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welcome to nurture 101!

what is nurture?

what is nurture?
why is nurture important?
Bonding and Attachment
More About Empathy
More About Self-Awareness
More About Unconditional Love
More About Honesty
More About Respect
More About Encouragement
More About Safety
Results of Lack of Nurture
Nurturing Your Children
Turning Nurture Inward
Nurturing Mother Earth
Re-parenting / Self Parenting & Nurturing Adult Children
Nurturing Spirituality
Nurture in Business

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nurture 101!
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what's the definition of nurture?



  1. to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring.
  2. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster: to nurture promising musicians.
  3. to bring up; train; educate


  1. rearing, upbringing, training, education, or the like.
  2. development: the nurture of young artists
  3. something that nourishes; nourishment; food.

  1. To help grow or develop; cultivate: nurture a student's talent.
  2. the properties acquired as a consequence of the way you were treated as a child 
  3. helping someone grow up to be an accepted member of the community; "they debated whether nature or nurture was more important" 
Synonyms: These verbs mean to promote and sustain the growth and development of: nurturing hopes; cultivating tolerance; foster friendly relations; nursed the fledgling business.

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The Art and Science of Raising Healthy Children

Stephen J. Bavolek, Ph.D.

Parenting as a Process

Parenting, a practice as old as human life itself, is considered by many to be the singular most important form of human interaction. For decades, parenting theory and practice has been discussed, debated, written about, examined and reexamined. A universal practice, it is considered clearly instinctual by some and learned by others.

Founded on cultural values and familial norms, parenting behaviors are generally thought to be passed on from one generation to another like a prized family heirloom. Parenting practices are diverse in expression, reflecting a range from the most positive to the most negative extremes. Parenting can be wanted or unwanted, appropriate or inappropriate, healthy or dysfunctional, abusive or nurturing.


Whatever its form, it is generally agreed that the impact of parenting is felt throughout one’s lifetime - and for succeeding generations. No other form of human interaction can boast such power and longevity.

Parenting is considered to be an art, as well as a science. As an art, the picture is of a mom, dad and child sharing, touching, laughing and crying freely. As a science, the concept is one of natural and logical consequences, developmental stages, punishments, rewards and family rules.

Parenting is to be enjoyed, yet it also serves as evidence of the will of the species to survive the most grueling of times. Parenting means feeding children, changing their diapers, getting them to bed, getting them up, giving them a bath, paying them an allowance, reading them stories, telling them what to do and what not to do, and worrying about them when they get old enough to begin to do things for themselves.

Parenting is a father hoping his little girl will do well in a spelling bee and the pride in seeing her graduate from college. It is the pain of a mom seeing her teenage son hurting from a cruel rejection of a peer, and the warmth she feels watching her grown son comfort his own little boy.

Parenting is the personal inner torment a mother and a father feel knowing their son or daughter will be faced with making many tough choices on drugs, sex, relationships, and careers, and the personal inner peace they feel knowing their children take good care of themselves and make good choices.

Parenting is attachment and separation dependence and independence, love and anger, contentment and frustration, pride and hurt, acceptance and rejection.


Technically, parenting is a process of interactions designed to nourish, protect, and guide a new life through the course of its development. The parenting process begins at the creation of the new individual and continues to be practiced throughout a lifetime in varying degrees of intensity.

The process of parenting entails 4 main tasks:

1. To foster physical and mental health.

2. To provide emotional warmth and nurturance.

3. To provide opportunities for the development of individuality and intellect.

4. To facilitate social and emotional competence.

When these tasks are carried out in the context of a strong emotional tie with a caretaker who stimulates a positive view of other people and the world, children have the opportunity to develop their own individual potentials to the fullest extent. When the tie between the caregiver and child is not established or is strained, children and parents alike will face trying times.

The following are what I call the building blocks of parenting. These are the characteristics and skills necessary to carry out the process. When implemented, these building blocks define parenting at its best. If any or all of these characteristics and skills are diminished or absent, the essence of parenting is jeopardized.


The Building Blocks of the Parenting Process

Bonding and Attachment

Parenting begins with the process of establishing an unconditional positive regard and acceptance of the child. At birth, the process of establishing the relationship between mother and child is called “bonding.”

Statements such as “He has my nose” or “Look, she has your eyes” are common ways parents express their initial view of their children as extensions of themselves, and welcome the children into their families.

Williams Sears (1987), in his book entitled, Creative Parenting, refers to the process of bonding as “immersion” mothering and “involved” fathering. According to Sears, immersion mothers and involved fathers convey such deep love to their child that h/she feels “right,” which naturally brings forth desirable behaviors and returns a message of love to the parents.

Researchers are studying the importance of early parent-infant bonding. Many suggest that bonding actually occurs in the majority of parents at the moment the woman discovers she is pregnant. Such early bonding enables parents to transfer their life giving love for the “inside infant” to the caregiving love for the “outside infant” (Sears, 1987).

Whereas “bonding” between parent and infant occurs within the first 24 hours, attachment” describes the extension of bonding, e.g., the close relationship between parent and child, which continues throughout life. Bowlby (1961) defines attachment as any form of behavior that results in a person attaining proximity to some other differentiated and preferred individual, usually conceived as stronger or wiser.

Like bonding, the biological function of attachment is the contribution it makes to survival of the infant, mainly protecting a child from loss or attack. Behaviors such as clinging, calling, crying, smiling, and following are designed to achieve or maintain closeness to the parent.



Perhaps no other single quality of parenting is as critical to the overall growth and wellbeing of the child as is parental empathy. Empathy is the ability to be aware of and honor the needs of another, and to act to help that individual meet his/her needs.

In parenting, empathy is critical to an adult’s understanding of a child, because it requires the “parent person” to consider the “child person” an equal – not in knowledge, intelligence, or experience, and certainly not in maturity, but with respect to the feelings and needs which motivate us all.

Bruno Bettleheim (1987), in his book A Good Enough Parent, suggests that an empathic response means an attempt to put ourselves in the other person’s place, so that our feelings will suggest to us not only his emotions, but also, his motives.

According to Bettleheim, when parents are trying to respond empathically, they must understand the child from the inside, not from the outside like an observer attempting to comprehend another’s motives through his intellect.

Since children are little people with the same needs as adults, only much needier, the parents’ ability to empathize with the needs of the child is essential in promoting the necessary physical, emotional, intellectual, and social behaviors required for healthy growth and development.



Parents must consider their own needs as well as those of their children. When parents consider their relationships with their children, they often discover that they are clear about children’s needs, wishes, and feelings, but vague about their own.

Being able to be empathetic to the needs of others requires a familiarity with the whole range of one’s own feelings and needs, not only with those of the moment, or those which are habitually attended to. Parents whose physical, emotional, social, and intellectual needs are not being met will have difficulty in meeting the needs of their children.


Touch is the most powerful of interactions between parent and child. The significance of touch as an essential element of parenting has been studied for years by researchers examining its impact on children’s growth and development.

Early research conducted by Halliday (1948) suggested that children in hospitals deprived of their accustomed maternal body contact developed profound depression with lack of appetite and wasting, leading to death.

We know that touch is the primary mode of  communication with a newborn baby. According to Sears (1987), touch is the language for both parent and child, and is often a mirror of the parent’s inner feelings toward the child.

Children can sense what parents are feeling by the way they are touched. Gentle, calm nurturing touch evokes in the child a sense of trust, kindness, and security. Painful or scary touch communicates anger and fear to the child.


Setting limits for children in their process of learning right from wrong, safety from danger, good from bad, and wanted from unwanted is a vital building block in the parenting process.

Discipline means the establishment of boundaries, the creation of rules and the path of guidance, and learning for children who want to please their parents beginning very early in life.

Discipline constitutes the development of consequences – both rewards and punishments – that children have input in establishing. The ultimate purpose of discipline is to help children develop self-control and positive character.

Self-discipline cannot be imposed, beaten into, or forced on a child. It develops best by the child emulating someone whose example he or she admires. Establishing discipline by threats and corporal punishment is least likely to work simply because children  consciously emulate only people they admire.

Parents who hit, yell, belittle, and show hostility toward their children for the purpose of “disciplining” them fail to foster trust and admiration between them and their children. Punitive disciplinary practices lead to the development of children who fail to learn self-control and are likely to grow into unruly adolescents.


Unconditional Love, Honesty, and Respect

Parenting is the process of helping children feel an overall acceptance as people without regard to their behavior. Unconditional positive love from a parent communicates to children that despite their shortcomings, mistakes, misdeeds, or accidents, they are still valued human beings.

Parenting is also about communicating feelings in an honest and accurate way and encouraging children to do the same. Honest parenting means your words match your tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions, and the true intent of your communication.

When parents do not match their behaviors with their words, children get mixed messages. Over time, the child develops confusion and distrust toward the parents and their actions.

Parenting is also about respect. Healthy, nurturing parents respect their children as human beings. Infants and small children are viewed, like adults, as separate people, with their individual needs and preferences. Children’s feelings, intentions, thoughts, and bodies are held in regard – not treated as objects to be manipulated. Effective parents talk to and interact with their children with the same courtesy and consideration they would demand for themselves.

Knowledge of Development

Lastly, the process of parenting entails knowing what to expect of children at their various stages of growth and development. Children are born into this world entirely dependent upon their parents to help them meet their needs. As children grow older, their abilities to meet their own needs develop little by little.

The drive towards autonomy and independence actually begins quite early in infancy, but complete maturity and self-reliance comes slowly over many years. Knowing what to expect of children as they reach physical, emotional, and intellectual milestones is important for the development of their positive self-esteem and self-concept.

Children initially learn who they are from the ways they are able to please their parents. If parents repeatedly make demands on children which they are unable to meet successfully, children’s feelings (self-esteem) and their thoughts (self-concept) about themselves take a negative turn.

If this continues over time, children often end up feeling themselves as inadequate and viewing themselves as failures.


Bettleheim, B. (1987). A Good Enough Parent. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Bowlby, J. (1961). Maternal Care and Mental Health. Geneva: World Health Organization

Halliday, J. (19480. Psychosocial Medicine: A Study of the Sick Society. New York: Norton.

Sears, W. (1987). Creative Parenting, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co.

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Nurturing is improving your idea
Nurturing requires . . .
  • objectively evaluating an idea and rejecting what doesn't work;
  • simplifying the over-complicated;
  • lots of hard work;
  • failing and trying again (over and over again).


Nurturing Children's Natural Love of Learning by Jan Hunt, M.Sc.

The main element in successful unschooling is trust. We trust our children to know when they are ready to learn and what they are interested in learning.

We trust them to know how to go about learning. Parents commonly take this view of learning during the child's first two years, when he is learning to stand, walk, talk, and to perform many other important and difficult things, with little help from anyone. No one worries that a baby will be too lazy, uncooperative, or unmotivated to learn these things; it is simply assumed that every baby is born wanting to learn the things he needs to know in order to understand and to participate in the world around him. These one and two-year-old experts teach us several principles of learning:

Children are naturally curious and have a built-in desire to learn first-hand about the world around them.

John Holt, in his book How Children Learn, describes the natural learning style of young children:

"The child is curious. He wants to make sense out of things, find out how things work, gain competence and control over himself and his environment, and do what he can see other people doing. He is open, perceptive, and experimental. He does not merely observe the world around him. He does not shut himself off from the strange, complicated world around him, but tastes it, touches it, hefts it, bends it, breaks it. To find out how reality works, he works on it. He is bold. He is not afraid of making mistakes. And he is patient. He can tolerate an extraordinary amount of uncertainty, confusion, ignorance, and suspense. ... School is not a place that gives much time, or opportunity, or reward, for this kind of thinking and learning."1

Children know best how to go about learning something.

If left alone, children will know instinctively what method is best for them. Caring and observant parents soon learn that it is safe and appropriate to trust this knowledge. Such parents say to their baby, "Oh, that's interesting! You're learning how to crawl downstairs by facing backwards!" They do not say, "That's the wrong way." Perceptive parents are aware that there are many different ways to learn something, and they trust their children to know which ways are best for them.

Children need plentiful amounts of quiet time to think.

As John Holt noted in Teach Your Own, "Children who are good at fantasizing are better both at learning about the world and at learning to cope with its surprises and disappointment. It isn't hard to see why this should be so. In fantasy we have a way of trying out situations, to get some feel of what they might be like, or how we might feel in them, without having to risk too much. It also gives us a way of coping with bad experiences, by letting us play and replay them in our mind until they have lost much of their power to hurt, or until we can make them come out in ways that leave us feeling less defeated and foolish."2

But fantasy requires time, and time is the most endangered commodity in our lives. Fully-scheduled school hours and extracurricular activities leave little time for children to dream, to think, to invent solutions to problems, to cope with stressful experiences, or simply to fulfill the universal need for solitude and privacy.

Children are not afraid to admit ignorance and to make mistakes.

When Holt invited toddlers to play his cello, they would eagerly attempt to do so; schoolchildren and adults would invariably decline.

Unschooling children, free from the intimidation of public embarrassment and failing marks, retain their openness to new exploration. Children learn by asking questions, not by answering them. Toddlers ask many questions, and so do school children - until about grade three. By that time, many of them have learned an unfortunate fact: that in school, it can be more important for self-protection to hide one's ignorance about a subject than to learn more about it, regardless of one's curiosity.

Children take joy in the intrinsic values of whatever they are learning.

There is no need to motivate children through the use of extrinsic rewards, such as high grades or stars, which suggest to the child that the activity itself must be difficult or unpleasant; otherwise, why is a reward, which has nothing to do with the matter at hand, being offered? The wise parent says, "I think you'll enjoy this book", not "If you read this book, you'll get a cookie."

Children learn best about getting along with other people through interaction with those of all ages.

No parents would tell their baby, "You may only spend time with those children whose birthdays fall within six months of your own. Here's another two-year-old to play with."

John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, contends, "It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety; indeed, it cuts you off from your own past and future...."3

A child learns best about the world through first-hand experience.

No parent would tell her toddler, "Let's put that caterpillar down and get back to your book about caterpillars." Unschoolers learn directly about the world. Our son describes unschooling as "learning by doing instead of being taught." Ironically, the most common objection about unschooling is that children are "being deprived of the real world."

Children need and deserve ample time with their family.

Gatto warns us, "Between schooling and television, all the time children have is eaten up. That's what has destroyed the American family."4 Many unschoolers feel that family cohesiveness is perhaps the most meaningful benefit of the experience. Just as I saw his first step and heard his first word, I have the honor and privilege of sharing my son's world and thoughts. Over the years, I have discovered more from him about life, learning, and love, than from any other source. The topic we seem to be learning the most about is the nature of learning itself. I sometimes wonder who learns more in unschooling families, the parents or the children!

Stress interferes with learning.

Einstein wrote, "It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion."5

When a one-year-old falls down while learning to walk, we say, "Good try! You'll catch on soon!" No caring parent would say, "Every baby your age should be walking. You'd better be walking by Friday!"

Most parents understand how difficult it is for their children to learn something when they are rushed, threatened, or given failing grades. John Holt warned that "we think badly, and even perceive badly, or not at all, when we are anxious or afraid... when we make children afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks."6

While infants and toddlers teach us many principles of learning, schools have adopted quite different principles, due to the difficulties inherent in teaching a large number of same-age children in a compulsory setting. The structure of school (required attendance, school-selected topics and books, and constant checking of the child's progress) assumes that children are not natural learners, but must be compelled to learn through the efforts of others.

Natural learners do not need such a structure. The success of self-directed learning (unschoolers regularly outperform their schooled peers on measures of academic achievement, socialization, confidence, and self-esteem) strongly suggests that structured approaches inhibit both learning and personal development. Because unschooling follows principles of natural learning, children retain the curiosity, enthusiasm, and love of learning that every child has at birth.

Unschooling, as Holt writes, is a matter of faith. "This faith is that by nature people are learning animals. Birds fly; fish swim; humans think and learn. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do - and all we need to do - is to give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for, listen respectfully when they feel like talking, and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."7

1 Holt, John. How Children Learn

(New York: Perseus Books Group, 1995), p. 287.
2 Holt, John. Teach Your Own

(New York: Perseus Books Group, 2003), p. 128.
3 Gatto, John.
Dumbing Us Down

(Gabriola Island, BC:

New Society Publishers), p. 24
4 Ibid., p.26.
5 Einstein, Albert.;
Autobiographical Notes,

Open Court Publishing Company, 1991, p. 17.
6 Holt. How Children Learn, op. cit., p. xv.
7 Ibid., p. 293.

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What is Nurturing?

Nurturing is the ability to care for and foster growth in yourself and others. All of us-parents and children- need limits and rules. We also need understanding, warmth, respect and praise. All these are part of nurturing.

Nurturing is the bedrock of parent/child relationships. Nurturing is necessary to produce the next generation of healthy, responsible, and self supporting adults.

Nurturing helps parents establish a way of life and learn skills to help them to get along better with their children.


The Nurturing Parent

Abuse, neglect, abandonment, violence and abduction ... these tragic realities are what many children in America live with. Sadly, violence and neglect towards children is nothing new ... it is deeply rooted in cultural and religious values.

We must nurture our children is one of the important things we can do. A parents' love and caring determines how a child grows up and how a child will eventually parent.

Adults can nurture children's positive self-esteem by helping them discover what they are good at doing. Part of a child's self esteem comes from feeling competent and skilled at something they enjoy. By creating opportunities for children to explore different objects, activities, and people ... and nurturing those interests, you can play a big role in helping children to be successful and feel good about themselves.

The early years are when children show personality traits and preferences for what they like and dislike. By planning opportunities with children's unique personality styles in mind, you nurture their positive feelings about themselves.

Nurturing children, building a loving and caring relationship is not always easy. With patience and love – you can do it!

  • Treat each child according to their needs.

  • Every child needs parents who can notice and appreciate their special qualities. When siblings are involved, trying to treat each equally usually backfires and undermines children's individuality.

  • Focus attention whenever possible, avoiding distractions.

  • If children want to interact at a time when you cannot be fully attentive, let them know and schedule a time for conversation and/or play when you can focus entirely on them. Children usually know when adults are only half-listening and can feel frustrated, unheard, and at times even unloved when this happens. Listening to children with your full attention helps strengthen their sense of importance and gives the message that you really want to hear what they are thinking and feeling.

  • Listen sensitively, avoid (too much) questioning, and describe the situation.

  • Children will usually shut down emotionally when parents bombard them with questions. They feel on the spot and pressured when adults probe and inquire too much about their day. Describing the situation is a neutral and non-intrusive approach that leaves room for children to respond in their own way.

  • Use "I" messages and try to avoid blaming and accusations. This will allow you to express your feelings about a particular behavior without attacking your child's character or self-esteem.

  • Set limits that are appropriate to children's age, temperament and stage of development.

When parents have limited time with their children, they may tend to let things go and not set reasonable and necessary limits. Children need to know that you – their parent or caregiver have the interest, energy and authority to set appropriate standards for behavior and the skills to follow through.

Start traditions that feel comfortable and fit your parenting style and financial resources. Traditions provide children with an important sense of belonging. They don't have to be elaborate in order to be fun or memorable. The most important thing you can do to start a new tradition (or continue an old one) is whatever feels comfortable and enjoyable for both the parents and children. Traditions are also important for teaching children about - and centering them in their cultures.

Take care of yourself so that you have energy and enthusiasm available for your children. It can be hard to find a balance between meeting your children's needs and making time for yourselves. It is important for you to find appropriate outlets for your feelings of stress, responsibilities, etc., and you need some 'down' time to pursue your own interests or just to unwind. Most parents find that even a short break from children can make a positive difference in the way they feel.

Parents need to fulfill themselves as parents, in their parenting roles, and also as individuals with interests outside the family. They need to go places on their own, and to do some things just for themselves. Then parents return to their children refreshed.

When you're stressed:

  • Try to resolve situations before they escalate.
  • Take time out.
  • Call someone and express how you're feeling. Ask them to come over and   stay with the kids for a while.
  • Count to 10 and think, "What do I really want to accomplish here?
  • Hit a pillow to release your frustrations
  • Play music
  • Remember how much you love your child and think about the best way to show that to your child.

Keep your children safe, no matter what! The best way to keep children safe is to keep them from getting hurt in the first place. Many parents who do cause harm to their children don't mean to do it.

If a parent was neglected or abused as a child, it may be that much harder to change to a more constructive behavior with their own kids. There is an abundance of support and information available to help parents accomplish raising healthy and safe children.

There are many ways to successfully manage a child's behavior. When adults learn to rely on constructive, non-hurtful parenting, both parent and child feel better about themselves. Positive parenting approaches help the whole family to thrive. These approaches can be seen in other aspects of their lives as well. Parents even do better at work and their children are more successful in school.

There are two types of childhood experiences:

• Positive experiences that build strong character and a sense of self-worth and that model a nurturing parenting style.

• Negative experiences that engulf children in parenting models of abuse, neglect, exploitation, and victimization.

The best parenting comes from parents who create an environment that produces experiences that affect the growth of the individual child. The nurturing parent uses a nurturing touch, empathy, empowerment, and unconditional love to ensure the overall health of their child.

Abusive parents who use hitting, belittling, neglecting basic needs, and other actions that lower an individual's sense of self-worth ...or worse, have a negative impact on the health of their child.

Child abuse has a detrimental impact on a child's self-image, giving them feelings of low self-esteem, which impacts how they will treat others. Children who value themselves and treat themselves with respect show the same behavior toward others.

The connection between self-worth and the worth of others is critical in child abuse prevention. Nurturing has been proven to be a positive influence on a child's self-image and self-worth.

Child abuse is the result of poorly trained adults who as parents and caregivers, try to instill discipline and educate children with the same violence that they themselves experienced as children ...because that's all they know.

Parenting is learned in childhood and repeated when children become parents. The experiences children have while growing up, have a significant impact on the attitudes, skills, and parenting practices they will use with their own children.

What is learned can be unlearned and anyone and everyone can learn good parenting skills. Even parents who are overwhelmed, or alone. The first three years of your child's life are crucial. Those are the years that your child will develop significant intellectual, emotional and social abilities.

That's when they learn to give and accept love. They learn confidence, security, and empathy ... they learn to be curious and persistent ... everything your child needs to learn to relate well to others, and lead a happy and productive life. The first three years are the doorway to forever!

Nurturing children is about the way we love them ...the way we bring them up. A parent's love is our children’s destiny. It's the legacy we give them.

Love Our Children for the way we live today.

All rights reserved. Love Our Children USA™ 2001 - 2007

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Turn Up The Joy In Your Life:

Taking Charge of Your Own Self Nurturing

by Deb Dominguez

Feeling burned out, under-appreciated and stressed? Chances are you are suffering from excessive selfessness, a common condition brought on by lack of attention to yourself. That’s right, if you spend most of your waking hours focused on, concerned about or engaged in the care of others, you may need a good dose of “selfish” time.

You’re probably thinking, I have kids, a husband, a boss, a mortgage, of course I spend the majority of my time in the care of others. Or, you are remembering admonishments from your mother, your Sunday school teacher and the lady next door about the evils of being “selfish,” the self-imposed eighth deadly sin.

I understand, sister. It’s just that if you don’t also put yourself on the list, no one else will and the consequences are not pretty for anyone. Neglecting your own needs and forgetting to nurture yourself put you in danger of deeper levels of unhappiness, burn-out and resentment.

We’ve all read about the effects of chronic stress on the body, mind and spirit - self care is like a mental and emotional vacation that leaves you refreshed and relaxed.

Don’t Count on Others to Nurture You

It is possible you married a sensitive and caring man who anticipates your needs, encourages you to take time for yourself and even plans surprise get-aways for you at exotic spa locations while he spends quality time with the kids. If so, I salute you.

However, if you’re married to a mere mortal or you’re single, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take charge of nurturing yourself. That means you have to put yourself on your own list every day and not wait for someone to notice how hard you’re working and reward you with the evening off to go to the movies.

Before I had my own self-nurturing practice, I would actually dread Mother’s Day, the designated day for focusing on me, because it heightened my awareness that I was trying to cram a year’s worth of self-care into the socially acceptable time slot. It became agonizing to choose what I wanted to do, not only because I was so out of practice at thinking about what I wanted, but because nothing seemed fun or relaxing enough for my only shot at taking care of me.

And then I had to worry about what to do for my own mother!

Something shifted in me when I took ownership of my own self care. I felt liberated in a deep way. I took 100 percent responsibility for meeting my own self nurturing needs and because I took ownership of them, I was in charge of meeting them - hey, finally something I can control.

My life became instantly more fun and enjoyable because my attitude was better and I let go of expecting someone else to recognize and honor me - I recognized and honored myself. Bottom line is the more you rejuvenate yourself, the more you have to give - and chances are your going to be in a better mood while you’re giving it because someone is taking good care of you (that would be you).

Designing Your Self-Nurturing Practice

Yes, this is a practice as in a habit, custom or usual way of doing something. That means it’s consistent, ongoing and evolving, not a one-time or occasional event.

Your Self-Nurturing Practice is not a place for “shoulds” and only includes things that are fun, relaxing, inspiring and nurturing. For instance, if you enjoy exercise but don’t normally take time to do it, putting it into your Practice would be nurturing to you.

If, however, you would rather put a pencil in your eye than go to the gym, do not under any circumstances put it in your Self-Nurturing Practice. The first step is to create a “Joy” list. Quite simply it’s a list of activities that bring joy to you when you think about doing them.

Start keeping a running list of activities that sound good to you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you are making your joy list.

What have I always wanted to do but never done?

What do I love to do but don’t take time for?

What makes me feel totally pampered and decadent?

What inspires me and brings me inner peace?

What makes me laugh?

What makes my body feel good?

What did I love to do when I was 5, 10, 12, 16, 25?

Who do I enjoy being with?

It’s a good idea to include a variety of daily, weekly and monthly activities that address the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of yourself.

This is also a time to experiment - if it’s been a while since you’ve thought about what really makes you happy you may want to try out different things. Once you have a good list of items that sound nurturing start thinking about your schedule.

You are actually going to schedule your Self-Nurturing Practice activities as appointments in your calendar.

Sample Self-Nurturing Practice

To be sustainable your Self-Nurturing Practice must be filled with things that you look forward to and enjoy doing. Feel free to change it to suit your needs as you go along. It may be that it works for you to plan one month at a time or you might be the type of person that plans several months in advance.

All I know is that if you plan it and actually put it into your calendar, you are more likely stick with it. And, once you start active self care, you will be hooked because it feels so good and you will have so much more energy for all of the other parts of your life.

How Do I Find Time To Do This?

You might be thinking that this all sounds great but you can’t squeeze one more thing into your overflowing schedule. I will say to you that I get it - I’m a single, working mom - I really get it. However, I submit some ideas for you to consider as ways to seek out time for your self:

1. Lower Your Standards: Take an inventory of your “shoulds.” Are your standards sucking the “life” out of your life? Ask yourself, will anyone ever actually eat off my kitchen floor, will anyone report me for using my bath towel for two days in a row before I wash it and who says using jarred spaghetti sauce is wrong?

2. Ask for Help: Are you in the habit of doing things for others that they could do themselves? Take a look at your day and see where you could get extra time by giving other people the opportunity to be more self-sufficient. I still get tears in my eyes when I remember the first time my six-year-old got her own breakfast cereal.

3. Say “No” More Often: Volunteering is a wonderful and fulfilling activity and I’m all for it. However, it is OK - I’m giving you permission - to set limits and stick to them. This also applies to all of the things that your kids ask you to spend time on, you know, bake sales and sewing costumes for the school play. It’s actually good for you to help them learn to set limits too - it’s never too early to learn that time and focus are precious and limited commodities.

4. Cut Down on TV: Log how many hours you spend watching TV during a typical week - you may be surprised. Although this seems like a self-nurturing activity, it’s actually not unless you are consciously choosing specific shows to watch and turning the TV off at all other times. If TV is your default relaxation activity you are not, I repeat, not nurturing yourself. Unless you are really and truly actively enjoying the time you are spending watching TV, you owe it to yourself to turn it off and grab the time for your Self-Nurturing Practice.

5. Set Your Intention: This is probably the most important step of all. If you commit yourself to a Self-Nurturing Practice and clearly state your intention to make time for and enjoy it, things in your life will re-arrange themselves in a way that supports you.

Sample Joy List

Taking a hot bath

Reading a good book

Going to the movies

Going to a concert

Playing tennis

Spa day

Yoga and meditation

Walking in nature

Dinner with friends


Petting my cat

Going to Disneyland

Playing Cranium, Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary with friends and family

Weekend get-away with significant other

Reading my favorite magazines

Fun activities with family

Swimming with dolphins

Getting a massage

Going to a Museum

Working out


Going dancing

Tai Chi


Art project

Ceramics workshop

Writing in my journal

Taking a class or workshop

Reading inspirational quotes and books

Visiting friends and family or having company over

Taking a nap on Sunday afternoon while watching an old movie

Copyright InsightStreamsm. All Rights Reserved.

Deb Dominguez is coach, consultant and workshop leader and president of InsightStreamsm, a catalyst for intentional evolution. Reach Deb at If you would like to reproduce this document to distribute, electronically or on paper, you have my permission as long as you attribute the information to Deb Dominguez at InsightStream and include the

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How Women Can Better Self-Nurture, with Alice Domar

By Alice Domar
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Dr. Alice Domar will discuss her book 'Self-Nurture: Learning to Care for Yourself as Effectively as You Care for Everyone Else' and focus on how self-nurture can improve a woman's health.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Mind and Body Auditorium. Today we are discussing How Women Can Better Self-Nurture, with Alice Domar, Ph.D. 

With her outgoing, down-to-earth personality, Dr. Domar has been featured on national TV shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline, CBS and NBC Nightly News, and CNN. Dubbed the "fertility goddess" by the media, Domar's research on the effects of stress on female well being shows that the practice of self-nurture can treat a host of women's health problems.

Dr. Domar, welcome back to WebMD Live.

Domar: Thank you.

Moderator: What exactly does self-nurture mean?

Domar: I'd say it means to care for yourself and put yourself amongst your own list of priorities. A lot of people, women, think when I talk about self-nurturing, that I'm talking about being selfish. And there are a lot of books out there on self-care, and they talk about selfish behaviors like 'don't call your friends back' which I don't think makes sense at all. But all the suggestions made throughout my book, half involve self-nurturing with other people. So it doesn't mean a half hour bath or jetting off to Paris for the weekend.

Moderator: Can self-nurture solve or prevent most health problems, in your opinion?

Domar: Absolutely. Stress, right now, is the number one problem cited by American women, mostly because balancing work and family is so hard. And when we juggle them, we leave ourselves last which takes a huge toll on our mental and physical health.

Moderator: In your book you talk about the mother/daughter connection. How does it work?

Domar: A lot of people live in fear that they're going to become their mother. (laughs!) And yet a lot find themselves acting like their mother without even trying. I do a lot of couples therapy, and one of things that's so hard for people to understand is that we tend to learn behaviors after using our parents as role models.

So the things that mother could do, we also can do, and vice versa. So, there are lots of ways to self-nurture, in terms of your relationship with your mother, ranging from doing something with her to get out of your normal routine, all the way to doing 'cognitive restructuring' to challenge your own negative 'self-talk' when it comes to your mother. I'm 41 years old and my mother is 80 and I still find myself wanting to please her, which I think is a thing so many women find hard to shake.

Moderator: Women are connected to our bodies in a love/hate way. How do we get off this merry-go-round?

Domar: I think it's generous to say 'love/hate'. I can't think of a single woman I know who loves her body. A few years ago, Vogue did a story about me and because of that, celebrities wanted to come and see me. And by everyone's standards, they were gorgeous and physically perfect. Yet they'd sit in my office and list things they hated about themselves. The average woman stands in front of a mirror and points out the things she doesn't like! Men don't do that.

Moderator: Why don't men do that?

Domar: Men are less judged by their appearance, I know that. I read an article a few years ago that asked 'who do you think is more overweight, Roseanne or Jack Nicholson?" Most people said Roseanne, but the fact is that they're equally overweight. Women are definitely judged by their bodies much more so than men are. There are actually many more male actors right now that are overweight than female actors. You get to the point where you don't want to watch these, like Ally McBeal. ALL of them are skinny now! The influence of the media is horrific as far as presenting unrealistic body types to the masses.

Moderator: How important is one's childhood in determining how capable she is of self-nurture?

Domar: I think it's somewhat important. I've certainly seen patients in the last few years who had childhoods which made them feel completely unable to self-nurture, often, the oldest daughter of large families. And everyone can learn. For a lot of people, it's a tremendous relief that goes along races, ages, levels of socioeconomic status. It's a woman thing.

Moderator: How did you start on this self-nurture teachings?

Domar: I've been teaching mind/body for a while. At one of my first groups in 1987, my co-leader was sick and the subject matter we were supposed to cover was too difficult for me to do by myself. And, he said, "teach what you feel comfortable teaching." So, I thought that the one thing missing from our curriculum was teaching women how to be kind to themselves and take care of themselves. But it's no coincidence that I started writing this book when my daughter was 4 months old, because becoming a mother really puts the self-nurturing issue into focus.

Moderator: Explain the relationship quadrant for us.

Domar: Basically, if you are in a relationship with somebody, and let's say it's a relationship between a woman and a man, both of you have two states of being, either okay or not okay, Which means there are four possible options, you're okay, he's okay, which is great.

You're okay, he's not okay, which means you're still fine. You're not okay, he's okay, which means you're still fine. Or, the dangerous quadrant, you're not okay, he's not okay! And, this is the one you want to identify and work on preventing.

And the example I gave in the book, or one of several, was of a couple that I had been seeing who were separated and they identified their quadrant, her two states were either scattered or together. And he was either a nice guy or a jerk. What they found was that three quarters of the time, they were fine. But when she was in a scattered phase and he was being a jerk, they got into trouble.

So they worked on identifying and preventing that dangerous quadrant. So, he became a jerk (he was a lawyer in a trial) and she became scattered when she said yes to too many people. So they realized that if he had a trial coming up, she needed to say 'no' more often, or if she was in a scattered phase, he had to work really hard not to be a jerk when he got home. And it worked, identifying that quadrant. I've used it with numerous couples.

Moderator: This must mean that these couples are great communicators. Most couples aren't. How does this work?

Domar: You don't actually need both of them to do this. Most people in a relationship know the two states and you can figure out your own. The key is to figure out that danger quadrant and try to avoid it. It also works with kids and parents.

I've found out the hard way that she's (my daughter) is obnoxious or cooperative and I'm impatient or patient. So, if she's in an obnoxious mood, I need to work hard to stay patient and if I'm in an impatient mood, I need to work hard with activities to keep her from getting into an obnoxious mood.

Moderator: How does self-nurturing work for single women, especially women who want to be in relationships?

Domar: Because it's so hard to be single -- I was single for a long time and hated it -- I encourage single women to write down their thoughts and feelings. A lot of them time we project our pathologies into new relationships and that doesn't help. So if you can get some of your craziness out on paper, you won't need to subject a new man to it.

In fact, the very first time I tried this with a single woman, she found it such a relief to write about her insecurities and hopes and dreams and all the things she didn't want to talk about with a man on the first few dates. And she found very quickly she could enter into a healthy relationship and got married rather quickly.

Moderator: What would you say to someone who thinks the connection between mind and body to be overstated, and not important enough to solve major health problems (i.e., infertility)?

Domar: I think there is a reality in terms of there is SOME mind/body connection. Anybody who's ever watched a scary movie and noticed their heart speed up has to acknowledge that's a mind/body connection. Your brain is watching the movie, but your body is responding.

I think there's a huge danger in overestimating the impact the mind can have on the body. I think that this came up in the 70's when cancer patients were taught imagery techniques and encouraged to imagine that their white blood cells were like Pac Men and could "eat up" the cancer cells.

The danger of such an approach is that your average cancer patient can do imagery perfectly and yet not be able to heal themselves. And, then will feel guilty that they clearly didn't do the imagery right. I strongly believe that most disease has an organic basis. I also believe that stress can make many diseases worse. And so why not learn mind/body techniques to improve your sense of comfort?

If it happens to reduce your physical symptoms, so much the better! I would never allow a patient of mine to pursue mind/body techniques rather than traditional modern medicine. It's always in conjunction. I think the best medicine is a combination of the two approaches.

Moderator: Are physical, emotional, and spiritual fatigue entirely different, separate things?

Domar: I think they're tied in. It's hard to tease them out. Physical fatigue is if you don't get enough sleep or if you've been running around. But emotional/spiritual fatigue often feels the same.

Moderator: What are some every day things a person can do to nurture herself?

Domar: I have two easy things to do. Every day, at least once a day, when you start feeling stressed out, stop yourself and say, "What do I need right now?" I do that. It may be something simple as to take a two minute relaxation break, or look up a joke on email, or call a friend, or go for a walk, or decide to order a pizza for dinner!

But you need to check in with yourself on a daily basis to find out what you need. And every morning, when your alarm goes off, spend 30 seconds to think about what you can do that's nice for yourself that day. Whether it's buying yourself a fabulous piece of fruit, or calling a great friend, or buying yourself flowers, anything!

Moderator: I love the time pie. Explain how I can reorganize my life to have more time.

Domar: The idea is that most of us waste a fair amount of time ... so we recommend that you take a piece of paper and draw a circle and visualize this as a pie. It's a time pie of your average weekday.

So, if you cut it into 24 slices, that represents the 24 hours of your average weekday. So, if you sleep eight hours at night, that's a third of your pie. If you work eight hours a day, that's another third, 12 hours a day is half your pie.

And then figure out what are all the other slices of your pie, which would include commuting, child care, exercise, phone calls, TV, errands, meals, cooking, eating, cleaning up, etc. See, after you've done the time pie, if there's any way you can rearrange your day to give YOU more time.

Moderator: What the did the women in your workshops discover?

Domar: What I uniformly hear is that they can't account for all 24 hours and they realize they spend a lot of time doing things (like watching TV or long phone conversations) that aren't as nurturing as other things they could be doing.

Moderator: Doesn't it shake up the people in your life when you start to make these changes?

Domar: Well, we suggest that you tackle one area of your life every six weeks so it doesn't shake anybody up. The book is divided into the different areas of your life.

You should start with the area you want most to change, whether it's your job, your body, your spirituality, your relationship with friends/siblings, creativity or leisure time, etc. Start nurturing one area of your life every six weeks or so, it won't feel shocking to you or anyone else.

Moderator: I feel so guilty when I say no to my kids. I feel that's the one area where I should never say no.

Domar: First of all, no mother should say 'yes' to her kids all the time. It's not good for the kids. And keep in mind that you can self-nurture with your kids! I dance with my daughter, bake cookies with her, go for walks with her ... these things nurture us both. But, you will be a better mother and a MUCH better role model if you take care of yourself, too.

Moderator: But it seems as if there's nothing in society that supports that.

Domar: Well, I think we have to look at men as role models. Men are much better able than we are to care for themselves. They're much better able to sit down in front of the TV and watch football for three hours and not feel guilty about it!

And instead of resenting them for it, we need to model ourselves after them! If he watches sports every Sunday for three hours, then you get to do what you want to do every Saturday for three hours.

Moderator: Why do you concentrate on women when it seems obvious that life is overwhelming for everyone in our society?

Domar: I'm not focusing on women to be sexist. I happen to be married to a man, so I see that men, indeed, have stress in their lives. But, I focus on women for two reasons. One, because several research studies have shown that women report more day-to-day stress than men do. And because I think that women have such a struggle caring for themselves that they need more attention right now.

Moderator: In your book you talk about couples who were able to conceive after trying some of these techniques. Is the data supported or do people feel it's just a coincidence?

Domar: No, I actually published a study this month in 'Fertility and Sterility' that showed that women who went through a Mind/Body group or a Support Group drastically increased their pregnancy rates versus women who just received medical care. I believe that women who are infertile should be in a support group. At the very least, they'll feel better.

Moderator: Why doesn't everyone do this who's going through this problem?

Moderator: Have you been criticized for giving false hope?

Domar: Thousands of times. I'm always criticized for perpetuating a myth, "just relax and you'll get pregnant." And the fact is is that there's increasing evidence that depression may hamper fertility. And the patients who go through my program work their butts off. It's not just relaxation.

They incorporate a lot of mind/body skills into their lives. They change their eating habits and what they're doing is decreasing their depression levels. If depression decreases fertility, then when the depression lifts, you'd expect to see more fertility, and that's indeed what happens.

Moderator: So this involves a real commitment on their parts?

Domar: Absolutely. It's a 10-session program.

Moderator: How do friends play into this?

Domar: You know, it's a lot of fun to self-nurture with your friends. Women are more socially isolated now than at any other time in human history.

Think about it ... until 20 years ago, for all of man's history, women lived amongst other women, with mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and sisters. And women cared for each other. They didn't need to self-nurture because they cared for each other.

But in the last 20 years, not only do we have nuclear families, but women work outside the home, so they're very socially isolated. Women need to be around other women. They have a unique gift in terms of compassion, empathy and sharing. And social support is crucial for our mental and physical health.

Moderator: You mentioned that as a result of this, we now seek everything from a relationship with a man.

Domar: That's right. Because we don't have the women amongst us and I think that's one of the reasons why divorce rates have gotten so high. No matter how great a guy is, he cannot meet ALL of your needs. When women had each other to talk to, the faults of the men would be kept in perspective instead of becoming all encompassing.

Moderator: How can teenage girls reduce the stress in their lives?

Domar: Mm hmm (agrees). They have a lot of stress. I was at a private school last week and had a meeting with faculty staff and students talking about the self-nurturing process and we talked about how important it is both in terms of body image and relationships, for example, what a teenage girl will put up with in order to stay in a relationship.

Moderator: What do you find out about the state of teenage girls today?

Domar: It's scary. The prevalence of eating disorders, the obsession with being thin, the lack of self-esteem, the obedience to the media. You know, that's not okay! So, we're hoping to have a self-nurture day to teach the students how to better care for themselves and think more highly of themselves.

Moderator: Why is there so much pressure put on children these days? What can parents do to relieve it?

Domar: That's an issue of the parents. My daughter is in pre-school and I hear other parents frequently complain that the day is not structured enough. One parent actually took her kid out because every time she went to the school, the kids were "just playing" and she wanted her kid to be "learning." My response is "four-year-olds SHOULD just be playing!" That's what's so great about being four! That's their job! They'll have plenty of time in their lives to work.

Moderator: Why are girls becoming sexually active so early nowadays?

Domar: I think there's a lot of peer pressure, to be "cool,' and because they can. When you watch TV, every TV show they turn on, their role models are having sex, so why shouldn't they?

Moderator: How can you nurture your relationships with your adult siblings?

Domar: I think one of the best ways is to recapture the things you enjoyed doing when you were kids. One of the beautiful things about siblings is you have so much in common in terms of your childhood experiences. So, go back and play Monopoly or Life. Have a snowball fight, or rent a movie that you watched together as a kid. It'll make you feel good.

Moderator: Let's talk about the workplace where it's difficult to nurture.

Domar: It can be very difficult to nurture yourself in the workplace, especially with so much pressure to work the long hours. And yet the expectation of working the long hours, ironically,  decreases performance.

So I tell my patients or people that come to my workshops, to look at their jobs and see how they can nurture themselves at work, which means that they might, every Monday morning, buy themselves one Freesia so that their desk will smell nice all week.

Or arranging a lunch with female co-workers once a week just to gossip and have fun. Or take a brisk walk every day at lunch time -- that's a really great thing to do. You need to look at what you NEED at work. You spend a lot of your life there.

Moderator: My husband gives me absolutely no support when I try to do anything for myself and I'm at the end of my rope. How can I make him see what I need?

Domar: I think you can set up an equal system. Say that the two of you arrange a system that he gets to do what he wants every Tuesday evening, and you get to do what you want to do every Thursday evening. Men are always suspicious that women are goofing off. Leaving a man home all day with the kids is great for letting them realize how hard it is. They think being home with kids is really easy, yet those that try it realize it's hard work.

If any wife can explain to her spouse that she needs some down time in order to BE a better wife and better mother, hopefully, she'll get cooperation. Women who are well-rested and self-nurturing are better companions. They're more fun, interesting to be around, they may be more interested in sex, these are all things that men appreciate!

Moderator: I always have this voice in my head that I "should" be doing something constructive in my down time. How can I get this voice out of my head?

Domar: First of all "should" in my book is a four letter word. Our humorist said, "Do not should upon yourself." It's a guilt-inducing word. If one of your friends said she was going to goof off for two hours, would you think she was a bad person?

No. We need to be just as compassionate to ourselves as we are to our friends. Make a to-do list with things to be done and the other half is self-nurturing activities. And the best part of any list is the crossing things off.

Moderator: Sometimes when you sit down and examine your life, you see that you really need more help than you can give yourself. Where do you go?

Domar: There are lots of ways to get help, whether it's from friends, family members, church or spiritual organizations, support groups, or seeing a mental health professional (which I highly recommend, of course, being one myself).

Moderator: I'm a single mom with absolutely no time. How can I make this concept work in my own life?

Domar: Nobody has no time. I understand that being a single mom is extremely challenging. No question. Single mothers have the highest level of stress. There are a couple things you can do. If you know another single mom, take turns taking all the kids, so that each one of you has some down time, every other time.

And look at how you can be more self-nurturing WITH your kid or kids. It's not going to hurt any of you to have ice cream for dinner once in a while! That's a lot of fun! It's not going to hurt any of you, when you come home from work exhausted, to put on some crazy music and all of you just dance!

It's not going to hurt anyone to wear really funky nail polish! There are a lot of creative ways you can better care for yourself which don't involve a lot of time or money. It's just a matter of sitting down, thinking about what you NEED, and putting the thoughts into action.

Moderator: You talked about some spiritual paths to take, but these require that I really break out of the mold. How do I start this?

Domar: You don't have to break out of a mold. A lot of people were brought up in one religion or spiritual orientation and may or may not feel comfortable in that as an adult. It may be that you don't happen to like the local minister and you can go to a different town to see if you like that one better.

A lot of people I know go to the Unitarian Church even though they were brought up as Catholics or Jews! Being spiritual doesn't necessarily mean being religious. It means being connected, finding that your life has meaning, etc.

Moderator: Do you think that some of your techniques will be put to use in fertility clinics around the country to help infertile couples?

Domar: That's one of my goals. You know, we are trying to train mental health professionals around the world so that more infertile people can have a chance to learn these skills. Hopefully, I just submitted a book proposal to write, hopefully, the standard mind/body guide to infertility. We'll see if the publisher buys it or not! (laughs)

Moderator: You have a heading called catharsis, insight, action. What does that mean?

Domar: I think that in any situation, you need to tune in to what you're saying to yourself. If you think of your brain as being like a tape recorder, all of us have tapes that play over and over and over in our heads. 90% of these tapes are negative, and almost all of them are false.

The first step is to figure out where these thoughts come from. They only come from two sources. They either stem from something someone said to you a long time ago, or it's your fear speaking. Figuring out where the thoughts come from is halfway towards resolution.

Moderator: I love the aspect of "bitch and moan" friendships. How do you change then?

Domar: (laughs!) Well, this is a problem with a lot of female relationships that women feel so free to complain and are so loathe to talk about good things because that will be perceived as bragging. Try doing 'news and goods' with your friends.

The next time you talk to a friend, the first thing you say to her is, "what new and good thing happened to you today?" You can do that with your husband, kids, friends, cousins, parents, etc. And it forces you to see the glass is half full. It's not bragging, we get enough bad stuff on the news.

Moderator: How important is girls' night out?

Domar: It's very important. You can get so much from your girlfriends. A number of studies have shown that social support is crucial to our physical health. Women with lots of close friends tend to live longer and are less likely to die from breast cancer. So, go out and hang out with your friends!

Moderator: What if you're single and every night is girls' night out?

Domar: Great! But don't do it to the exclusion of meeting guys if that's one of your goals. We're having a Self-Nurture Symposium in Boston on Saturday called Self-Nurture: Mind, Body, and Spirit at the World Trade Center in Boston on April 29th (that's Saturday). There will be keynote talks by myself, Miriam Nelson and Loretta LaRoche as well as numerous workshops on everything from fitness to mid-life health to an experiential self-nurture workshop. There's a website, it's at  or you can call 617-632-9563 for more information. I have a book I co-wrote with two physicians, entitled 'Enhanced Fertility' and that will be coming out in October. It's published by Simon & Schuster. That's a real medical book.

Moderator: Dr. Domar, thank you for joining us today. WebMD members, please join us every Wednesday at 9 pm EDT here in the Mind and Body Auditorium for our live weekly event. 

Domar: Thanks a lot!

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Overcoming Self-Doubt

By Julie Fuimano, Personal Development Expert

Everyone experiences self-doubt at some point in our lives. For many people, self doubt can be pervasive, even crippling. It can impact your relationships. It destroys confidence. It causes procrastination or lack of effort.

It can be extremely frustrating to live with the reverberating voice in your head telling you you’re not good enough to do or have whatever you might want.

Every day throughout the day, doubts creep in. You question everything from your worthiness and deservingness to your abilities and skills. “Can I really do it? Will I be successful? Can I be successful? Is it possible for ME?”

The day ends hoping for a reprieve only to have these same thoughts repeat tomorrow and the next day and the next. These thoughts have become habits and you have become their slave. This sounds ominous and it really is!

It is very sad that for some reason we do this to ourselves. Much of what we say in the privacy of our minds we would never say to another human being. So what gives us the right to entertain these thoughts? There is no benefit to doubting yourself and questioning your ability to the point of not pursuing your dreams. Its only impact is to stop you from living bigger than you are.

There is a huge cost to both the individual – YOU – and to society at large for these negative and self disparaging remarks in your mind. You lose because you don’t take risks, you’re not as productive as you can be (all of those thoughts and self-questioning slows you down), and you are unhappy because deep down inside you know you can do more, be more, and contribute more to the world.

Your relationships are not as deep and meaningful because you hide the best of YOU behind your wall of self-doubt, which has you questioning your desirability, your looks, your personality, your deservingness. Society loses because we don’t reap the benefits from your talents and skills and abilities that you hide behind your wall of fear and doubt.

Sometimes doubt can be good when it causes us to question our direction and focus: Can you really pull this off? Do you have the ability, the knowledge, and the capacity to complete the task? Those are important questions. But doubt just because you lack faith in yourself won’t nurture your success. If you are in your own way, learn ways to get out of your way so you can stop making excuses for not living your life the way you really want.

Self-doubt is grounded in fear – fear of your own greatness, fear of your own power, fear of success. What if you really are that brilliant and wonderful? What if you really can be wealthy, successful, have the relationship of your dreams? What then? You would have to learn to stop doubting.

Here are four steps to overcoming your self-doubt:

1) Learn to trust yourself again (or for the first time!). If you don’t trust you, who will? My late ex-husband, John, used to call self-doubt the “DTMs”, which stands for Don’t Trust Myself. Not trusting in yourself is a huge barrier to success.

If you cannot trust yourself, you will have difficulty trusting others, and others will have difficulty trusting you. Start doing little things to build your self-trust like following through with anything you commit to which means, you need to take your commitments seriously and honor your word.

You will want to make good choices about what you commit to doing making sure you have the energy, resources, and time to do it. You might ask yourself “why” you are choosing this commitment. Is it out of fear of not being liked, being unable to say “no”, or concern over what other people think?

Or is it something you really want to do? By taking care in your choices of how you use your time and then doing what you say, you start to have faith in you.

2) Pay attention to your thoughts. Over the course of many years, you have learned to doubt who you are and the choices you make. You may have learned these thoughts as a child or when you were involved in an old relationship or had a bad boss.

Listen to the messages being played in your head. If the messages in your head are saying things to you that you would never say to another human being, then don’t entertain them. You are a human being too!

And YOU are the MOST important human being in your life. Without you what do you have? Become your own biggest fan! Be curious about how you think and your beliefs. What DO you value the most? And are you living in congruence with those values? Often we run on autopilot and the thoughts that drive our actions are based on what we have been taught to think or value, not what we choose to believe or value.

By taking the time to consider what you value most and what you want to believe, you can observe your thoughts to see if they support your chosen beliefs and values or sabotage them and then you can choose new and better thoughts.

3) Never, ever put yourself down, not even in the privacy of your own mind. Your negative thoughts are not serving you; they are hurting you. They serve no purpose except to keep you small and wishing for more in your life. You are a part of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here and you are amazing! Even when you do things that are not so amazing…

4) Forgive yourself. Being human means that you will make mistakes. Embrace them. They are pointing you in the direction of the work you need to do, the things you didn’t know you need to know, and teaching you humility. You have strengths and great assets and you have things that you’re not so great at. Spend more time mastering the things you love and the things you are good at and your life will be easier and more fulfilled.

When you take a wrong turn – and you will – learn from it, forgive yourself, and move on. By not forgiving yourself, you are abusing yourself by reliving the error over and over again. Thoughts of your past wrongdoing waste precious moments of today. Let go of your pain. There is no reason to hold onto it unless you enjoy the self-torture.

Overcoming self-doubt means that you feel confident, comfortable in your own shoes, and grounded in being YOU.

There is less to fear because you know that you’re okay and that no matter what, you will make the right choice for you and if you don’t, you learn to admit and overcome your mistake in humility. There are no mistakes really.

When you stop doubting yourself at every turn, you let yourself off the hook from pretending to be something you're not. It feels good to feel okay being YOU. Now, doesn’t that seem a whole lot easier and less stressful? Be YOU and have fun being YOU.

Julie Fuimano, RN, MBA, CSAC is named one of the TOP 100 THOUGHT LEADERS in personal leadership development. Your happiness and success is her business and it all originates from thought. Every action, feeling, belief, and mood begins with a thought. Are your thoughts serving you or sabotaging you? Visit to take the assessment and uncover your greatest strength and most challenging weakness. We focus on identifying and re-training your thought processes - for individuals and transforming organizations. For staff development, training, or performance, learn how you can unlock up to 40% more productivity and cooperation from your employees and yourself! The Assessment is the diagnosis; our coaching is the prescription.

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Do You Know How To... self-nurture?

By Hu Dalconzo

To learn how to fulfill your emotional needs necessitate that you study how to Self-parent yourself. Self-parenting is… heart work. The primary objectives of the Self-parenting exercises are to help you fulfill your emotional dependency needs that were not met during your childhood. Emotional dependency needs are the intimacy, nurturing, unconditional love and boundary protection that a person needs in order to feel safe, sane, and secure in the world.
Consciously fulfilling your emotional dependency needs will allow you to function in the world as an emotionally mature, highly functional adult. The Self-parenting exercises take the concept of self-nurturing from an abstract, hard to understand theoretical concept and breaks it down piece by piece into a step by step, easy to understand, specific set of emotionally self-nurturing exercises.
Self-parenting exercises are a fast, safe way for you to surface and heal your repressed feelings. They can help you to rewire your internal programming with new, healthy, healing feelings. You can prove it to yourself that the Self-parenting visualization exercises work by closing your eyes and imagining that you are chewing on a lemon.
What you’ll notice is that you’ll start to salivate. WHY? Because your mind can’t tell the difference between a real and an imagined lemon. Therefore, when you do your Self-parenting exercises your mind won’t be able to tell the difference between your real childhood experiences and Self-parented (imagined) visualizations.
Three things are striking about Self-Parenting exercises:
(1) The speed with which you will feel better
(2) the depth of your emotional healing
(3) how fast you reawaken your Self-mastery powers to see, feel and heal so that you can take responsibility to Self-parent yourself.
Fulfilling your emotional dependency needs is a Self-parenting educational process designed to teach you how to; be emotionally intimate with yourself and others; unconditionally love and accept yourself and others, self-nurture yourself and others, and how to maturely protect your boundaries so that you will feel safe and secure in the world.
I’m often asked the question, “What’s the difference between Inner Child work and Self-parenting work?” Inner child work is to Self-parenting what arithmetic is to algebra. Self-parenting takes inner child work and integrates it with clinically proven, spiritually based exercises that break down Self-nurturing into a step by step, specific set of emotionally intimate Self-parenting exercises that will fulfill your emotional dependency needs that were not met when you were a child.
I want you to clearly understand what this term Inner Child means. It is your childlike memories and programs that are emotionally anchored to a time when you only had the power, knowledge, and physical strength of a small child. Your inner child needs to learn to trust the “adult you” because you have adult powers now that he/she didn’t have. You need to make your inner child feel safe and secure by committing to practice these Self-parenting exercises until you do feel safe and secure in the world. 
When you feel emotionally safe you will willingly reconnect with your repressed feelings, memories and emotions that are still frozen behind ego defenses that you needed when you were a child. When you were a child you needed your childlike defenses to feel safe, but they are no longer necessary because you are now an adult who is learning how to parent yourself.
I will leave you with a poem I co-wrote with Ji~ (Jane Christ) entitled, Self-parenting.
As a Self-parented adult… If I don’t learn how to fulfill my emotional dependency needs, then I’ll never feel safe, sane, and secure in the world; For I'll always have to look to others to tell me who I am. If I don’t expect emotional intimacy, I am saying that…“I’m Ok with you being emotionally distant from me,” and I’ll distance myself for fear of rejection. If I don’t demonstrate unconditional love for my Self, I am showing people that “I’m not worthy of receiving love, nor your benefit of the doubt.” If I don’t demand respect, I’ll give people permission to treat me disrespectfully; for I teach people how to treat me by the way I treat myself. If I don’t use my adult powers, I’ll fall prey to my own “child-like” ego defenses; and the walls I build will keep out the love I seek. If I don’t maturely defend my boundaries with my adult powers, then people will “trespass” me just like they did when I was a powerless child! If I don’t give my Self permission to be myself, then people will “mold me” into who they want me to be, taking me further away from the light of my real Self and closer to the darkness of my “persona” (mask). If I don’t learn to validate and release my feelings, then my feelings will create dis-ease within me;for a dis-ease is a perfect creation; a negative feeling made manifest. If I beat my Self up when I “act out” with “less than perfect” behavior, then I am affirming that, “I am my behavior” and not a child of God. If I’m not willing to practice my Self-parenting skills until they become a part of my consciousness, then when life “tests” me I’ll attempt to protect my Self using immature, childlike, ego-based methods. If I don’t “respond with ability” to make my life emotionally, sexually, and physically Safe, Sane, and Secure, then I’ll live a life of “quiet desperation,” comfortable in my “uncomfortable-nessand fearful of life’s opportunities, unable to fulfill my divine birthright, a life worthy of a child of God!
Namaste, my soul friends….. Hu Dalconzo
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