The subject of self care has come up recently, specifically with regards to political activism. With all that’s happening in the United States since our 45th President has taken the oath, it’s become all too easy to feel overwhelmed. Every day seems to bring new and interesting ways in which the current administration wants to dismantle so many of the environmental, social, and economic successes of the last several decades. We find ourselves in a world of “post-truth politics” and “alternative facts”, with an administration whose relationship with truth is sketchy, at best.
A friend planted the idea of a wellness checklist, so I went looking online to see if I could find anything specific to our current state of affairs. While I found many excellent resources for both physical and mental general health, I didn’t find any material geared towards the mental health of political activists.
What I did find was everything from the simple (take care of your body, do something you enjoy) to the complex (interactive games, multi-page PDF self-assessments), and there were many excellent individual points but none of it was quite enough. So here is my stab at Self-Care for the Political Activist. Please do share this far and wide, because we have a lot of work to do and we can't get it done if we all burn out along the way.
Decide how and where your resources are best spent. You don’t have to do all the things in order to be an effective (or legitimate) activist. If you have anxiety in large crowds, or when talking on the telephone, then direct your efforts elsewhere. Do what you’re good at, whether it’s marching at an event, contacting representatives, engaging friends and family in discussion, or donating to organizations that support your issues of choice.
Decide which issues are most important to you. Think about what you value the most, and what issues align with those values. Pick the top 5 or so, and focus your time and energy on just those.
Set boundaries on the amount of time you spend each day being an activist. This includes everything from reading the news, contacting representatives, organizing or attending events, and even participating in conversations about politics. Remember that this boundary is an upper limit, not a minimal requirement.
Identify your personal trigger topics. If needed, set additional boundaries when engaging on those topics. If there’s a particular issue that hits too close to home, it’s completely OK to avoid engaging, or limit your engagement, if the stress is too overwhelming.
Disengage when you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or hopeless. It is completely OK to take a break, regardless of how near or far you are from your activism boundary that day. Remember that the fate of the country is not resting on your shoulders alone. While you rest someone else is still out there working, and when you’re ready to engage again you’ll be shouldering the burden for someone else who needs a break.
Do something nice for yourself after feats of activism. It can be draining to engage politically, so make sure you take time to recharge. Cuddle with a loved one or pet, watch your favorite movie, get a massage, take a walk along the beach, just do what makes you feel good.
Find or create a support network. There are thousands of groups popping up around the country, where people are gathering to share information, rally for a cause, or create a safe space for like-minded people. If you’re uncomfortable getting together with strangers, find a group online, or get together over tea with some friends. (See the end of this post for resources.)
Check-in with yourself regularly. Are your boundaries set in a good place, or do they need adjustment? Are you doing too much, or do you feel you’re not doing enough? What needs to change, if anything? Daily journaling can be one way to help with these check-ins.
Look for the positive, and pass it along. Don’t just immerse yourself in news of what’s going wrong, but make time to look for what’s going right, and then share that with others. Whether it’s a news article on a court battle that went the way you wanted it to, or a representative taking a stand, or the media standing up for truth above political affiliations. Spread the love, because you’re not going to be the only one who needs to hear some good news.
Make sure you’re taking care of your daily physical and emotional needs. Use the resources at the end of this post to help you take care of all of your needs, because at the end of the day, if we haven’t done basic self-care then we won’t have the personal resources necessary to be effective, engaged activists.
Find others in your area:
More ways to get involved: