There is a wave of injustice making its way through social media. You feel a burning sensation in your throat and a whole slew of emotions racing through your body and your mind as you read, scroll, and listen. This wave of injustice must be made right. Except this isn’t the first wave. This is a wave that has followed countless other waves, which followed other waves, piling itself on the shore where your feet stand. You look up in the distance and you see fleets and fleets of ships transporting people who became slaves. You look down at your feet and you realize that the consequential ripples and waves are crashing in on your decade, your generation, your country. You decide; you want to do everything in your power to fight with and for those who have and are still living with injustice.
As much as I have seen the country continue layers and layers and years and years of racism and injustice, I have also seen POC and nonPOC step up and begin to fight for POC in the most incredible ways. Learn. Dismantle. Support. These are all incredibly important; and we must also care for our mental health. It is even more vital for activists who are POC to be conscious of their mental health because ethnic/racial minorities often bear a disproportionately high burden of disability resulting from mental disorders.
It is notoriously known that in order to lend a helping hand to the person next to you, you must lend a helping hand to yourself. We must learn to love thyself to adequately love another person, and this includes self-care. It is that strengthening of your inner relationship that will pave the way to activism and the external work of creating change for good that you feel a sense of calling towards. In order to seek longevity in the act of protection and protest as an activist, it is important to listen to the rhythm and cues within, understand stress in the body and how it affects our health, and learn how to care for ourselves accordingly.
“It is that strengthening of your inner relationship that will pave the way to activism and the external work of creating change for good that you feel a sense of calling towards.”
Understanding stress in the body
Stress in the body can be prompted by many different factors. Physical stress can look like high intensity workouts as you max out the nervous system. Emotional stress can look like a season of grief after the loss of a loved one, or tension in a relationship. Mental stress can look like too much work without a break or studying for a school exam. We can also have physical and chemical stress from a poor diet of highly processed food or putting toxic chemicals on our skin.
The more stress factors we have in our lives, the more overloaded our autonomic nervous system will be. The work of activism is the fight to change systems that aren’t working. It is literally to fight for justice. This is not an easy feat and is certainly a huge added stress, yet it is an extremely important one, which is why focusing on mental health for activists is so important. I believe that the more you understand stress in the body as you access your fight or flight mode, the further you will be able to go with your capabilities.
Listening to the cues within
Understanding stress in the body is important, and so is the work of listening to our cues. If we experience stress in the body in any of these ways, it is imperative that we work to balance stress. Because the work of activism is so important, I encourage you to listen to your body amidst your work.
Are you feeling constantly exhausted? Struggling to wind down at night because there is so much on your mind of what to do and how to help? Are you constantly anxious and overwhelmed? Your body may be asking you to care for yourself as you are working to care for others.
“Because the work of activism is so important, I encourage you to listen to your body amidst your work.”
Caring for yourself accordingly
Be sure to care for yourself and your mental health. Boundaries and self-care are going to not only keep you afloat, but support you. Take time off of social media. Know that the work will be there when you are back, and that there are many others protesting and walking with you. Take a day to care for yourself. Journal, connect with nature, meditate, breathe deeply, or go for a long walk. If you are mentally and emotionally exhausted, give yourself the break that you need.
“Take a day to care for yourself. Journal, connect with nature, meditate, breathe deeply, or go for a long walk.”
Mental health for activists is extremely important. I believe we can create change and support the work of others by fighting for ourselves as we fight for and support others. Please comment below and let us know how we can better listen to you and support you. How we can learn, dismantle, and be a place of relearning, caring, and rebuilding.