Are you tired? Exhausted even? If you have been watching the news, ever but especially recently, and you are a caring individual, you probably are. If you are someone who can’t watch injustices and do nothing - someone who gets out there and raises awareness, advocates, and tries to make a difference – you are probably at, or nearing your breaking point right now. I know I am.
I’ve always been an empath. I’ve always been an activist, or at the very least an advocate and ally, but I don’t ever remember it taking a toll like this. Wherever I turn, I see atrocities I can’t – won’t – ignore. The images and stories I'm seeing in the news and my newsfeed weigh heavily on my heart. They make me boil with rage. They implore me to grab my metaphorical bullhorn and get on my weary but firmly-planted feet.
Each day, I get up and actively fight sexism, and racism, and homophobia, and bigotry, and assault, and violence, and terrible politics, and injustices of all kinds, to me, to my loved ones, to humans anywhere. It is my privilege and responsibility to do so, and I take that very seriously. But I’m exhausted. And I know my activist friends are too.
Activism takes a physical and mental toll when it is constant, no matter how strongly you feel about the cause. For my sake and those like me, I’ve put together some ways to help take care of yourself while you’re taking care of others.
Whenever I think, “I need to take a break from this,” I remind myself that the ability to take a break from this is a privilege for which I should be grateful, and then I feel guilty for taking one. Stop it. Short breaks are a privilege, but taking a short break to recharge before re-joining the fight can be necessary. You’re no good to anyone if you burn out.
Turn off the TV, the computer, and the phone. Not forever, just as long as you’re comfortable with. Even an hour helps. These devices are important tools for activists; they are how we both stay up to date, and how we get our messages out. But they can be all-consuming, and it can be overwhelming to be bombarded with heartache wherever you turn. It’s okay to get off the grid from time to time.
Admittedly, for me this is a “do as I say, not as I do.” I need this reminder for myself as well. But there’s no denying that healthy eating, staying hydrated, and getting a proper amount of rest help fight the exhaustion that comes with the war on injustice.
On the flip side, sometimes you just need to do something that feels good. Yesterday, for me that was Reece’s Pieces and a fun podcast. For you, it can be anything you enjoy. Read a book. Watch a mindless TV show, listen to music, go shopping, anything that makes you feel good and isn’t self-destructive.
I had a discussion with a friend today about feeling guilty posting funny things to social media with so many more important things to talk about. The thing is, our brains need good thoughts too. Have you noticed that inevitably after a funeral, families and friends end up laughing together? It’s a release, and it’s needed. It’s okay to still find things funny, and to make others laugh.
Use that rage and sadness to advocate of course, but when you’re feeling those emotions and need a break from active protest, put it into something productive. Play a sport or do something active. Write something. Paint something. Play music. Find a useful catharsis.
If you are an activist, chances are you have friends who are too. If not, you can certainly find like-minded people on social media. Talk about your frustrations to others. Check in on each other, see how everyone is holding up.
We all have them. Admitting you need to take a step back for a moment is not a weakness, it’s being respectful of your own well-being. Take a step back then jump back in when you are ready to pick up the torch again.
There is so much out there to fight for. There are so many people who need our help. We can never fully stop advocating for ourselves and others, but we have to be mindful of not losing ourselves in the process.
Keep fighting. Never stay silent. But take care of yourself while you do it.