7 Simple Acts of Self-Care for the Social Justice Activist
If you work in social justice then you know how common burnout is. I've certainly experienced it myself over the years
We all know we're supposed to put our own oxygen mask first before helping someone else if the plane is going down. But why don't social justice peeps actually do that in real life?
My educated guess is that we are so accustomed to helping others and being committed to the cause, that our reflex is to always put others first. And while it's a noble aspiration, it will eventually backfire. When you are overwhelmed, exhausted, and fed up with the system, it can't help but catch up with you.
As a Life Coach and a social justice activist, I have seen what a lack of self-care can do to a well-meaning warrior. And it ain't pretty y'all !
7 Simple Acts of Self-Care
that will get you back on the horse,
ready to take on the world again!
1. LEARN TO SAY "NO!"
As a former people-pleaser, I know how tough it can be to say no when it feels like everything has to get done right this minute. But how many times have you said "yes" and regretted it? Ooooh, honey! It would take all my fingers and toes to even begin to count how many times I wished I'd politely declined to take on an extra task.
When you keep saying yes to things you know you can't handle it creates a breeding ground for resentment and exhaustion. In fact, saying no on occasion is good practice for social justice activists. We say no to people, policies and legislation we think are damaging for the people we serve all the time. Use that energy to gracefully say no when you need a break. Try it right now. "NOOOOOO! Thank you."
2. ASK FOR HELP
This seems like the logical next step after learning to say "no." Ask for help! Contrary to popular belief, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's a common trait among successful leaders.
Asking others for a hand is a sign that you trust your colleagues or employees to do a good job, which builds trust within an organization. Furthermore, it sets a good example for others who think that activism equals martyrdom. It. Does. Not. Good activism is practicing self-care and allowing fresh ideas to come to the surface, even if they aren't always yours. So let go already!
3. GO TO SLEEP
Yes, it can be that simple. There are zillions of studies out there that tell us getting a good night's sleep is essential for good health and brain function. Whether it's making the decision to head to bed an hour earlier each night, or having a mid-day snooze in your car (yes, I've totally done that), make getting good sleep a priority. Your body will thank you, and you'll have the energy it takes to make a sustainable difference in your work.
Also, chronic yawning during a meeting with your boss rarely inspires confidence or potential for a raise. I'm just sayin'.
4. TURN OFF YOUR ELECTRONIC DEVICES FOR AN HOUR A DAY.
I admit that I'm addicted to my phone. According to Network World, we touch our phones 2,617 times a day on average! WTF??? That. Is. Ridiculous. Ok. Just. Stop. NOW. Y'all know good and well that nothing is that damn important on your Twitter feed. It will still be there in an hour. I promise.
According to Dr. Gregory Marcus of the University of California, San Francisco, using our smartphones, especially near bed time, is associated with "a longer time to fall asleep and worse sleep quality during the night." Ahem. See #2.
ATTENTION: If you are reading this on your cellular device you have permission to read the rest of the article, then turn off yo damn phone!
5. LAUGH MORE.
You know the feeling you get from a gut-busting laugh that makes your entire body shake? Well, that's called self-care! Besides lowering your blood pressure and reducing your stress levels, laughter has loads of benefits you probably didn't know existed.
Call a friend who makes you laugh and let her know you need a boost. Or watch a show that that you know will tickle your funny bone. And for Pete's sake, laugh at yourself once in a while too. Taking your self too seriously is a set up for becoming a Boring Boris. Trust me -- no one invites Boring Boris out for seven dollar frothy coffee drinks at break time.
6. TAKE A DAY OFF. FOR REAL THO.
Go the beach or the mountains. Watch a movie. Take a bike ride. Read a book. Do any damn thing that is NOT work-related so you can rejuvenate your spirit. You cannot live and breathe social justice without a break. It's unhealthy and you don't need me to tell you that. OK, maybe you do since you're reading this article. Seriously though, it's amazing how much inspiration can come to us when we let our brains and our spirits indulge in other thoughts and actions. #wooosaaa
7. WORK WITH A COACH.
So this probably seems like shameless self-promotion, and it is, but coaching is the shit y'all! I am a Certified Professional Coach through the Leadership That Works' Coaching for Transformation program, which is the only program that emphasizes cultural awareness and social change.
Partnering with a professional coach who works in social justice and has cultural competency is an investment in yourself. In general, coaching can work for someone interested in learning how to:
- Set and meet goals
- Get unstuck
- Practice better self-care
- Make a career move
- Be intentional with actions
- Face challenges and learn from mistakes
- Move into leadership
I hope you've decided to incorporate at least one of these simple acts of self-care into your busy life. Don't be a perfectionist and try to do every single one. You don't need to be extra with it. Small changes over time have lasting results! I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere.