Self-care is an act of resistance

Every morning, I scour websites and social media for the latest news. Headlines regularly tell us about someone being stripped of their rights and attacked for their skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin and disabilities.

It’s clear there’s a lot of work to do. “‘Resist’ is a Battle Cry,” says one of these headlines. One way to resist is with self-care, which is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us,” says Canadian psychologist Agnes Wainman. But how is taking care of yourself an act of resistance?

In battle, the enemy strives to wear down the opposition. Continuous attacks are a strategy to keep advocates off balance. Constantly being on guard, and consistently in a state of high alert, is stressful. If we aren’t careful, we will suffer fatigue and be of no use to the causes we care so deeply about.

Extended periods of stress can result in insomnia, high blood pressure and depression, among other consequences. Over time, these effects could lead to more serious health concerns.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,”  shared Audre Lorde, a civil rights activist, poet and feminist, in the late 1980s.

We are in a battle for our rights and values, and in order to win, we must take care of ourselves so that we can continue the fight. Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen to your body. Sometimes we stay so busy that we drown out any opposing voices, including our own. Your body may be telling you to slow down, drink more water, meditate or go to the doctor. Whatever it is, the messages the body sends will only intensify until we address these issues. 

2. Take some time away from the fight, be it on social media or protest marches in the streets, and make your home a refuge. Declutter so that when you come home from your social justice work, you have a relaxing space to recharge. Plus, decluttering and cleaning can burn calories and count toward exercise.

3. Practice stillness. Once you have a clear space, sit in silence for 5 to 10 minutes or more, and meditate. Think about how you want to feel when you are done. Repeat a mantra or simply relax. You can do it right before bedtime, first thing in the morning or whenever you need calm throughout the day.

4. Take a news sabbath. Spend an entire day every week without looking at the news, which includes social media. You can’t reset without having a moment to step away.

5. Eat well. Your body is like a car and works best with premium fuel. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and stay hydrated with plenty of water.

6. Sleep well. Aim to get enough sleep. Experts say 7 to 8 hours is ideal. Depending on how hard you’ve been resisting, you may need more sleep (hello naps!). Adequate sleep can boost your creativity, so you may wake up with a new idea for how to approach voter registrations or environmental protections.

7. Smile more. Spend time with your loved ones and find opportunities to laugh. Laughter reduces stress and releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Quality time spent with others reminds you what the fight is about: making the world a better place now and for generations to come.

Resist the tendency to get overwhelmed. Resist fighting to the point of extreme exhaustion. Resist the pull to take on more than you can handle. Resist by taking care of yourself so you can live to fight another day.

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