Caring For Yourself As An Activist

"Anyone who is interested in making change in the world, also has to learn to take care of herself, himself, theirselves"

― Angela Davis

*trigger warning*

In this post, we will be discussing Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian peoples. We join our readers in grief and express solidarity with Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora.

Please remember to always prioritize your own wellbeing when reading information. This post will not include images that may be triggering for those with loved ones in Palestine and also to honour the dignity of Palestinian peoples.

In the last few weeks, our worlds have turned upside down. We are inundated with images, infographics, ad heart-wrenching footage of the atrocities being committed against Palestinian people.

Time has also revealed the power of social media. Where mainstream media failed us and downplayed the truth, social media rose to the occasion, forcing the world's eyes on Palestine and insisting that we should not look away.

What is happening in Palestine is reprehensible, and highly traumatic.

Yes, traumatic. As we share, educate, boycott, protest, and even raise our hands in prayer, it's important to pay careful attention to our mind and bodies.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you engage in activism:

Do I need to replenish my mental and emotional resources?

When is the last time I allowed others to support and hold space for me?

Do I need to eat, sleep, or take a mental health break?

Doing these check-ins regularly is important because as we engage more deeply in activism, our bodies may be in fight-or-flight mode.

In this post, we will go over several tips for:

  • Supporting our nervous system in its regulation
  • Channeling those challenging and intense emotions

We can both use our emotions and regulate them! Here is how.

Regulating Your Nervous System During Heightened Injustice

Lately we are experiencing justified anger, sadness, grief, and a sense of helplessness. There are a few ways we can help our nervous system grapple with these challenging emotional states,

These emotions can be directed towards our activism: protests, donating, posting and creating content to raise awareness. Simultaneously, it is important to notice the impact of the stress response on our body. Channelling our emotions does help release them. However, given the intensity of this evolving circumstance, we may also wish to rely on body-centred practices to help us cope.

1) Breathe Through It

The power of breath is not to be underestimated! The key element of this practice is working on extending your inhale and exhale. You may find this practice helpful when scrolling through social media or regulating heightened emotions and energy after a protest or demonstration.

Deep breathing can also be helpful when we are engaging in conversations with people in our lives about this issue. We cannot always predict the outcome of these conversations or even peoples' point of view. When you feel frustrated by what you cannot control, breathe through it.

2) Connect With What Is Solid And Accessible

As you scroll through social media, see if it is possible to connect to a supportive surface near you. A simple example of this is connecting directly to the seat underneath you.

Focus on the solidity of the seat underneath you. Alternatively, make contact with a back rest or the wall behind you, or lay down and notice the support of the floor beneath you.

The purpose of this practice is to literally ground us. It serves as a reminder that we can access safety in the environment around us

3) Using Supportive Weights

Next time you feel overwhelmed, try pressing a weighted, comforting object against your torso. This can be a pillow, a blanket, or even a person in the form of a hug.

Try noticing what happens in the body as you press the comforting object against you- do you feel more settled?

If you are feeling particularly anxious and activated at night, you can extend this principle and try a weighted blanket.

4) Find Solidity In The Body

Our own bodies can help soothe and ground us. Try pressing up and down your arms as if you are giving yourself a hug. Place one hand over your heart and one hand over your belly (right over the top of your belly button) and notice how this feels for you.

Here is a reel to summarize it all:

Channeling Our Emotions During Heightened Injustice

Now that we have a few body-based practices to help regulate our nervous system, let's discuss how we can channel justified anger, sadness, grief, and helplessness in healthy ways that help increase our capacity to engage in activism.

1) Channel Anger Through Physical Movement

Movement can be anything- run, jump, engage in long exhales, stretches. Whatever allows you channel anger into physical energy.

2) Validate Your Sadness And Grief

Channel your sadness and grief into seeking validation and support from others who are capable of understanding or holding space for your pain.

Connect with people who can help soothe these feelings and not rush you through them.

3) Use Your Days For Pleasant Activities

Temporarily exiting the strong emotions can be a way of channeling them too. Engage in pleasant and even distracting activities that act as a temporary soft landing spot for your mind. Examples include going for nature walks, volunteering to help a friend with a project, or dedicating a few hours to making a good meal.

4) Use Your Unique Voice And Blessings

Channel your emotions in a way that only YOU can. If you are artistically inclined, express yourself through art. Do you find comfort in writing about your feelings of fashioning feelings into poetry? That is your power.

Perhaps you have access to privileges and blessings that others may not- leverage this. Or maybe your voice has a farther reach due to social media followers or your level of influence in the community- be louder with it.

Wrapping Up

Below are but a few excellent carousel posts filled with powerful reminders and tips to prevent activism burnout.

We are sending you all meditations of peace and hoping that you find it within you to care for yourself in this extremely difficult time.

Your voice and efforts matter so much. In the same breath, so does your wellbeing. The two can co-exist harmoniously, if we let them.

Until next time!

Zainib Abdullah

WellNest Psychotherapy Services