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Self-Care | How to Show Up

Art on sweatshirt by: @crystaldrawsstuff | Photo submitted by: @bryceadavis

How To Sustainably Keep Showing Up

Actively showing up for your community and taking a stand for social justice and civil rights on a daily basis can be an incredibly overwhelming undertaking, one that can leave you feeling depleted and run down, mentally, physically, and emotionally. We often feel that in order to contribute to change and be part of the collective voice, we must give it our all and give it in a relentless active way that keeps up the momentum around the fight for equality. Keeping the momentum going is critical, but thankfully this is a movement composed of so many lovely voices that are committed to showing up and this allows for each person to go at their own sustainable pace. 

Time to rest and recover is imperative to activism in so many ways. To put it simply, when you’re not taking care of yourself in a healthy, sustainable way, you don’t have the capacity to contribute your best to the activities and conversations you are needed to participate in. The cause you’re fighting for needs your full support, and that can only be given when you’re taking good care of yourself and meeting your basic needs. Allowing for rest is how we show up fully to the things that matter most in our lives.  

Art on Sweatshirt by: @heyamberrae | Photo by @hayleemazphoto

There can be many ways exhaustion and burnout can affect us, and they impact everyone differently. Some experience numbness and tend to shut out their emotions, while others feel overstimulated and sensitive. Still others find themselves indecisive and overwhelmed. Regardless of how you’re affected, there’s manageable strategies, starting with the smallest of steps, to getting you back to a healthy and empowered space to continue fighting for justice and standing up for your the rights of those that need caring the most.

Actionable Steps You Can Take Right Now:

1.Take a social media break.This can be one of the most important ways to combat the overstimulation that comes from constantly being exposed to violent images and videos on social media and in the news. As we know, the information will all still be there for you when you pull back up your social accounts, so prioritize some time to decompress and offer your mind some relief from the potentially traumatic imagery you’re being bombarded with. This imagery can increase our stress levels as well as our levels of fear and anger and other emotions, which all take their toll on us physically and mentally. Allowing yourself a break, even setting a timer if you have to and staying away from social media and the news during that time, will help you recalibrate and reset. Consider using this time to reflect and see what's coming up for you.

2. Begin a supportive group chat. Another way to actively care for yourself while also caring for others is to create a group chat you can use to check in on each other, offer support, and encourage self-care. This can be used as a space where you can visit throughout the day to check in with yourself and loved ones. Don't hesitate to be candid and share in the emotional heaviness of all this. Everything happening is more than any one person can process on their one. This group chat can be a safe space to keep making sense of things and to be reminded to rest and recover when needed. This will be a long fight! 

3. Validate your feelings. Activism can bring up so many different emotions, from the fear that this is all for nothing to the guilt that we’re not doing enough, and often we are left experiencing these heavy emotions alone. In the absence of immediate support, please remind yourself that there are no wrong emotions during this time and that anything that comes up for you is coming up for a reason and serves a purpose. If you are experiencing trouble feeling your emotions or tend to bottle them up, try reminding yourself that experiencing our emotions not only brings us in touch with ourselves, but allows us to relate better to others, offer compassion and support, and work from a place of passion. Because of this, inviting your emotions is a natural part of fighting for social change and an important one. 

4. Tap into your body. Tapping into your body to help ground yourself can be extremely helpful when we need to get out of our heads and take a break from the constant ruminating thoughts that may be causing us distress. There’s so many ways to do this: a quick exercise session to get your blood pumping and endorphins going, a hot (or cold!) shower to wake up your senses, and measured breathing exercises such as Boxed Breathing (inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and repeat). We can also move from being centered in our emotions to being in our bodies through mindfulness practices such as: naming three things you can see around you, two things you can touch, and one thing you can hear. Really focusing on your senses and what they’re picking up will bring you into the present and allow you a much needed break from intense thoughts and emotions. 

5. Focus on your routines. When under stress, it’s so easy for us to fall out of our self-care routines: morning traditions, resting at night, support groups and therapy, exercise classes, mindful eating, and so on! Moving away from needed routines can leave us feeling ungrounded and make life feel unmanageable. Re-committing to your self-care practices, even if you can only manage one or two, will bring your brain some familiarity and structure during a time of intense emotion and activity. This is one of the best ways we can care for ourselves while fighting for social change because it creates a strong foundation for us to work from, ensuring we can be ready to give our best each day and bring our best to each and every conversation. 

                 Art by @Blessthemessy

The road to social change and equality can feel like an uphill battle, and our mental and physical health can take a backseat to our activism if we don’t prioritize our rest and recovery. Consider mindfully protecting a comfortable and safe-feeling space in your home (or your car or your neighborhood) to sit and decompress. Or consider setting alarms on your phone reminding you to feed yourself every few hours. Or simply, stop reading right now, and give yourself permission to close your eyes and give yourself some warmth and compassion. Remember, every effort you make to care for yourself while fighting for what you believe in will be beneficial to both you and your activism efforts.  

Final reminder: Putting your self-care and recovery first is not selfish and doesn’t distract from the issues. It’s essential to being a powerful part of social change! Remind yourself of this often and take the time you need to continue bringing your best to the fight. We’re behind you all the way!