The Importance of Self Care for Activists
Activists are the ones who aren’t afraid to be on the forefront, who rally the masses and force mass media to report on social issues. Even though people understand the importance of activism, people seem to forget how essential it is for activists to perform self-care and how it can actually make them a better activist. Self-care is essential in particular for activists, since they are surrounded by traumatic situations every day.
When activists don’t take a break from activism it can have drastic effects on someone’s health. Activists can’t die for the cause; people need leaders in order to create more social movements, but that can’t happen if their health isn’t a priority. When self-care isn’t apart of an activist’s routine it can turn deadly - The late Erica Garner died from a heart attack due to the stress on her enlarged heart. Before Garner’s passing, she was an activist who was fighting for justice after her father’s death, Eric Garner. After giving birth to her son she continued to fight for justice, but her heart couldn’t handle the stress anymore and she passed away at the age of 27. Her mother saw that she never stopped and people begged for her to slow down, but she didn’t. Erica Garner’s death should be a reminder that it’s okay to slow down and take a moment for yourself - the activism will go on. So, for the activists, the organizers and social fighters who feel burnt out, here are some tips:
- Listen to your BODY:
The body is the best indicator of mental trauma. Since activists are always on the move and focusing on others most of the time, it can be difficult to realize that trauma has occurred. Take a moment to listen to what your body needs; that might be sleep, food or just complete isolation. The only way for an activist to heal from trauma is to realize that trauma has taken place.
2. Therapy is your FRIEND:
Activism is empowering and it can make someone feel strong, but sometimes this strength can make resources like therapy seem “weak”. When activist burnout takes place, having conversations with an unbiased professional can be extremely beneficial. If having an in-person conversation seems too much there are apps available such as “Moodnotes” and “Talkspace” that provide the same service, just over the phone.
3. Be CONSISTENT in your self-care journey:
Self-care isn’t something that will make you feel 100% if it’s only done once a year — it needs to be consistent in order to be effective. There’s no requirement to dedicate a day for self-care, but whenever the body/mind feels it needs replenishment. This can be once a week or three times a week, or whatever you need to be an effective activist.
4. It’s okay to LOG OFF:
Social media has become one of the tools activists use to spread their message and to rally fellow activists. Most of the time people who use social media tend not to use “trigger warnings” before posting disturbing content, such as police brutality videos, which can take a serious mental toll. Stepping back from social media for a couple of days can be helpful, to take a break from constantly being surrounded traumatic information.
Audre Lorde said it best: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Activists can’t always be the martyr and they can’t always be left with the scars of social activism. Society has to remember that even it may seem that activists have super strength, they’re still human and need moments for themselves. To my fellow activists, it’s okay to take a break and breathe, it’ll only make you better to continue the fight.