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Excerpted from Self-Nurture by Alice Domar. Copyright © 2000 by Alice Domar and Henry Dreher. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"I have come to realize that all the relaxation techniques in the world won’t amount to any true relaxation if they are not guided by self-nurturance."

Alice Domar, Self-Nurture, Part 3

I have discovered these seemingly simple truths in my own life, and I have rediscovered them thousands of times in my work with patients. I am considered an expert in stress management for women, and I have come to realize that all the relaxation techniques in the world won’t amount to any true relaxation if they are not guided by self-nurturance. When self-nurture is the underlying principle behind stress management, the healing effect of mind-body techniques--from relaxation to cognitive restructuring to prayer--is exponentially enhanced. Hence, Self-Nurture is a hands-on guide to creative, emotional, and spiritual self-care.

I've designed the book to help you cultivate self-nurture over the course of one year, with two different theme areas (chapters) for each of the four seasons.

  • Winter begins with an introduction to mind-body nurture, including basic techniques you can apply throughout the book. The second "winter" chapter focuses on your role as a mother and/or daughter, showing how you can nurture self within the family unit.
  • Spring is the season of renewal, so I start with a chapter on the sacred body, in which you learn to shift from bodily shame to celebration. To renew relationships, and nurture existing ones, turn to the next chapter on love mates (self-nurture with or without significant others).
  • Summer represents free time for the soul; it includes chapters on creativity and leisure ("child's play") and friendships and sibling relationships ("the social safety net").
  • Autumn, often a period of new beginnings, includes a chapter to help you safeguard your soul on the job ("joy at work") and a final chapter on how to develop a self-nurturing spirituality.

Each chapter is filled with exercises and explorations that help you to become more self-nurturing in that particular area. If you spend about six weeks implementing the suggestions in each of the next eight chapters, the entire program of self-nurture will last a year.

I offer this seasonal structure because it places the primary themes of women’s lives in an order and context that makes sense for many of us. But don't feel obliged to follow this structure. Rather, I suggest that you identify the areas of your life where you most require self-nurturance, and concentrate on those first. For instance, if you have serious trouble with body-nurture but are very self-nurturing in the context of your marriage, you may wish to spend two months on the body chapter and no time on the "love mates" chapter.

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