Self-Care for Those Who Care Too Much

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t really want to write a post for today.  It’s not that I don’t love this.  It’s not that there aren’t a million and five things that need talking about.  Honestly, between Trump(doesn’t)Care, the varying degrees of screwed up that come with CashMeOusside Girl‘s fame, and a fucked up (super racist) thing that happened at a high school I happen to have a very personal connection to, I had a lot to say.  But truly, I found myself exhausted.  I found myself physically and emotionally exhausted.  And I didn’t want to write at all.

So, I took the day off (mostly).  The only problem?  I didn’t, really.  I found myself continuing to engage and continuing to seek out news that I knew was going to depress me.  I found myself reading about how many older adults are going to suffer if this healthcare bill is passed.  I found myself reading about the young, black Muslim kid who was likely lynched in Washington state.  I found myself responding to the plethora of Twitter TrumpTrolls who truly believe that white genocide is a thing and that Trump is here to save them.

Needless to say, I didn’t really feel rested.  I didn’t feel like I had done what I intended, which was to engage in self-care.  I mean, how can you both care about all of the issues and ALSO at the same time pause to care for yourself?  How do you even do that, right?  The truth of the matter is: it is imperative that you do that.  If you do not, you cannot fully care for others.  I made this mistake as a teacher.  I make this mistake as a friend and as a family member.  And it leaves me frustrated and burnt out.  As they say on airplanes, put on your own air mask first and then help those around you.  Because what good are you if you’re tapped out, right?

SelfCare-Colored

So this post is decidedly a demand for each of you to engage in self-care.  Yes, a demand.  The role of an activist in today’s world is both vital and indispensable, but it is also really fucking hard.  And if we are going to do it (which we must), we must remember to engage in self-care.  Below are a few items of advice that I should probably take myself.  I would definitely be interested in how each of you take care of yourselves, too.  So please, reach out and share via comments, messages, carrier pigeon… whatever.

  1. Disconnect.  I mean turn your phone off.  Turn your laptop off.  Find a quiet space and do something that makes you fulfills you and only you.  Is there a book you’ve been dying to read?  A creative piece you’ve been meaning to write?  A painting you’ve had forming in your brain?  Do it.  Take a break from the virtual battles we wage every day and reconnect with yourself.
  2. Reconnect.  There are people in your life who love you.  There are people in your life who have probably been asking you when you sleep and telling you to remember to take a break.  These people probably miss you when you’ve fallen deep into a tunnel of trolls and gotten yourself all riled and sad.  Call these people.  Grab a cup of coffee with one.  Or two.  Take a break from saving the world to nurture your friendships because this, in turn, will nurture you.
  3. Make time. Stop saying you’re too busy for that 15 minute coffee break.  Stop saying there’s no time.  There’s time if you make time.  Seriously, find an hour a day to make your own.  Use it to do something that lifts you.  This might sound like number one, but it doesn’t have to be.  Are there funny videos you love watching? Watch them.  Is there a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on?  Watch an episode or two.  Is there a super feminist, politically woke workout class you’re obsessed with (#guilty)?  Go go go!  Treat this hour a day like it is part of your job.  Treat it as if it is something you cannot live without.  Treat it as if it you would be a failure as an activist if you didn’t do it, because it is possible that you would.
  4. Feed yourself. No, but seriously, eat something.  And not just anything.  Feed your body as if it is carrying you through some of the most challenging times of your life because it is.  So this doesn’t mean a burger on the go as you run to the subway.  It doesn’t mean a granola bar and some string cheese for lunch (#guiltyagain).  I mean give yourself real, wholesome, nutritious food.  And before you say you don’t have time, read #3.
  5. Drink water.  It makes sure your body runs the way that it should.  You’ll have more energy and you’ll feel a million times better.  I think the rule is like 8 glasses a day?  I try to drink at least 72 ounces.
  6. Sleep.  And do it away from your phone.  Stop scrolling those twitter feeds as you’re trying to fall asleep; it’s not healthy and it doesn’t help.  If you need to, put your phone in another room altogether and get an alarm clock.
  7. Learn to say “no.”  Say no to an organizing event.  Say no to a rally.  Say no to a project.  Say no to a party.  Say no.  It is OK to feel like you can’t take on anymore right now.  You are doing enough.  You have done enough.  And there will be more to do tomorrow.  So say no when you need to because you’ll be no good for anyone if you’re spread too thin.
  8. Remember: you are not alone.  We are all in this together.  Lean on us.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, call a fellow activist and lean on her.  Don’t feel bad about it.  Don’t feel like you’re burdening her.  This is hard and we need each other.  One day she might need to lean on you.  So lock arms with your fellow reSISTERs and hold one another up.  Together, we’ve got this.

This is my advice.  It is, by no means, exhaustive.  There are other lists out there that also give amazing advice.  Find one you like, read it, and then do it.  Either that, or make your own.  As Audre Lorde said,

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

This is war, friends.  Don’t forget it.

 

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