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Nurturing the Self

Reviewed Mar 26, 2014


Incorporating nurture into our daily life helps us cope with the stress and uncertainties of the frail human condition.

“Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.”

—William Wadsworth

How does one nurture one’s self, and why is it important? Since the 1970s more than a thousand self-help books have been written on the subject, offering a wide range of diagnoses and remedies for what can be best described as the reality of the human condition. In short, we are moving too fast and too furiously for our own good.

In his book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Dr. Richard Swenson described the human condition and the problem facing most Americans succinctly. He writes: “Into my office on a regular basis comes a steady parade of exhausted, hurting people. Most don’t realize that pain and the absence of margin (in their lives) are related.”

The “margin” he is describing is another way of saying we need to slow down and take better care of ourselves. Accordingly, nurturing one’s self is the opposite of stressing oneself. Consider:

  • Stress is a sprint. Nurture is a nice long walk.
  • Stress is worry. Nurture is laughter.
  • Stress is tiring. Nurture is restful.
  • Stress is busy. Nurture is having some extra time.
  • Stress is obligation. Nurture is choice.
  • Stress is strain. Nurture is fun.

Find a relaxation spot

“Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

How one disengages from stress and engages in nurturing oneself is different for everyone. For some, a day of pampering at a spa or reading a good book soothes the soul, while physical activities such as yoga or mountain biking work for others.

John Eldredge, a counselor and author of the books Wild At Heart and Waking the Dead, describes the concept of self-nurturing as “deep restoration” that extends well beyond our physical and emotional needs. He suggests that the source of true restoration comes from a Higher Power who refreshes our spirit. Eldredge also notes that there are special places where both physical and spiritual restoration is more likely. For some it’s the mountains or beach, for others it’s having coffee with a good friend or walking in the woods. The point is that everyone must discover his unique way of refreshing and nurturing his life. Consider this story:

Karen is the married mother of 3 kids. As she poured her life into caring for them she began to feel that she was losing herself. She fought periods of stress and depression until one day her husband heard her singing while she was folding clothes. He knew that Karen loved to sing and had a special talent. She had often dreamed of performing, but as she committed her life to her family the dream of performing had withered. Her husband encouraged her to begin singing again. With much prodding, Karen joined the music team at her church and began to do something that refreshed and nurtured her spirit.

Take steps to nurture yourself

“Re-examine all you have been told ... Dismiss what insults your soul.”

— Walt Whitman

The first step in nurturing your self is to realize that you need it. Too much of life is like being on a hamster wheel. We run at a frenzied pace trying to get ahead and make a good life, but in the end we have little time to enjoy it.

Nurturing ourselves is both an event and a process. There are vacations, recreational activities and other events that provide temporary relief and distraction from the daily grind of a hurried life. Although these are important, it is not nearly enough. It is the process of nurturing ourselves that makes the most difference in our physical and emotional health. Incorporating nurture into our daily life helps us cope with the stress and uncertainties of the frail human condition. A good place to start is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do I feel the most relaxed and calm?
  • Where do I feel the most relaxed and calm?
  • With whom am I the most comfortable?
  • With whom do I laugh?
  • What things, people or activities soothe my soul?
  • What brings me the greatest joy in life?

Once you know where, when and with whom you experience nurture, you can begin to purposefully build these into your life.

By Drew Edwards, EdD, MS
Source: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson. Navpress, 1992; Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. Nelson Publishers, 2003.



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