of itself inspires change, I'd like to challenge you to spend the next 30 days becoming skilled at seeing the ways, big and small, that you deprive yourself of what you need. Rather than feel like a victim to something outside of yourself, when you realize that you alone are responsible for overgiving, you can actually empower yourself to do something about it. After all, no one else says yes, overbooks your schedule, or makes the needs of others a priority but you. The gift in owning this reality is that you own the power to change it, too.

* * *

To get an idea of what I mean, let's look at some common complaints and what they really mean:

- When you catch yourself saying things such as "I never have time to do what I want to do." what you're really saying is: "I don't take time for my needs."

- When you insist, "I always end up doing everything myself," the truth of what you're really saying is: "I don't ask for help."

- When you hear yourself complaining, "No one appreciates the things I do," what you most likely mean is: "I take on way too much, hoping that someone will notice and tell me how good I am or how grateful they are."

- And finally, when you use the excuse "My kids take up all of my time," what you actually need to admit is: "I've chosen to make my children's needs more of a priority than my own."

Get the idea? The choices you make either honor your Extreme Self-Care or they leave you feeling deprived. It's really that simple.

Extreme Self-Care Challenge: Discovering Where You Feel Deprived

Now it's your turn. This challenge is a call to consciousness-becoming more keenly aware of how, why, and where you feel deprived. For this exercise, I'd like you to buy a little notebook, one that will fit into your handbag or pocket. Then, every day this month, whenever you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, burdened, or resentful, stop and ask yourself:

* Where do I feel deprived?

* What do I need more of right now?

* What do I need less of?

* What do I want right now?

* What am I yearning for?

* Who or what is causing me to feel resentful and why?

* What am I starving for?

Your answers to these questions will help you identify the areas of your life that are calling for greater consciousness, an increase in your awareness of what needs to change to keep you from feeling deprived.

When you're doing this exercise, it's important that you're specific about your needs. So instead of writing: "I feel deprived because I have no time to myself," for instance, you might say: "I feel deprived of solitary, uninterrupted time away from my children and husband, which allows me to do something just for me, such as read a good novel, have lunch with a friend, or take a quiet bath." Being introspective and taking time to arrive at your answers thoughtfully will allow you to gain greater clarity about what your soul needs most to no longer feel deprived.

For example:

1. Instead of acknowledging that you need "to eat better," you may recall how particular foods make you feel, and recognize that you have more energy when you avoid meat or dairy products and consume more vegetables.

2. Rather than just saying that you need "fresh air," you might feel called to take "a brisk walk in nature every day in a place where I can breathe deep, feel at peace, and take in the surrounding beauty."

3. Instead of simply realizing that you "need help from others," be clear about the kind of help you need by jotting down something like: "I need someone to do the laundry every week, get the lawn mowed when I'm not around, and do some of the grocery shopping."

4. And rather than noting that you're "tired of directing staff meetings at work," you could write: "I need someone to run the staff meeting on Mondays, take notes, and then distribute them to the appropriate people."

Other needs might involve:

* Getting more (or better) sleep

* Developing a creative outlet

* Creating soul-nourishing friendships

* Considering ways to have more fun and/or adventure

* Identifying and seeking pleasurable activities and experiences

* Finding soul-nourishing space at home or at work

Becoming aware of how you experience deprivation in your life is critical to making the changes required to achieve optimal wellness and happiness. Keep your inner antenna finely tuned to what you need.


* Get Out of Yom Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior, by Mark Goulston, M.D., and Philip Goldberg-to aid you in identifying and successfully dealing with self-sabotage.

* The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self, by Alice Miller-helps you reclaim your life by discovering your own crucial needs and your own truth.

* The Dark Side of the Light Chasers: Reclaiming Your Power, Creativity, Brilliance, and Dreams, by Debbie Ford-a wonderful book about owning and embracing all aspects of who we are, such as the overachiever, the caregiver, the martyr, and so on.

* Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search tar Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert-a moving story of one woman's journey to find herself.

* The official Website of Alanis Morissette ( remarkable woman produces inspiring music that chronicles the life journey we all take when we choose to live a more conscious life.

Chapter Two Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Several months ago, I was invited to be a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about the Law of Attraction. Joining me onstage were Martha Beck, the author of Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live; and Louise Hay, the author of You Can Heal Your Life and the founder of Hay House, the publisher of this book. During the show, as we talked about using the power of the mind to direct the course of our lives, Louise repeatedly emphasized the importance of learning to love oneself as a prerequisite to attracting joy, abundance, wellness, meaningful experiences, and the like.

Over and over she suggested that, on a daily basis, audience members and viewers practice saying "I love you" when looking in the mirror. By the end of the show, I thought, I need to pay attention to what she's talking about.

At 82, Louise is a wise soul-a woman who's lived an extraordinary life that has inspired millions. I was moved and impressed by her conviction about the power of mirror work. After all, it speaks to the importance of self-love and self-acceptance, which I consider to be the foundation of Extreme Self-Care. So, right then and there, I made a decision to take Louise's advice to heart. I would start saying "I love you, Cheryl" each time I looked into a mirror every day for a month and see what happened.

* * *

For most people, the idea of telling themselves "I love you" as they look in the mirror is a tricky exercise. The thought of doing so can feel awkward or silly. It's just not an easy thing to do. In fact, for several clays after the show, I intended to practice Louise's suggestion, but I kept forgetting about it. Then one night before going to bed, I was washing my face when I remembered my intention. Finally, with the mirror in full view, I looked into my eyes and said, "I love you, Cheryl." Immediately I felt self-conscious, as if someone were watching. I tried it again and glanced away, feeling embarrassed. On my third attempt, I found myself focusing on the wrinkles around my eyes, the hairs that needed to be plucked at the edges of my brows, and the way my skin seemed to sag a bit at my throat. Great, I thought. My attempt at self-love has now turned into a critical assessment of my aging process. I was failing miserably.

What's so silly about telling ourselves that we love ourselves? Why is it so difficult to do something that's seemingly so simple? Because looking at ourselves intently, especially into our eyes, is a profoundly intimate act. As often as we use a mirror to perform grooming or maintenance tasks, rarely do we ever stop to gaze into our eyes for longer than a few seconds. When we do, there's no hiding. Most of us come face-to-face with the truth that we've abandoned that person we see in the mirror. I know that as I stared into my own eyes and repeated the phrase "I love you, Cheryl," I had to confront the fact that the statement didn't ring true. The reality was that I saw flaws long before I felt love. And that's the point.

To practice Extreme Self-Care, you must learn to love yourself unconditionally, accept your imperfections, and embrace your vulnerabilities. From a spiritual perspective, it's about recognizing that you're a soul in a physical body who's here to learn to be more of who you really are. When you treat and view yourself with the respect you deserve, you experience the peace that comes from being present to yourself. The reason it's so hard to look deeply into your own eyes is because it forces the ego to step aside as you experience a moment of seeing your true nature: a spiritual being housed in a physical shell.


Excerpted from The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson Copyright © 2009 by Cheryl Richardson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents Introduction....................ix
Chapter 1: End the Legacy of Deprivation....................1
Chapter 2: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall....................9
Chapter 3: Let Me Disappoint You....................15
Chapter 4: The Power of Rhythm and Routine....................25
Chapter 5: Take Your Hands off the Wheel....................33
Chapter 6: The Absolute No List....................43
Chapter 7: Soul-Loving Space....................51
Chapter 8: You're So Sensitive....................63
Chapter 9: Tune-up Time....................73
Chapter 10: Does That Anger Taste Good?....................85
Chapter 11: Wake Up!....................93
Chapter 12: Your Extreme Self-Care First-Aid Kit....................101
About the Author....................113

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Art of Extreme Self-Care 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time, by Cheryl Richardson is a short book--just over 100 pages--but it is just packed with great information. As she has de-cluttered her home, Richardson has presented a thoughtful book without any fluff, just substance.

In 1994, Richardson saw a coach, Thomas Leonard, who introduced her to the concept of Extreme Self-Care. Extreme self-care is for women like Richardson then was, who took on the role of caretaker to the detriment of her own self. she writes: "I was a good girl, and it was sucking the life out of me."

The following are some of the concepts of Extreme Self-Care:

* Surround yourself with people who give and take
* Eliminate clutter
* Create a soul-nourishing work and home environment
* Get finances in order
* Don't make commitments based on guilt or obligation
* Make pleasure a priority

There are 12 chapters and Richardson encourages the reader to tackle one chapter a month.

Each chapter is filled with her personal stories. It is obvious Richardson has worked through each chapter herself. She even presents her own list of things she will never do, for example.

She wrote about her experience on Oprah with Louise Hay and others on the subject of the Law of Attraction. Hay recommended looking in the mirror and saying "I love you" to yourself every day. Richardson liked the advice and writes about her experience doing that in the book.

As an interior designer who knows how important the environment is on the well-being of the occupants, I really enjoyed her chapter on this subject. She writes about creating a soul-loving space: "The power of being in a space that feels fully aligned with our soul is sorely underrated." Amen!

Richardson spends most of the chapter discussing how to get rid of clutter--even going as far as saying remove 50% of it. She suggests de-cluttering one often-used room first to experience the difference it makes on how you feel. Excellent advice.

Each chapter concludes with resources for further reading, all good choices. I would like to add one (the interior designer in me...). HARMONIOUS ENVIRONMENT: BEAUTIFY, DETOXIFY & ENERGIZE YOUR LIFE, YOUR HOME & YOUR PLANET adds to the chapter on the environment by going beyond clutter and including great ways to super-charge the energy in your home to make you feel great.
StephanieR More than 1 year ago
I'm a writer and a working hypnotherapist, and I help people get thinner, healthier and happier for a living. And using Cheryl Richardson's wonderful new book "The Art of Extreme Self-Care," will help anyone who takes the time to read and begin to pay attention to her advice. The single suggestion to clear out the clutter from just one room (which, yes, of course I'd heard before, and told myself every day!) transformed my office from piles of papers, stacks of books, and unpacked boxes into a completely different place and space! I thank her for inspiring me to do that. Let her inspire you, too. I recommend this book highly.
EndlessRose More than 1 year ago
I have been reading Cheryl Richardson's books for the last five years. She is always sharing ways to make life simpler and teaches us to be more loving to oursleves first. As a result, we are able to love others in a rich way that goes beyond the basic courtesies but enters into a deeper, more energy shifting relationship even if the relationship is at work, at the grocery store or at your child's school. I am grateful for the candid advice and the real-life examples she shares. She brings the points home and offers you a place to start and way to carry out these conscious changes. With resources and a list of ideas, this book is a self-help guide that doesn't require you to do a great deal of heavy reading.
cdCA More than 1 year ago
Cheryl has done a wonderful job of organizing this book. The contents are right on and she presents it in a loving, nurturing manner. Thank you Cheryl, for putting into words our feelings and how to take care of ourselves. As women, putting ourselves first in not a natural ability.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cheryl Richardson is a real human being, just like you and me. She draws on her own experiences, knowledge and feelings to give you specific steps to build a healthy life by creating sacred space around yourself. It's OK to not be able to accommodate everyone else, whether it's their need for your time and effort or their need to be rude. And it's OK to not feel guilty about it. She gives examples of what -- and what not -- to say when you need to say no or to stand up for yourself.
KiwiKirsten More than 1 year ago
I whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone looking to get comfort and advice from another down the path of improving their life by looking within and loving within. Cheryl Richardsonh so cleanly and simply describes her situations so that we can translate them into our own lives. I especially like the part that she asks us to "disappoint others" gracefully and owning our more sensitive parts. I have already applied some of these ideas in my life. I also am attending her seminar each month that is related to the book from Hayhouse. Go to hayhouseradio.come and look under events!
thewholegang More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book. If you or anyone you know can read the list on the back of the book and relate you must buy this book. For you and for a gift. I have read all of Cheryl¿s books and this is my favorite. At first I was thinking I must be the only person who read her books, followed the advice, had an amazing life with that help, and then got derailed. Then I read the beginning of her book and once again she made me feel smart for trying again, not stupid or alone. I also found out she and I share the same love for the ocean and I can now explain that in words, her words. I can¿t wait to get together a new Life Makeovers group and begin this journey with new friends and with Cheryl. Thank you Cheryl, so much, for this wonderful gift you have given me.
gibbon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This instructional book can be read straight through, but then the author recommends that you take one chapter at a time (not necessarily in the order they appear in the book) and try to apply its principles to your own life for a month. It demonstrates with examples, some drawn for the author's own life and some from her students and correspondents, how by appearing to put the interests of other people first we can in fact damage them by taking away their responsibilities and self-reliance. Well and interestingly written, though one or two of the American references might have been explained for English readers.
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nrocpop More than 1 year ago
I liked this book on CD. Her voice is very pleasant to listen to. Additionally, she gives good ideas on how to care for yourself. I very much enjoyed this book on CD because I tend to be a person that does not look out for myself very much.
LuciNJ More than 1 year ago
Beautifully put together; A serene quality when reading, absorbing Richardson’s method in improving one’s quality of life. If you care about your mental and physical well-being this book provides a coach assistant’s advice.
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