As I came through the door after church yesterday–Wear Pants to Church Day–I broke down into tears. I was happy, sad, frustrated, angry, elated, and overall exhausted. After months of online discussion about something as simple as wearing a piece of clothing with a seam between my legs–a piece of clothing that on no other day of the week garners attention or criticism–I
was am, a bit emotionally spent. Since the holidays can often add even more to the activist’s emotional load with Great Aunt Betty who is less than keen on your stance regarding the ordination of women, the next door neighbour who thinks the word feminist is synonymous with baby eater, and your ol’ racist Grandpa who you love dearly but honestly cannot believe some of the things coming out of his mouth, you may find yourself needing a bit of a lift. Here are a few self-care items for the weary activist:
- Take a break: As silly as it may sound, turn off your electronic devices, especially if they connect to Twitter or Facebook. Even if it’s just for a few hours. Know that you can leave the crazy and it will all be there for you when you come back.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Cousin Kelly is going off again about how challenging patriarchy is the devil’s work? Where do you feel the tension creeping in? Your jaw, neck, lower back? Breathe into that space. Focus on relaxing the places of tension. Still feeling piqued? Leave the situation if you can. Go for a walk, get some blood pumping, or go for a drive.
- Give yourself permission to be upset. Something I’ve really struggled with is allowing myself permission to be angry. When I step back, I realize that anger is helpful. I can do something with anger–hence, the activism. But fighting off years of internalizing the message of anger = bad is tough work. Give yourself the permission to be angry, sad, hopelessness, etc. Fighting the oppression of marginalized people takes a lot of work and Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes. It just means that you realize how far there is to go and that you’re keeping perspective.
- Define your boundaries. Mom and Dad just don’t get you or your pants wearing, OW-supporting, PRIDE parade marchin’ ways? It’s frustrating. I know. If you’re home visiting the folks for Christmas, if possible, have a conversation at a neutral point in time to help to set the tone for the rest of the visit. In other words, when you’re both feeling pretty chipper and the buttons aren’t being pushed, this might be a good time to say, “Hey Mom, Dad, I know that you don’t really approve of me being involved with ___________________, but I want you to know I love you so much. I don’t want time spent together to be awkward or tense. Please know that if you have any questions or want to learn more about my views, I’d love to talk about it in a civil way but I’d appreciate it if it wasn’t in front of other people or when we’re having a fight about something else.” Figure out what are your boundaries and then communicate them. This way, if things start to go awry, you can calmly remind them that you’ve set some terms and they’re being violated.
- Do something totally unrelated to feminism/activism. Get together with a friend and talk about that trashy reality TV show you both love. Read a book for fun. Grab ice cream with your folks while talking about how ridiculous it is to eat ice cream in -20F (or head to your beach house and talk about how much you pity the people living in such horrendous conditions).
- Meditate/pray/tap into your spirituality. However you choose to worship God or celebrate Divinity, carve out time and space to be at one with yourself and your God.
- Cry. I know, I know, the world isn’t very nice about the feels. But tears are literally cleansing to our bodies. They help to release built-up toxins, which is why we usually feel better after a good cry. Let ’em loose.
- Have a safe person or space. Not everyone will understand you, your opinions, or your passions. Frankly, you can’t change everyone. When you’re feeling frustrated about so-and-so not understanding, turn to the people who understand you best. Head on over to YMF or fMh to vent and be validated. Text your fellow feminist friend to talk about your latest rage-y encounter. Draw strength from those who have strength to offer you.
What are some of the things you do to practice self-care, especially when the stakes are high?