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Have you ever noticed how children will ask you to do the same thing over and over again, for as long as you’re willing to accommodate? Whether it’s playing a game or reading to them, children seem totally free to do what we, as adults, would consider “wasting time.” They are perfectly content to experience pure, unadulterated fun and enjoyment – no guilt, no concern for pressing responsibilities, no hesitation… As entrepreneurs, working parents, and citizens of an extremely fast-paced society, it’s easy to get caught up in the tedium of life and forget the importance of self-nurturing. Taking time to nurture ourselves is not a selfish act but, rather, a necessity if we are to remain energetic, aware, and open minded.

If you’re like me, when you think of nurturing the self, you probably envision splurging on that item you’ve put off buying or looking to other people to meet the need for you. Self-nurturing, however, is not an effort to fill emptiness through instant self-gratification or the efforts of others. Self-care means spending time alone, in solitude, and taking care of ourselves within relationships, refusing to be used, abused, or taken for granted. It’s a time for creative play, spiritual sustenance, and restoration of meaning.

For most, learning to care for the self would require a total transformation of thought, a re-wiring of the mind, a complete life change. Self-nurturing is a lot like dieting – when you go on crash diets, you may lose weight for a season but, ultimately, you’re going to gain it back and, in the yo-yo process of dieting, you’ll inflict damage on your body. Only those who make healthy life changes in eating habits experience long term, permanent weight loss. The same is true for self-nurturing – while we may experience satisfaction through instant self-gratification; it is short lived and, much like the addictive gambler, we have to experience it more and more frequently to get an equally satisfying payoff. To self-nurture, we must first believe it’s important, thereby changing our attitude and, second, we must change our daily habits. Only then can we get the consequence we desire – less stress, more fun and relaxation, greater overall balance, and satisfaction in life.

To truly self-nurture, we must attend to all of the self – body, mind, spirit, and emotion. The following offers some specific ways to take care of each aspect of the self.

To nurture the body,

  • Eat right –nutrition specialist, Linda Rellergert, offers the following tips for eating well:

o   Don’t let yourself get too hungry

o   Eat deliberately

o   Give yourself permission to eat

o   Eat a variety of nutritious foods in moderation

o   Minimize eating on the run

o   Avoid comfort eating

o   (www.missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles)

  • Exercise – 3 to 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. To help you stick with it,

o   Do something you like – make it fun

o   Exercise with a partner

o   Choose a time that works for you

o   Don’t get discouraged (www.familydoctor.org)

  • Attend to health needs – be proactive rather than reactive – schedule annual physicals; learn to recognize your body’s signals

To nurture the mind,

  • Educate for life, regardless of age
  • Explore the most neglected part of your mind (e.g., think creatively, explore linear processes)
  • Challenge negative thought patterns – detect their origin and evaluate their validity

o   Replace negative thoughts with kinder, more realistic assessments

o   Re-structure the cognitive process so that initial thought patterns are positive rather than negative

To nurture the spirit/emotion,

  • Connect spiritually through meditation, contemplation, prayer – whatever works for you
  • Develop emotional awareness, expression, and communication
  • Take care of the emotional self – Author Larry Wilde (www.larrywilde.com) suggests we

o   Take a humor break

o   Laugh at ourselves

  • Create a funny file

In a time so fraught with pressures, anxieties, and frustrations, self-nurturing offers a much needed reprieve. As an old Indian proverb says, “Everyone is a house with four rooms–a physical, an emotional, a mental and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

Published in The Oyster Pointer