Self-Care for Activists: 7 Key Ways to Care for Yourself in Times of Social Change
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Being a political activist or human rights advocate can be incredibly fulfilling, yet emotionally and physically taxing work. As much as protesting for change is important, burnout among activists is a very common occurrence.
As the revolution in Lebanon continues, you might find yourself running low on energy; especially if you’ve been keeping up with the news or have been in the streets protesting. There are so many ways to show up for your community and country in times of social change, but in order to have enough energy to continue with activism, it’s important to take care of yourself.
So how do you care for yourself as an activist?
Here are seven key ways:
Be Mindful of Your Language
In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to fall into a negative mindset. As political activists, we’re often exposed to negative media and can be easily swept up in pessimistic ideas, negative thought patterns, and a scarcity mindset.
Your language, and what you focus on day-to-day, impacts your mental health and well-being. So, if what you are focusing on is inherently negative, well, that isn’t exactly sustainable.
To help keep this in check, be mindful of what language you use and how that language makes you feel. If you find yourself in constant negative thought patterns, take time for yourself and try to turn that negativity into more positive or optimistic thoughts.
An easy way to do this is to stop focusing on what you’re fighting against, and instead remember what you’re fighting for. Look into the future and visualize how your activism has made the world a better place.
That’s not to say to not underestimate the current political situation or fail to take the world around you seriously, but rather to not let your mental health slip because of it.
Fact Check Your News (And Regulate Your Social Media)
We live in an era where media is polarized and misinformation (and disinformation) spread like wildfire. There are pieces of media constantly being put out into the world that are either misinformed, politically slanted, or created with a specific agenda in mind.
So much of this media is intended to be a scare tactic, and it’s easy to fall prey if you’re not informed. In fact, according to Psycom, fake news is having a tremendous impact on our mental health in the forms of “headline stress disorder” and increased instances of anxiety.
Never underestimate how powerful being well-informed, or regulating your use of social media altogether, is for your mental health, especially as an activist. These strategies will help you get a well-rounded view of every situation, yet give yourself time away from the headlines to recalibrate.
When looking to inform yourself with the events currently happening in Lebanon, stay ahead of the curve — fact check the news, and look at every angle with as much clarity as possible.
Know Your Values
Before you find yourself in a situation in which you have to stand up for your values, it’s a good idea to really define what those values are. To do this, check out this list of over 200 values, and decide which of these are most important to you.
What aspects of life do you hold near and dear? What are you willing to stand up for?
While you do this, keep in mind that just because you have a certain set of values doesn’t mean that someone else’s contrasting values are wrong. Just because someone has a different set of values than you doesn’t mean that theirs are any less valid.
We’re all in this together.
Boundaries are essential to honoring ourselves and our needs, especially during times of political change. In order to fully process what’s happening in your country or city, set boundaries and be clear on what behavior you will or won’t accept out of yourself and others.
According to Dr. Nicole LePera (The Holistic Psychologist), there are 5 boundary areas that you need to consider in your life:
· Emotional boundaries – These boundaries include not discussing topics that you consider inappropriate, what you will or won’t accept when someone dumps their emotions onto you, and how you react when someone dismisses your emotions.
· Material boundaries – These boundaries deal with your possessions, including when they can be used by others and how they are treated.
· Time/Energy Boundaries – These boundaries involve the value of time and how you give your time to others — including concepts such as lateness, when you can be contacted, how you do favors, and free labor.
· Mental boundaries – Mental boundaries include retaining the freedom to have your own thoughts, beliefs, values, and opinions.
· Physical boundaries – Physical boundaries deal with proximity, touch, PDA, and comments regarding appearance or sexuality.
If you have a friend that is in a constant negative mindset about the Lebanese revolution and uses you as a sounding board, put up a boundary. If people are texting you all hours of the day and night expecting you to answer right away, set a boundary. If ideas and thoughts are being pushed on you that you don’t agree with, set a boundary.
Essentially, check in with yourself every time someone else’s behavior impacts you negatively. What about this behavior bothers you?
You are absolutely allowed to give yourself to the revolution, but without setting boundaries, chances are you’ll quickly get burnt out.
Allow Yourself to Feel
During the course of any given day, we’re often in situations where we feel the need to stifle our emotions – whether that emotion be anger, sadness, joy, or something else. In our society, we’re taught that being stoic is a sign of strength.
However, suppressing emotions often has adverse effects, usually in the form of them bubbling under the surface, or by us becoming overwhelmed.
In order to show up for your emotions, allow yourself to feel them — even if you do this after the initial trigger has passed. Every night before bed, lie down, close your eyes, place your hand on your heart, and run through all the events of the day that made you feel something you couldn’t express in the moment.
Allow yourself to feel these feelings. Don’t shy away from them even if they’re unpleasant.
Feeling our emotions, and then letting them pass with love, is an excellent release exercise.
Sometimes, just closing your bedroom door and having some “me time” is the best healer of all.
We at The Wellness Project have always been great advocates of meditation, and these principles hold up strongly during times of great social change. In order to keep momentum as an activist, it’s important you take time for yourself and clear your mind.
To do this, either go for a long walk in nature, meditate, listen to some soothing music, or write in a journal.
If you’re still unsure about the benefits of meditation, then check out these 5 Reasons You Should Incorporate Meditation Into Your Self-Care Routine.
Find Your Tribe
As an activist in this revolution, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The people of Lebanon are bound together during this time, and no matter where you are, there will always be someone who you can talk to.
Because sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is call someone up so you can figure things out together. Make dates with old friends, talk about the situation to your partner, and find like-minded people that you can converse with.
Alternatively, find a licensed therapist who you can talk to. Therapists are great resources for letting out your feelings, understanding yourself and your behavior, and for learning about your values.
Thanks for reading this list of self-care tips for activists! How have you been practicing self-care during the Lebanese revolution? Let us know in the comments!
As the author of this article, I’d like to note that although I’m not Lebanese, my heart is with the people of Lebanon during this time. This article was put together using my personal experiences, a variety of sources, and with the help and guidance of The Wellness Project team currently in Lebanon.