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My 2-year-old son was home with the flu. He was sick and more sensitive than usual—as most of us are because we feel so vulnerable in this state. He broke his fever, and we had apple sauce together, chatting about our day. When he was done, I went to help wipe the remains on his mouth with the spoon but moved too quickly and caught his teeth. It was not a hard scrape; however, in the sheer raw spot of being under the weather, he sobbed and sobbed.

I quickly felt his sadness, but then immediately this other not-so-good emotion washed over me—shame. This was one of my early pivotal parenting moments.

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At this moment, I could have let my shame take over. When shame takes over, all we want is to get out of its discomfort—and in order to do so we often end up invalidating the other person involved to help ourselves feel better.

I had the urge to tell him, "It wasn't that hard," and "I didn't mean to," or "Okay that's enough, brush it off." All the emotionally invalidating expressions that end up making the situation about me and try to alleviate my own feelings.

I resisted the urge of what seemed so automatic, and instead, I just held him. I labeled his emotions of sadness and pain. And I apologized. I sat there, felt my shame and made a decision to put that on the side, and just stayed present with him. It wasn't about me. This wasn't my pain. Instead, I chose to stay present with him, let go of those hard thoughts and feelings, and stay connected. When he was ready, we resumed our chat and play.

Shame. As a psychologist, I am no stranger to this emotion. I see it daily in my office, but I, too, am familiar with this feeling. It is a core emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives.

Shame is the notion that one is unworthy, defective or a failure in some way. It is the "intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging," according to best-selling author and sociologist Brené Brown.

As one of the most painful emotions experienced, shame disconnects us from others, leading to feelings of isolation. Often times we don't even know we are feeling shame when it happens. Instead, we notice anger, sadness, fear, disgust, or many other emotions.

Not only do we not know what it looks like, it even triggers ways to respond just like I wanted to at the moment with my son: blame the other, deny their emotions or experience, or even withdraw, shut down and avoid situations or conversations altogether.

Yet despite its experience being universal, shame is rarely acknowledged or discussed in our culture.

Shame is a strong emotion that is correlated with mental health difficulties, low self-esteem, and relationship distress. Maybe as you are reading this you can think of moments in your own life when shame has reared its ugly head. Was it with your child as a parent? A romantic partner? Or maybe it was during an important work meeting where you said something and later didn't feel good about it. Perhaps it's even when you reach for that job promotion.

Learning to cope with shame can help improve self-worth, emotional health, and our relationships. So let's explore how we can deal with shame.

1. Identify and acknowledge the feeling

Our emotions provide us with the necessary information on what we need and how to change. Start by asking yourself what it feels like inside when you experience shame.

  • Is it a sinking feeling?
  • Is it sticky?
  • Maybe it's a churning feeling in your stomach, and you want to run away.
  • Or perhaps it always comes up in a certain situation, or it urges you to do something.
  • Do you shut down and walk away from others?
  • What does your internal dialogue say to you? "Uh oh, watch out, that wasn't the right thing to say. People will judge you. You are a screw-up. Why did you say that?" There's that voice that comes from this emotion—what does it tell you about you and who you are?

Next, differentiate between whether this is guilt or shame to help identify what you need.

Feelings of guilt result in the thought of "I have done something wrong" or the behavior is not helpful. Guilt can be a healthy emotion. It tells us that somehow our behavior was not correct and that we should try something different next time.

For example, if you feel guilty after eating too many cookies, next time you may try to limit the number you eat. That's okay. We make mistakes. Allow yourself to make a mistake, change the behavior, and move forward.

Shame, however, is like quicksand—sinking quickly and struggling against it. Ask yourself, "Do I feel like I am a bad person?"

At times, the act of just acknowledging an emotion (e.g., "I notice myself feeling shame") can help. When I'm working with clients in my office, we attach an image to it. One client described the sensation of sinking in a hole and not being able to find a ladder. When the emotion comes again, we can notice it quicker, and I can say "Emily, you're in the hole again without the ladder," and she knows we are talking about shame.

2. Fail, and try to fail better

Perfectionism is a driving force that often leads to shame. We tell ourselves to do things perfectly and hold ourselves to high and unachievable standards. Although this drive can help us achieve, this drive becomes a problem when we begin to feel like a failure or not worthy when we do not meet our standards.

Perhaps it's a work project, or a friendship or a relationship.

Maybe its what you thought you would accomplish in a certain amount of time.

Or, as a mom, struggling to feel good enough in your parenting decisions (e.g., "I must always make gourmet meals; I need to create fun activities to do with my children all the time").

Shame lurks behind these standards and self-evaluations.

What if instead of trying to be perfect, you tried to make mistakes. That's a framework shift!

Pema Chödrön, a teacher of Buddhism, teaches us to "Fail. Fail again. Fail better." What does this mean? This means that in life, we will never stop failing or stop facing challenges. It is just not possible. It is part of the human condition—one that we all face—that we will at some point fail, or experience something difficult.

Instead of trying to avoid failure by putting these high expectations on ourselves, try allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to show when you are struggling and not getting something, and to just be okay with this. So let go of trying to be perfect, and take those risks that shame has been stopping you from doing!

3. Acceptance and letting go

There are things in life we cannot control. We cannot control events or situations that are outside of us or other people. We also cannot control our thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and feelings are spontaneous.

Yet I so often hear from clients in my office that they want to 'just control' or 'get rid' of their difficult emotions and thoughts. I will let you in on a secret. I would not have a job if I had a way to get rid of your painful thoughts and feelings.

So where does that leave us? Instead of trying to make something go away—which, the more you try to get away from something, the more it finds you—try bringing acceptance into what you are experiencing.

This means that you can hold your thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental manner: they are just thoughts and feelings. Instead of trying to hold on to thoughts so tightly—where instead of telling yourself "I failed… I'm a failure… I'm not good enough… I can't get anything right"—maybe you notice this thought, notice what your mind is telling you, and seeing this as just bits of language put together.

Learning to be aware of your thoughts and feelings and letting these go can be done through mindfulness.

According to author Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is comprised of two components: awareness of one's internal experience as it is happening in the moment, and nonjudgment of the experience.

Through mindfulness, try bringing a sense of openness, kindness, and curiosity to your shame.

Next, imagine putting the thoughts and feelings on a leaf, and then letting the leaf gently float by as if in a stream or caught in the wind.

Mindfulness takes repeated practice, and it is meant to be challenging. Our minds are really good at pulling us away from what is happening in the moment. Try checking out different apps and podcasts that walk you through different mindfulness exercises. My personal favorites are Calm and Head Space.

4. Talking to significant others

We all need and long for emotional validation and connection. We are hard-wired to connect. But shame stops us from connecting with others. Fear comes up for many people at the thought of sharing hard feelings, with thoughts of "what will they think of me?" and "will they reject me?" Yet sharing with our loved ones how we feel is a great way to slay shame. Their empathy and understanding will help normalize what you are feeling, and they might even have ways to cope with it.

To share this hard emotion, you will need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Keep in mind that shame is a human emotion; remember that we all experience this problematic emotion.

Start by setting up the conversation. Let your friend or partner know that you want to talk about something challenging for you. Use first person language, with "I feel…" or "I'm struggling with…" Start by sharing small things.

Often, by opening up to others, we realize that we are not alone in our feelings and that others might be experiencing similar feelings as well.

5. Engage in what you find meaningful

We cannot wholly eliminate shame from our experience. Therefore, it is vital not to let shame stop you from living your life and engaging in what is important. In their book Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Hayes et. al. cite an evidence-based approach for treating anxiety and depressive disorders, posits that we must "ACT:"

Accept (A) what we cannot change

Commit (C) ourselves to what is important in our lives

Take (T) action in what we find meaningful

Perhaps being connected with friends is important—so taking action to meet up with them. Or sitting and playing with your child is significant, instead of feeling shame and worry that they are "not playing in the right way" or if you "did enough" for them today.

Engage in something that brings meaning to you—that fills you up—to help fight those feelings of shame.

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Babywearing allows newborns to be held close to your body and mama to snuggle with their new bundle of joy—but that's just where the benefits begin. When you're toting your baby with the help of a specially-designed carrier, you're also given back the two hands normally reserved for rocking, cuddling and soothing your little one. That opens up a whole new world when it comes to getting things done—particularly for #mombosses who are masters of multitasking.

We asked four of our favorites about the biggest benefits of their productivity hack of choice (babywearing) and how they got it all done using their carrier of choice, BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Free.

It helps soothe babies more easily

Daphne Oz wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Babies benefit from being in a carrier not only because worn babies cry less but also because a soothed baby means they're more likely to catch a much-needed nap. Rachel Zeilic, VP of Influencer Marketing at Who What Wear and Creative Director for fashion line Marjoelle, wore her son, August, in his early days for that reason. "It was a GREAT method to help him get to sleep," she says.

Sleep aside, decreased crying makes a huge difference in your busy days, even if your baby is super easygoing and loves carrier time, like that of Emmy-winning TV host, author and mama of four, Daphne Oz, whose youngest, Giovanna Ines (Gigi), is 4-months-old. "Gigi has always loved to be held. She's a very big baby, so babywearing is essential to give my arms a break. She loves to be snuggled as much as possible, and you can tell [being in her carrier] immediately soothes her. Sometimes she'll drift off or just rest her head on my chest and gaze around."

Mobilizing is a snap

Rachel Zeilic wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

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Like so many mamas, Zeilic needed to get out of the house frequently in those first few weeks for doctor appointments, but she found the sheer magnitude of getting out and getting the hang of a stroller pretty intimidating. Instead, she relied on her Baby Carrier Free and was out and about quickly after delivery. "We left the house from day one and we made a point every day of walking around the neighborhood," she says. "It was much more feasible [for me] than putting him in the stroller and going for a long walk."

Ariel Kaye, the CEO and founder of Parachute, was a big fan of babywearing with her now 11-month-old daughter Lou for the same reason. "Especially as I started to get more comfortable getting out of the house, what started as really short walks and gradually got longer," she says.

Carriers are especially friendly for city-dwelling mamas

Ranji Jacques wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

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Having a baby while living in a big city can be a challenge, but babywearing makes going about your day so much more simple. That's how Ranji Jacques, Fashion Director at Condé Nast, gets around New York City. "Everyone can agree that a baby carrier is a must-have, especially if you're in an urban area," says the mom of two to 3-year-old Diego and 1-year-old Lucienne. Why? Because steep curbs and storefront steps no longer pose a deterrent, and (bonus!) you can keep germ-covered surfaces out of baby's reach.

Take meetings with baby in tow

Rachel Zeilic wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

If you need to phone into the office or are a permanent part of the growing work-from-home mama population, strapping on baby allows you to talk shop and spend time with your little one. "I've honestly gotten so many conference calls and deals done with August in the carrier," says Zeilic.

So did Kaye, who would tote her daughter Lou in her BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Free on walks to Parachute's nearby brick-and-mortar store as not only a way of getting outside, but also checking in with work, too.

Tackle housework + make  errands easier (and feasible)

Daphne Oz wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

When you've got a new baby at home, getting the dishes done or folding a basket of (clean!) laundry is a huge accomplishment. But using the carrier can help you tick off your to-do list while spending time with your newborn. "Babywearing really helped me—like it made all of my everyday [tasks] so much easier," says Kaye, because it gave her back her much-needed set of hands.

Oz agrees that wearing her daughter has been a boon to her productivity. "I try to bring Gigi along whenever I can, since my time at home can be limited and [I'm] often stretched thin trying to get everything in order. She comes along to the market and for coffee and on other errands—and I love to use a carrier in the house so I can keep her with me while I'm heading from room to room putting things in order."

It can provide for everyday teaching moments

Ariel Kaye wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

When you're going about your daily tasks, babywearing provides a front row seat to turn it into an educational experience for the two of you. "It's a special way to be able to communicate with her—I can show her things, touch things," says Kaye. From folding laundry to self-care, opportunities to engage baby can happen anywhere. Just ask Lou, who loves watching mama Ariel do her makeup while happily hanging out in her BABYBJÖRN, a task enjoyed by Gigi and Daphne as well.

Plus, allotting some of your attention to quickie tasks feels more guilt-free when babywearing. "Even though I'm doing other stuff, I can talk to him and narrate what I'm doing," explains Zeilic. "I just feel like it's playing and bonding, versus feeling like I'm sacrificing time with him."

Hello, old favorite activities

Ariel Kaye wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Zeilic and her husband love to use their Baby Carrier Free for hikes—anything under an hour and she'll strap on the carrier, over an hour and Dad's on the job (good thing it's easily adjustable for parents of all sizes). Even if hiking isn't your hobby of choice, resuming your pre-baby favorite activities and feeling more like yourself post-baby is a welcome change to which most mamas can relate, Oz included.

She fondly remembers the sense of confidence and familiarity that accompanied a babywearing outing when her eldest children were a bit younger. "My first, Philomena, was only 20 months old when John was born and still such a baby herself. I remember going out to the beach on a calm day with Philomena to collect shells, and John was strapped next to my chest, snuggly and content. It was one of the first times I really felt confident as a new mother of 2."

You can travel light

Ranji Jacques wearing BABYBJ\u00d6RN Baby Carrier Free

BABYBJÖRN

Working in fashion, Jacques has a tendency to be flanked with a host of accessories or at least a go-to purse, but babywearing has helped her limit the amount she has in tow when out and about. "I strap on baby, grab a bottle of water and my wallet and I'm ready to go," she says. Minimalist multitasking has never been so chic.

This article was sponsored by BABYBJÖRN. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherhood is a juggling act. Whether you have one child or many, work outside the home or don't, have a partner or are doing this whole thing solo, you are always juggling something. So how on earth do we keep up the act? How do we ensure no ball gets dropped?

We don't.

All of us, every single one, lets something slip through our fingers on some occasion or another. And that's totally okay.

A friend from college recently commented on Instagram how peaceful and sweet my children seemed. I laughed out loud, and not an endearing chuckle, a wholehearted cackle. What a glorious and erroneous idea that my children are peaceful and sweet. I have three of these beautiful monsters, ages 12, 5 and 4 months. Our house sounds more like a child run circus than a zen meditation retreat.

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It is true that my children are sweet at times. And I will admit I try very hard to create a peaceful life and home, but those are not the two words I would ever use to describe our family. I might choose words like rambunctious, spirited, passionate and intense.

What I realized as I simultaneously smiled and snorted in laughter, was that I put a lot of work into creating a life on social media that looks just like that. Peaceful and sweet. I choose my words carefully, I edit my photos and of course choose only the best ones, the ones where everyone is smiling and we appear to love each other. The pictures of my children pulling each other's hair, stealing snacks and shouting that they hate each other don't get quite as many likes.

Don't get me wrong—my children often smile and we do love each other very much. But by carefully curating the life I post on social media I have unintentionally created something laughable. What a jolt to realize the very thing I'm striving for makes me laugh out loud when someone names it. Is there anything more inauthentic than that?

I am working to strive for authenticity and perfect imperfection.

I make mistakes, hurt those I love, burn dinner and that is what makes me human.

I drop the ball every single day in some large or small way—and that's okay. It is to be expected really.

It's what can give us the gift of connection. We can connect with one another via our faults and our vulnerabilities. We starve ourselves of this by pretending to be perfect.

As I write this I'm sitting in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of our local skate park, my youngest is napping in his car seat, my oldest is wearing a helmet and pads and is driving his new BMX bike as fast as he can up and down hills and ramps set at odd angles with weird curves among them.

This moment feels ideal t. The breeze blows through my open windows as my oldest is getting a great workout and my youngest slowly wakes up cooing.

We can only enjoy the moment if we are present within it. When I live my life constantly in a state of distraction, constantly keeping my eyes on all the balls I'm juggling, I'm not enjoying any of it.

I am not a master juggler at this moment in life. I don't think what I'm doing even looks like juggling. I do not have my eyes on all the balls, I am not even attempting to catch or toss them all in that perfect arc that looks so magical.

I prefer to relish these kinds of moments, soak up their joy, their peace, their sweetness and to do that I have to let go of the charade, I have to accept imperfection in the form of letting some balls drop.

I want to live a life full of authenticity and joy in the simple moments.

I want to live without the pressure of doing it all.

I want to give myself the gift of not doing everything the way it should be done by the imagined deadlines that cannot be met.

I want to enjoy my rambunctious, passionate children.

So I let the ball drop—and I'm okay with that.

Life

Feeding your new baby can be a beautiful experience, but it can also be really hard. We at Motherly have talked about it. Amy Schumer has talked about it. And now Kate Upton is talking about it, too.

Upton and her husband Justin Verlander became parents when their daughter Genevieve was born in November 2018, and in a new interview with Editorialist, Upton explains that while she loves motherhood she didn't always love breastfeeding.

"Having VeVe has changed my life in such a wonderful way," she explains, adding that in the early days of motherhood she felt "so much pressure"..."to be doing all these things, like breastfeeding on the go—when the reality, for me, was that breastfeeding was sucking the energy away from me. I realized I needed to calm down, to allow my body to recover."

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Breastfeeding can take up a lot of a mama's time and energy in those early weeks and months, and while Upton doesn't explicitly say whether she switched to formula, combo fed, pumped or what, it's clear that she did give herself some grace when it came to breastfeeding and found the right parenting pace by taking the pressure off of herself.

Upton took the pressure off herself when it came to her demanding breastfeeding schedule, and she's also resisting the pressure to keep up with a social media posting schedule.

"I want to be enjoying my life, enjoying my family, not constantly trying to take the perfect picture," she says. "I think my husband wants me to throw my phone away. We talk about it in the house all the time: 'Let's have a phone-free dinner.' We don't want [our daughter] thinking being on the phone is all that life is."

Whether the pressure to be perfect is coming from your phone or from society's conflicting exceptions of mothers it's a force worth rejecting. Upton is loving life at her own pace, imperfect as reallife can be.

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After the treat-filled sugar rush of holidays and birthdays, it can be hard to get back on track with eating healthy as a family. (What can I say, I love cake—and my kids do, too.) It's totally okay to hold your boundary for sugar in your kid's diet, no matter what that boundary is. And you can do it without being the bad guy.

Putting a positive spin on "the sugar issue" (letting kids know that they can have treats sometimes, but not all. the. time.) will help prevent sugar becoming an ongoing power struggle, which nobody wants.

Here are a few phrases that can help your kids eat less sugar, without creating a power struggle over treats:

1. "Holiday and birthday treats are so fun, but they're not for every day."

Acknowledge that all of the extra treats were fun (they were!). You can talk about how some foods are for special occasions and others are the ones we eat every day to have strong bodies and feel good.

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2. "I feel so much better when I eat lots of fruits and vegetables."

Instead of putting the emphasis on why sugar is bad, try focusing on all the good reasons to eat healthy foods. You can talk about how eating carrots gives us strong eyes, eating oranges keeps us from getting sniffles, or eating kale helps us feel good and have lots of energy for playing.

3. "Which fruit would you like to have with your lunch?"

Keep it fun by letting your child choose which healthy foods to eat. Two or three choices are fine. You can let them help pick at the grocery store or let them pick from the options you've selected—the important thing is to offer choice.

4. "Let's see if we can make a rainbow on your plate!"

Who doesn't love rainbows, especially among the under-six crowd? Use their universal appeal to your advantage and encourage kiddos to make their own edible rainbows.

Make it extra fun by writing a checklist with colored pencils, one checkbox for every rainbow color, and bringing it with you to the grocery store. Let your child choose one item from the produce section for every color.

5. "You can choose one treat with dinner, but candy isn't a choice for snack today."

Make sure kids know that they will still be able to enjoy treats sometimes. Instead of saying "candy makes you crazy," or "sugar rots your teeth," just let them know when you're okay with them having a treat. It may be every night after dinner, only on Friday nights, or it may not be until Valentine's Day, but having a clear boundary will help reduce the constant pleas for sweet treats.

6. "I think treats feel more special when we don't have them every day."

Talk to your child about how part of the fun of holiday treats is that they're out of the ordinary. They are special traditions we get to enjoy each year and they help make the holidays feel magical. Just as it wouldn't be as fun if we had a Christmas tree up all year or wore a Halloween costume every day, treats aren't as fun if we eat them nonstop.

7. "I hear that you really want candy. I can't let you have it right now, but it's okay to be disappointed."

Let your child know that you empathize with their feelings about not being able to eat what they want all of the time.

Sometimes children just need to be heard. It might be more important to them to know that you understand their feelings about treats than to actually get a treat.

8. "Let's think of a healthy treat we could get at the grocery store next week."

Brainstorm with your child and come up with a list of healthy treats you could bring home from your next grocery shopping trip. This might be a kind of fruit they haven't had in a while, a granola bar you don't usually buy, or the makings of a fun trail mix.

Part of the fun of treats is the ritual—you can still enjoy the sweetness without the extra sugar.

9. "Would you like to bake with me?"

Carry those fond memories of making Christmas cookies together into the new year to help wean kids off the holiday high of constant treats. Just find something you're okay with your child eating regularly, like a healthy muffin recipe, baked oatmeal, or energy bites—whatever meets your own nutritional guidelines for your family!

10. "I noticed you didn't sleep well when you ate those treats before nap time. Let's think of a better time for treats together."

You can explain the effects of sugar on the body without vilifying it. Sometimes just saying sugar is bad makes it all the more desirable or pits you against your child. But that doesn't mean you can't give them the facts. Just tell them plainly that sugar makes it harder for them to sleep well, makes it harder for them to concentrate, or whatever other effects you've seen.

Here's to a healthy 2020—you've got this, mama!

Learn + Play

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been warning parents not to use inclined sleepers for months now, after a series of infant deaths and an investigation by Consumer Reports led to a recall of the very popular inclined sleeper, the Fisher-Price Rock n' Play.

The Rock n' Play recall led to other recalls, and eventually to the CPSC developing public service messaging asking parents to avoid all inclined sleeping products.

This week the CPSC issued a warning about a specific product, Summer Infant, Inc.'s SwaddleMe By Your Bed Sleeper.

In a statement, the commission explained: "Based on CPSC staff's evaluation of the product, how it is used, and outside expert analysis, CPSC staff believes that the Summer Infant SwaddleMe By Your Bed Sleeper puts infants at risk of suffocation. Although CPSC is not aware of any incidents or deaths involving the Summer Infant SwaddleMe By Your Bed Sleeper, CPSC urges consumers to stop using the product immediately."

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This comes after the Manning report, conducted independently by expert Erin Mannen, Ph.D., a mechanical engineer specializing in biomechanics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She tested and evaluated the design of inclined sleep products for infants and found that "products with inclines 10 degrees or less, with flat and rigid surfaces, are likely safe for infant sleep [and that] soft and plush-like sleep surfaces pose dangers to infants," the CPSC states.

In a statement to Motherly, a spokesperson for SUMR Brands explained the company has already stopped making and selling this product.

"No caregiver has ever reported an injury or death in the SwaddleMe By Your BedSleeper," they explain.

The statement continues: "The company hasn't produced the By Your Bed Sleeper in more than a year, and has no plans to make more. The product is no longer being sold by any major retailers. The By Your Bed Sleeper has significant design differences from other inclined sleepers. The CPSC is developing new rules for this category. We fully support that process, along with any new rules, once they have been set."

It's important to note that the CPSC announcement is a warning, not a recall, but the CPSC still wants a recall. It just has not yet reached an agreement with Summer Infant for a voluntary recall. (Almost all recalls are voluntary, it's rare that the CPSC has to issue a mandatory recall—that only happens when a company can't or won't take part).

Bottom line: The CPSC wants parents to avoid all inclined sleepers.

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