Self-Care Sunday: For Activists and Organizers
It is Sunday night, and we inaugurated the resistance this weekend. I have a lot to think and write about, but it will take me some time to process. For now, I'm in need of some major self-care and I'm sure a lot of you are too, so this Sunday's focus is on wellness for activists.
- The basics: These may seem obvious, but enough sleep, food, and water are extremely important for activists. Getting enough sleep before an action can be difficult - I had a 5am wake-up call on January 20th, and was up late planning the night before - but make sure to rest as much as possible after, if not before and during. Fuel up at home before you hit the streets, and bring plenty of snacks and water to keep you (and others) going for as long as possible. Once you're home, re-hydrate, eat your comfort food of choice, and go to bed.
- Know your limits: It's important for your own and others' safety to know when you need to remove yourself from a situation. Develop an awareness of your mental health so that you can make quick decisions about when to stay or leave, and honor your instincts. There is a difference between challenging yourself to get uncomfortable and pushing yourself too far. Staying when you need to leave not only puts you at risk for trauma and burnout, it also jeopardizes your fellow activists by making you an ineffective partner.
- Make mindfulness a habit: Practicing grounding yourself in daily life will help prepare you for stressful or heated situations. There are a million ways to create mindfulness, so choose one that works well for you. Learn breathing exercises, use essential oils, practice yoga or meditation, eat mindfully - all of these strengthen our connection with our body and mind. This connection is powerful, and we can tap into it whenever our activism becomes particularly challenging.
- Cultivate community: Connect with people who support you and your activism. Build community with your affinity group before and after your actions, and hold fellow activists close. My relationships with SURJ members and my action buddy helped me feel safe and supported this weekend, and kept me from feeling overwhelmed in the face of law enforcement and Trump supporters. Connecting with friends and family (chosen or biological) can also be helpful, but be mindful that not everyone in your life will fully understand or support your activism. I felt lonely at times in my preparation for this weekend; it seemed like very few people in my social circles were engaging in activism. Focusing on those who were helped me stay grounded.
- Take a break from all kinds of media: I've been on Twitter nonstop for the past week. Social media is an incredibly valuable source of information and inspiration, but logging off can be so beneficial for our mental health. Stay informed, but take breaks. It goes without saying that limiting consumption of mainstream news media is also helpful, especially when the media coverage is 1. biased 2. infuriating 3. oppressive or 4. all of the above, which was the case on Inauguration Day. I have a hard time unplugging, since I want to stay up to date on others' activism, but it's okay to take a break now and then.
- Stay involved: Staying connected with your affinity groups and the causes you care about will help you stay committed to the movement in the long term. Building strong relationships and steady, consistent engagement will help make activism a joyful and permanent part of your life.
- Choose your own activism: Not everyone needs to be in the streets, and not everyone can be. Even if you love to protest and march, recognize that there might be times when you're not able to do so, and accept that without shame or guilt. Don't shame others for not being in the streets with you, and don't assume that your form of activism is accessible to everyone. The movement needs everyone engaged whenever and wherever possible, and that may look different for you depending on the day or time in your life.
- Laugh a little: Some of the most powerful moments I witnessed on Inauguration Day were when activists from the Movement 4 Black Lives were laughing in the midst of their action. This is not to say that anyone needs to be lighthearted - policing marginalized peoples' anger is a form of oppression - but it was beautiful to see laughter and joy as part of the resistance to white supremacy. Just because activism is vital doesn't mean it can't be fun. If you want a laugh right now, go follow the Twitter handle @PunchedToMusic, which is exactly what it sounds like. And yes, I firmly believe in punching Nazis.
I hope these self-care tips are useful to all the activists out there, and I want to thank you for your work this weekend. See you in the resistance.