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  • Writer's pictureYancy Wright

Why Radical Self-Care Promises a Great Return on Investment

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Why Radical Self-Care Promises a Great Return on Investment

No doubt about it: Our society loves its superheroes. We marvel at the martyrs who are always ready and eager to sacrifice self for the greater good. We celebrate the workaholics always pushing late to complete yet another task, at least until they start experiencing burnout. We demand and expect results, and we repudiate idleness as slothfulness.

Consider this though: You wouldn’t expect your cellphone to operate seamlessly without a daily recharge, right? So why do we expect the same thing of ourselves, of our bodies, minds, and spirits?

The simple truth is that self-care is neither a luxury nor an indulgence. It’s not even optional. Sooner or later, what you don’t give yourself willingly, the body and mind will take for themselves, whether in the form of burnout, physical sickness, emotional exhaustion, or mental illness (1, 2, 3, 4).

The reality is that practicing self-care is neither selfish nor lazy. It’s smart. Indeed, it’s a savvy business move because it means you’re investing in yourself. You are giving yourself the resources you need for peak performance. We call this approach “radical self-care” to reflect the ethos that attending to your own physical, psychological, and emotional needs will generate a profound return on investment in terms of both productivity and optimal performance.

What Is Radical Self-Care?

“Radical” self-care really isn’t, or shouldn’t be, that radical at all. What makes the concept extraordinary is simply that it so powerfully bucks our cultural metanarratives, rooted in the good old-fashioned American work ethic and the aspirational ethos of the American dream. Our culture teaches that hard work, and nothing but long, hard work, is what will pay off in the end, That “adulting” means self-sacrifice and toil, particularly if you are the head of a household, and thus, your identity centers on your ability to provide for your family.

Such a paradigm is predicated, in essence, on a scarcity model or a zero-sum game mentality. According to such frameworks, when you attend to your own needs, you are always already neglecting the needs of others. What you give to yourself, in other words, has been taken from your family, colleagues, community, and your society. It’s perhaps little wonder, then, that self-care is often wrongly equated with selfishness. After all, selfishness by definition involves taking from others so that you can give to yourself (5).

Conversely, self-care is a deeply humble act. It’s an acknowledgment of our own human limitations, the recognition that all human beings have needs. When we ignore those needs, we tacitly but arrogantly suggest that we are among the privileged elect who can defy or ignore our needs without inviting repercussions to ourselves and those around us. On the other hand, taking care of yourself is an assertion of the profound interdependence of our lives and relationships, the fact that when we give to ourselves we are also, simultaneously, giving to others.

When we talk about the ripple effect of the good when it comes to self-care, we’re not speaking in idealistic or hyperbolic ideas. We’re talking real metrics and concrete evidence. For example, in an exploratory study examining the effects of self-care regimes on both the coping strategies and academic performance of graduate students in a school psychology program, Daly and Gardner (2020) found that subjects who were taught to deploy self-care strategies devised and implemented them according to their assessment of their own needs, and best practices for meeting them, were more successful in managing stress, more confident in their ability to meet the rigorous demands of their graduate studies, and more assured of the efficacy (and necessity) of learning to practice self-care - both for their own professional success and for the students and families they will soon serve (7).

Similarly, in a study of strategies to mitigate burnout risk among healthcare providers working in an oncology unit, Alabi et al. (2021) found that self-care interventions, including those that emphasize relaxation, well-being and stress management, work-life balance, and even hobby adoption, resulted in higher levels of job satisfaction, employee retention, and improved patient care (8).

Let us be clear, we are not suggesting you stop doing your work to only focus on your self-care. We are instead suggesting you create more balance, especially if you have been told you are a workaholic, and prioritize time each day to recharge.

A Closer Look at the Benefits of Self-Care

If you’re not yet convinced of the importance and, indeed, the necessity for radical self-care, then perhaps it will help to take a closer look at the kinds of return on investment you can expect from investing in your own needs.

  • Better relationships: If you think about it, it’s probably not difficult to see how nurturing your own needs will, ultimately, help to make you a better partner, spouse, parent, worker, and colleague. If you’re stressed out and exhausted, that’s where your focus and (dwindling) energy will be directed, whether you’re aware of it or not. If you’re not getting enough sleep, healthy food, physical activity, social interaction, or simply enough downtime, eventually you’re going to feel unwell, tired, unfocused, unproductive, and just plain grumpy.

Indeed, studies show that people who are under stress tend to get less physical activity and less nutritious food, which in turn results in impaired performance (9). In other words, the more pressure you’re under and the less you do to take care of yourself in the face of it, the worse your attitude, outlook, and interactions with others will be. That’s not only bad for your personal life, it can also wreak havoc on your professional life and the relationships you build with your partners, coworkers, superiors, and clients alike.

  • Greater efficiency: You might pride yourself in being a superman/superwoman, especially on the job. But, it’s physiologically and psychologically impossible for you to be operating on overdrive all day, every day. Sooner or later something’s going to give. Odds are, though, it won’t happen all at once. Instead, you’re going to have a steady but significant decline in your ability to function well. When you’re overworked, you’re going to find it harder to focus, learn, and think. You’ll process information more slowly and you’ll make more numerous mistakes. You’ll find yourself spending time correcting errors that should and could have been avoided (10, 11).

On the other hand, research shows that even a seemingly minor self-care practice, such as a short 10-15 minute nap during the workday, can improve your cognitive function and overall performance (12). Not only this, but the evidence suggests that the benefits of self-care can last long after the acts themselves, as shown in Herr et al.’s (2018) study of the long-term effects of a stress management training course on workers experiencing significant workplace stress (13). The study found that the beneficial impacts of the stress management training persisted more than seven years after the program (13). In other words, you’ll be inefficient and unproductive and, more likely than not, you’ll end up losing more productivity time than you might have had you simply taken the day off to rest and recharge!

  • Better outlook on life: It’s simply not possible to have an optimistic perspective if your relationships are suffering, your work performance is suffering, and you generally feel terrible emotionally, physically, and mentally. Indeed, overwork and chronic stress are among the greatest risk factors for depression (14, 15, 16).

It’s not only that your outlook on life can be dimmed when you’re facing depression due to overwork. When you fail to take care of yourself, you are a prime candidate for the martyr complex, coming to see yourself as the perpetual victim and, often, seeing others as exploiters and ingrates. This can deprive you not only of your sense of self-efficacy but also of your sense of joy, gratitude, and appreciation, both for yourself and others.

How Casa Alternavida Can Help

At Casa Alternavida, we can help you learn how best to take care of yourself again. We have gone through our own challenges with career burnout and understand firsthand what you might be going through and how best to shift out of unhealthy behaviors. We offer an array of personalized retreat packages for both individuals and groups. Our caring team of multidisciplinary experts can help you begin to put yourself at the top of your own priority list while offering peaceful amenities and breathtaking vistas to rest and revive you in mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today!


Casa Alternavida

Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.



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  2. Lin, R. T., Liang, Y. W., Takahashi, M., Eguchi, H., Tsutsumi, A., & Lin, S. H. (2020). Effect of implementing an overwork-prevention act on working hours and overwork-related disease: A mediation analysis. Journal of occupational health, 62(1), e12148.

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  5. Parker-Pope, T. (2021, Jan. 6). Why self-care isn’t selfish. The New York Times.

  6. Daly, B. D., & Gardner, R. A. (2020). A Case Study Exploration into the Benefits of Teaching Self-Care to School Psychology Graduate Students. Contemporary school psychology, 1–12. Advance online publication.

  7. Daly, B. D., & Gardner, R. A. (2020). A Case Study Exploration into the Benefits of Teaching Self-Care to School Psychology Graduate Students. Contemporary school psychology, 1–12. Advance online publication.

  8. Alabi, R. O., Hietanen, P., Elmusrati, M., Youssef, O., Almangush, A., & Mäkitie, A. A. (2021). Mitigating Burnout in an Oncological Unit: A Scoping Review. Frontiers in public health, 9, 677915.

  9. Schultchen, D., Reichenberger, J., Mittl, T., Weh, T., Smyth, J. M., Blechert, J., & Pollatos, O. (2019). Bidirectional relationship of stress and affect with physical activity and healthy eating. British journal of health psychology, 24(2), 315–333.

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  12. Dutheil, F., Danini, B., Bagheri, R., Fantini, M. L., Pereira, B., Moustafa, F., Trousselard, M., & Navel, V. (2021). Effects of a Short Daytime Nap on the Cognitive Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(19), 10212.

  13. Herr, R. M., Barrech, A., Riedel, N., Gündel, H., Angerer, P., & Li, J. (2018). Long-Term Effectiveness of Stress Management at Work: Effects of the Changes in Perceived Stress Reactivity on Mental Health and Sleep Problems Seven Years Later. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(2), 255.

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