I have to take a day or two. This week has been overwhelming. Yet another person revealed to be killed needlessly by police. Yet another woman dying in police custody. The names are getting so plentiful that I can’t even keep track of them anymore. And Instagram is just banning anything woman-positive, it seems like. I don’t even know what to do or say about that. They have a serious problem. Top it all off with racist assholes saying shit about how #AllLivesMatter and I just can’t. I cannot. Anymore. With this shit.
So. I’m taking a break. And part of me feels guilty about doing that. Even though I know that self care is important. I feel like I’m leaving the field of battle, or something. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about activist burnout and what you can do to try to keep from getting to the point where I am right now. Because, you know, you should do as I say and not as I do. Because my habits aren’t exactly perfect.
1. Sleep. Seriously. I don’t care how much sleep is normal for you or how you do it, but getting enough rest is really important. I tend to be a dumb ass and play Bloodborne or watch TV until midnight, because reasons. But I really shouldn’t. I’m a much better person when I get a solid 7 or more hours of sleep in.
2. Eat well. Whatever that means for you. Fuel your body with the things you know it needs to make you feel good and energetic. For me, that’s a lot of veggies and making sure I eat breakfast (Which I still haven’t done, as I’m writing this. See? Terrible habits.). Remember that fueling your body also fuels your brain. And the happier your brain is, the more easily you can formulate arguments against people rampant ignorance regarding social justice issues.
3. Take time for yourself. Knit. Or crochet. Whatever. Watch TV. Do whatever it does that lets you settle your mind and get a sense of peace. Do this every day, if you can. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Maybe even try just meditating in silence, if that works for you. Centering yourself before you go into battle is important.
4. Move around a little. I don’t care if it’s just taking a walk around the block or doing a little dance at your computer. Move your body. Get your juices flowing. Turn on some music and dance a silly dance while you clean your house. Sitting hunched over your computer or holding yourself tense in hard conversations both lock you down in ways that you won’t even realize until after you move yourself around and shake yourself loose again.
5. Connect with other activists. I cannot stress this one enough. Having someone to bounce your ideas and thoughts and frustrations off of is really important. Having a safe space to ask questions and get feedback from people with a like mind and social stance to yours will invigorate and validate you.
6. Recognize when it is time to take a break. As much as I feel like a warrior abandoning her fellows on the field of battle today, I also acknowledge that I’m no help to anyone in my current state. I’m too reactionary. Too touchy. I won’t do any good as long as I’m like this. And the sooner that I pull away, the sooner I can recover and get back to it.
7. I also recommend, if you have any excess energy or time, funneling some of your energy into projects that feel entirely positive to you. I cross stitch and write pet poetry, for example. Both of these things are somewhat separate from the social justice sphere (Although my favorite cross stitching piece so far is one that says “Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights.”). Doing those things relaxes me and gives me something entirely positive to focus on and that has been really helpful for me.
I have to keep reminding myself as I focus on my own needs of Audre Lorde’s very wise words: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” So care for yourselves, my lovelies. Because you are needed in the fight. And you are no good to yourself or those around you if you are not fit for battle.