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There are many different kinds of activism, and they can vary in efficacy. Some self-proclaimed activists are more comfortable writing columns from the comfort of the local coffee shop (which is exactly what I am doing right now).
Others are ready to picket and protest or believe in the power of government and petitioning. Some think the best way to change the world is through small steps, and some believe these issues are urgent.
Whatever you are passionate about, and however you choose to be an activist, you need to remember self-care.
My personal definition of self-care is the following: pushing yourself out of your comfort zone when safe and able, but remembering your personal well-being, physical and mental health, and overall happiness comes first.
As nice as this sounds, it can be easy to forget for a good reason. Whatever social justice issue you are passionate about, there is likely a reason why you are so devoted to the cause. It could be because of your own experience with the issue or because someone you love has been affected by it.
No matter why you find passion and drive in a certain social justice cause, there is a good chance that, if you are anything like myself, it comes from a very personal place.
When injustices occur, it is not easy to become emotionally detached; in fact, no one should ever ask nor expect you to become distant from the emotions that arise. Feelings of frustration, anger, and disappointment cannot be ignored or silenced.
That being said, we also cannot forget to care for and let ourselves feel these emotions.
In the midst of these experiences, it is easy forget how we, personally, become affected by injustices.
To focus on body image activism, I find I forget about self-care while trying to promote positivity. I may talk about loving my body to the people around me without actually being able to experience it. This is something I am working hard to fix, but it will not come easy.
The first way I am working on self-care is by trying to recognize the moments when I need to take a break.
This might mean taking a hot shower, buying myself a good cup of coffee, or watching a movie with friends. Whatever a “break” is to you, even if it is only for an hour, give yourself those little moments of peace.
For me, this not only helps my mental health, but it allows me to approach these issues better. It gives me a chance to breathe, regroup my thoughts, and grow.
The second way I am working on self-care is by talking about the issue with like-minded people.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who have incredible insight on social justice issues. By engaging in these conversations, I learn to take a break from speaking and begin to listen. This allows for open, honest discourse and a chance to learn something new about an issue I may have previously had a difficult time approaching.
Listening to and learning from others is a key to self-care for me; it reminds me I am not alone and is a friendly reminder of how much I still have to learn.
These are only two forms of self-care I find work for me. Whatever the phrase “self-care” means to you, it is only important that you engage in it.
Take care of your being, both physically and mentally, and remember to love yourself as you love others.
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