Self-Care in the Time of Activism: Looking After Yourself While Standing up for Others

Take care of yourself, too

More and more of us are becoming the one to call out a racist relative at the dinner table or point out sexism in the workplace. While no longer turning a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour is obviously great, it’s important to remember to look after yourself as well. Take note of some steps you can take to look out for your own mental health, while still looking out for other people.

Pick your battles
If your immediate reaction to someone being hurtful or offensive is to take them on, take a breath first and ask yourself: is this worth it? Everyone has a different limit to the amount of stress they can handle, so get in touch with yours and know when to tap out. If you engage with every single Internet troll, you’re going to exhaust yourself and sometimes it’s just not worth calling out your boyfriend’s 98-year-old granny for her problematic comment over Christmas dinner.

Acknowledge where you are coming from
There will be people who give you a hard time for standing up for what you believe in and it’s hard to not take it as a personal attack or get flustered when trying to defend yourself and your beliefs. Practice being mindful about what causes you are passionate about and educate yourself so that you can confidently educate others.

Stick to safe spaces
Know when to remove yourself from a situation when you’re feeling uncomfortable and try not to put yourself in an environment that you know is going to be hard to deal with. For example, avoid a sports bar on the day of a big game if you aren’t feeling strong enough to ignore (or take on) a table of drunk misogynists.

Give yourself a break
Online platforms are very important for spreading awareness and showing support but they can also be a huge drain on your energy. While it can feel imperative that you keep refreshing your timeline for any relevant news to stay on top of things, it’s also important to take a break every now and then. You don’t need to read every comment on a thread if it’s upsetting you. Taking a breather will also refresh your brain, leaving you more prepared to focus on the important stuff and not just the trolls.

Be kind to yourself
You might see other people leading marches, organising funding or just being heroes in general and think that you aren’t doing enough. Remember to be gentle on yourself and that every little contribution to making the world a better place to live in helps. There is value in attending a protest, but there is also value in sending your parents a link to a think-piece on an issue you think they need educating on. Find the method of activism that works for you and your mental state best.

Always prioritise your mental health
If you are secretly struggling while trying to support others, no-one wins. Keep checking in with yourself and your mental state as you move through life. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t push through to be brave for other people. Take care of yourself, first and foremost, because you can’t take care of someone else sufficiently if you’re not taking care of yourself first.

Read more about mental health.

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