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Learning to self-nurture in my elder years – how it has enriched my life

Over the years and living with breast cancer for 15 years I have developed a good (and quite different) understanding of self-nurturing.

English being my second language, I now realise that for a long time I didn’t have a full understanding of the word itself. I thought of the English words ‘nurturing’ and ‘nourishing’ as almost one and the same. So I related self-nurturing to eating well and that is about as far as it went.

While writing this I felt to look up the word in the German dictionary.

I learnt that it has more to do with looking after and tenderly taking care of myself than with nourishing and feeding myself – which I thought I was doing well, eating all fresh organic and mostly home grown fruit and vegetables.

So, this tenderly taking care of myself and being with myself was unknown to me and had to be learned. I felt I was good at that with other people but never with myself.

What a wonderful new world opened up for me! I learned to lovingly and gently be with myself where judging and criticising had no place, and to do things for me, just for me, like running a bath, which I did not used to take the time for.

And I developed little rituals and daily routines that I deeply appreciate now and really miss if I don’t get to them.

For example, I had to learn to touch myself in a very delicate and tender way when I learned to put my favourite creams and lotions on my body (which I had to first research and buy because I hardly put anything on my skin ever).

I remember that I was in tears in the beginning because I could not feel and apply a gentle touch to myself. It was always quick and rather a bit hard and insensitive. Now it is one of the highlights of finishing a nice shower – lovingly putting cream on my rather dry skin.

The importance of touch cannot be underestimated. When I looked into this further I discovered that science now recognises that touch has many health benefits. Whether applied with self-nurturing self-touch like lovingly applying cream or the hug of another person:

“Touch has been shown to alleviate depression, improve immune function, reduce pain, enhance attentiveness, decrease blood pressure and calm the heart rate,” says Psychologist Miriam Akhtar.

But it is not only a caring touch that has become part of my day.

Self-nurturing is not only what I do for myself but also just BEING with myself in stillness and tenderness. To support myself I am developing

  • Stopping during the busyness of the day and just sitting for 5-10 minutes

  • Making my bed lovingly so I come back to that same nurturing quality when going to bed

  • Checking in with myself to see where any stress and tension has come in and re-connecting with my body

Many people don’t do this because they feel they don’t have ‘time’ but this is totally false because when you sit and re-connect to yourself and your body, you create space and you are much more effective when you go back to what you were doing anyway.

The ‘side-affects’ of self-nurturing.

Once I started to develop self-nurturing as a more natural part of my day a lot more unfolded…

The loving movements and actions of the self-nurturing supported me to be more self-loving and appreciative of myself, which naturally leads to loving and appreciating others.

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