Activists are the most stubborn people in the world: it’s in our job description. Our resilience is what keeps us going, even when the world tells us we are crazy for daring to think differently, for daring to demand change. It is admirable, but sometimes, that same stubbornness we romanticize so much can lead to our downfall.
Without proper self-care, we will end up doing a big disservice to ourselves and our world. Without putting ourselves first, we risk getting hurt. But when you care for yourself, you are not just caring for one person, you are caring for a potential weapon of change. As Audre Lorde once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Here are ways you can practice self-care as an activist.
MANAGE YOUR WORKLOAD
Perhaps one of the most potent triggers that lead to breakdown is stress – emotional and physical. It is natural for activist to take on a lot of duties. After all, there is so much rot in the world that we just want to do all we can to fix it. But we have to be realistic. Each of us is only one person, you cannot do it all alone.
Burning out is a high-risk scenario for activists who do not manage their workload. You overwork yourself and end up falling ill and thus unable to usefully contribute to the cause you are fighting for. You are more valuable to everyone when you are at your peak and that can only happen if you are healthy. So, make sure you are not taking on more than you can handle.
MAINTAIN A SUPPORT NETWORK
The most important part of activism is community. No one-man revolution has ever succeeded in history. There is, indeed, strength in numbers. You should maintain a network of fellow activists who share your enthusiasm and belief in a better world. Hanging out and maintaining conversations with such people will keep you focused and more relaxed, being in a safe environment.
Beyond this, when you feel on the verge of breaking down or burning out, this network can really come in handy. They are the only ones who truly understand what you are going through. Reaching out to your community helps you maintain your sanity. You all in turn have to look out for each other. You are, after all, family in the struggle.
Make sure to take a break once in a while and actually do something that pleases you. We can sometimes get too carried away while fighting the evils and injustice of our society that we forget to live a little.
Spend time with those you love. Pop open a bottle of wine. Binge-watch that sitcom you’ve been hearing about all week. Just do whatever works for you. One individual’s mind cannot stand being pre-occupied with warfare and doom all the time. Try to have fun sometimes, whatever that means to you. There is no shame in taking time out for yourself.
TURN OFF THE NEWS
Finally, if nothing else works, just turn off the news. This is perhaps the hardest for us activists to do: to wilfully disconnect from the rest of the world. It is the exact opposite of the job description, isn’t it? We are supposed to keep track of what’s happening. But if it reaches a point where everything on the news is so overwhelming and places you on an emotional rollercoaster that you cannot handle anymore, just turn off the news and protect your most valuable asset – your mental health.