Refill Your Cupboard

Refill Your Cupboard

Are you self-nurturing?

The Practice:
Refill your cupboard.


[Note: This refill your cupboard JOT is adapted from Mother Nurture, a book written for mothers – focusing on typical parenting situations and gender differences that are experienced by many, though not all, mothers and fathers and by parents in same-sex relationships. Parenting is a complex subject, plus it intertwines with larger issues of gender roles and the long history of mistreatment of women; obviously, society should do a better job of supporting families in general and mothers and fathers in particular, but meanwhile, there are things they can do for themselves; alas, there is no room for these complexities in these brief JOTs; for my discussion of them, please see Mother Nurture.]

Nothing changes a person’s life like a child, especially their first one.

Raising children is deeply fulfilling. Yet it’s also intensely demanding. Compared to people who haven’t had children, parents are generally more stressed, more unhappy in their intimate relationships, and more prone to illness.

Most parents are busy one way or another most of the time and hitting the red line on stress. They look around and wonder, where’s the support?

Many parents figure that feeling like they are running on empty is somehow their own fault or simply inevitable and unavoidable. Well, neither is true. Parents are not to blame for feeling run-down and blue, and there is plenty they can do about it from the inside out – even if their co-parent(s) and the wider world are slow to help.

The path is direct and straightforward: do what you can to decrease the “bad” – the demands – and increase the “good” – resources and resilience. Every parent is entitled to walk this path. With all that parents give to their children and others each day, they more than earn the right to take good care of themselves.

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(See Mother Nurture or the freely offered resources at for a full package of ways to refill your cupboard, including how to rebalance and replenish your body.) Here’s a summary of some low-hanging fruit you can start gathering for yourself today to refill your cupboard.

Use Mental Imagery to Release Stress

The accumulation of stress makes a world of difference, so it’s important to do small things throughout the day to keep the stress meter in the “green zone.” There are many ways to lower the sense of stress in your mind or body, even in the middle of a busy day. Here are some ideas:

Recall or imagine a relaxing experience, picking images of situations that are the opposite of the ones that are causing the stress. For example, when unable to solve a problem with a child, imagine successfully skiing down a challenging slope, or when feeling unable to break out of a sticky situation at work, imagine sailing freely under gorgeous skies.

Let Go of Feelings

The safest way to express emotion is to oneself, which doesn’t reveal feelings to anyone else. As a start, and as best as possible, try to name your feelings. Additionally, feeling emotions fully helps to let them go. Try to own them, even the most difficult ones, inside your mind. Then, if it feels right, express them to someone else. Pick a person with whom it feels safe, tell him or her the purpose of talking, and ask for whatever would feel comforting, such as a promise to keep things confidential. This is not a request for advice, but for feelings to be heard and released. When speaking, try to sense that the emotions are leaving the body, that the listener is drawing them out.

Ride the Wave of Desire

Many times a day, there is probably a collision between the normal desires parents feel like people and the realities of life with children. There is nothing wrong with wanting itself, whether it’s our most fleeting wishes or deepest values. But trouble comes when you cling too tightly to your wants. If you sense this could be true for you, try to step back, be kind to yourself about your wants, relax and release any feelings about not getting what you want, and try to move on to a new want and a new plan.

Take in the Good

Since the cliché is that parents (especially mothers) are self-sacrificing, at first it might feel odd or even wrong to stay with beneficial experiences for a dozen or more seconds in a row. But if you don’t take a little time with these good moments – fun with a child, a good talk with a friend, the relief at the end of a long day – they wash through your brain like water through a sieve. During your day, pay attention to positive events. These are not million-dollar moments, but the small changes of everyday life. Stay with those experiences a few seconds or minutes longer than normal. Let the body relax around the good feelings, be filled with them, and soak them up like a sponge.

In particular, try to recognize your own goodness – as a person, and as a parent – and then help this recognition become a feeling of being a basically good person. You are!

Know Someone Who Could Be More Self-Nurturing?

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Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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