Today, I’m honored to share a guest post by Nancy G. Shapiro, the author of The Book of Calm: Clarity, Compassion and Choice in a Turbulent World. In it, she delves into the practice of “fierce” self-care: what it means (a definition I absolutely love!); why it’s so important; and where you can start.
The practice of fierce self-care requires each of us to become the protector of our own well-being. As I’ve learned to take care of myself in this way, and listened to clients describe their own experiences, the image of a mama bear fiercely protecting her cub has been a guiding image— the mama bear representing each of us (male or female), the cub a symbol of this newly emerging practice.
Like a young bear romping through the woods and fields of its home and sometimes wandering too far away from its mother, our thoughts can make us wander away from our best intentions. Procrastination—excuses such as I don’t have the time, or other disempowering thoughts—puts our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health at risk.
A client wrote that she liked fierce because of its energy, the word giving the concept of self-care “a kick-ass feel to it, an edginess that gives it power.” Protecting ourselves from the detrimental habits that can so easily derail our self-care is indeed a fierce endeavor.
The Importance of Self-Care
My friend Katie has a disease called Hereditary Angioedema. Because of the low fluid-regulating enzyme level in her body, her symptoms of facial, abdominal and leg swelling can be debilitating. She wrote me, describing how the full-blown attacks require her to lay down because she can’t see, can’t stand, or breathe.
“All of these symptoms are precipitated by stress and allergy to food. Being a psychotherapist I see up to 7 patients a day 4 days a week and as much as I love it and it is my life’s work, it is challenging. Add in being married, with young kids, and not wanting to miss all that life has to offer, I MUST have intense self-care,” she emphasized. “This is why I run. Chi-running does help with circulation and regulating the fluid in my body but it also brings me to that mindful place, that calm place that reduces my stress and gives me peace to start each day fresh. . . . I use my running as meditation medicine.”
Katie’s fiercely intense self-care adds up to an average of between 30-45 miles per week, plus weight training. We are aerobic organisms that constantly need to absorb and transport oxygen through our cells, in a process called the Krebs cycle. This cellular respiration generates energy that is used by metabolic and other biochemical reactions; physical exertion helps provides that oxygenation of our cells so important to our bodily functions. As Katie says, the running not only helps her circulation and fluid regulation, it allows her to reach a mindful and calm place at the start of her day.
Physical exercise is not the only self-care practice that can take us to that peaceful place. When we enter into some aspect of our self-care practice, be it gardening, dancing, painting, or tai chi, we are also disengaging from the routines and stress of daily life. This disengagement allows our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves to relax, renew, and revitalize in countless ways that can include sudden insights, a long-sought clarity or peace of mind, creative and physical ‘flow,’ a quieting of our grumbling thoughts, and a lessening of anxiety or other unease.
With fierce self-care as a mindful practice, we become increasingly energized, responsive, and empowered, and simultaneously calmer.
How to Begin
To create your own self-care practice, take some quiet time to ask yourself questions about what you want to change regarding the health of your physical body. Feeling stronger and more energized physically also energizes and strengthens the compassionate resolve needed to change other aspects of your life. Be honest with yourself, and listen to what your physical self, your heart, your intellect, and your intuition are saying to you.
Where do I feel constricted physically, mentally, and emotionally? What in-place habitats and small actions am I not using to my benefit, i.e., taking five minutes for a daily gratefulness text with a friend? How do my negative thought and behavior patterns keep me in a rut? How strong is my support system, including my spiritual practice?
As you listen, begin to create a self-care practice that is personal, realistic, flexible, and fun—a fierce caring for yourself that fits who you are at this moment in time, and says ‘Yes’ to your future self.
Beyond Personal Self-Care
When he was only twenty-four, Winston Churchill wrote, “. . . Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before…”
The more we articulate and listen to what we are feeling about our lives, the more we know ourselves. The best moments in my coaching practice are those times when a client has a sudden insight, or hears a small yet powerful voice long suppressed, or writes to me after reading my book that a paragraph shed light on a difficult challenge. To be witness to a person finding their own wisdom is an honor—often the moment brings tears, or a great belly laugh, a long silence, or a rush of elation—a sacred moment when self-knowing segues into personal clarity. We are not only given a priceless piece of ourselves at such times. Our expanded, healthier self and all we do from this moment on will now ripple out into the world in unexpected, wonder-filled ways.
As I write in The Book of Calm, “When we practice fierce self-care, we feel it powerfully, deeply, and intensely. We grow closer to our passions and our calling, and to the frailties, strengths, and the surprising resilience of our physical selves. We become ardent—enthusiastic, eager, and committed—because we know in our core that this fierce caring is needed, not only for ourselves, but also for those we love and for the world.”
Nancy G. Shapiro advocates calm as a Professional Certified Coach, blogger, workshop leader, and author of The Book of Calm: Clarity, Compassion, and Choice in a Turbulent World (She Writes Press, 2017). Her expertise is supporting people through the inevitable shifts of personal and professional transitions, while celebrating their resiliency, spirit, and wisdom. Nancy lives with her husband in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Learn more and connect with Nancy at: https://www.nancygshapiro.com; https://www.instagram.com/nancygshapiro; https://www.facebook.com/ngshapiro.