Be Good to Yourself: How to Self-Nurture

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Caring for a Stressed-Out Body

To nurture is to nourish and give; to self-nurture is to do the things that offer physical, emotional, and spiritual nourishment to yourself. The specifics can be as different as individual women -- self-nurture can be simple or elaborate, lengthy or brief, communal or solo. For one of my close friends it means going to a weekly yoga class, which she says leaves her calm and at home in her body. For another it's designing and redesigning her garden, reading about plants, drawing them, "going into a trance," she says, where the everyday world falls away and she revels in the sensual and creative delight of imagining combinations of color and texture. Self-nurture can focus on the body, spirit, or intellect, or all three; it can mean getting a massage or shutting the door on the kids to work a crossword puzzle; it can be training for a marathon, meditating, knitting, or writing poetry. In essence, though, all acts of self-nurture have one thing in common: They're only for us -- they're not practical and they have no purpose but to give us pleasure.

That, unfortunately, is why when trouble hits we're so quick to give them up. "Women are genetically and socially programmed to take care of others," says Alice Domar, PhD, author of Self-Nurture and director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare, in Waltham, Massachusetts. "We're always at the bottom of our own to-do lists." That's especially true in times of crisis, she adds, when "you're overwhelmed and operating on sheer instinct." When an elderly parent is dying and there are kids to comfort, relatives and friends to notify, a house to clean and funeral to plan, the urge to take an hour to do something like exercise feels embarrassingly frivolous, or worse, profoundly selfish. And besides, we worry, if we don't take care of business, who will?

Continued on page 3:  Self-Interest vs. Selfishness


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