Today on the podcast I want to share some thoughts and ideas around self-care for activists. Whether you consider yourself an activist, advocate or simply discuss highly-charged topics, this episode is for you.
As well as sharing self-care tips I also discuss coping in an unjust world and share another podcast recommendation to take this work deeper.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading
- How to find your self-care motivator
- Where to get help (list of mental health support numbers/orgs to share)
- How to build a positive relationship with social media
- Self-care for carers
- How to protect your energy as an empath
- With purpose podcast by Madeleine Onstwedder
Hello everyone, how are you doing? This episode is going live the day after my 35th birthday so hopefully I’ll be full of cake by the time you listen. 35 has felt like a big birthday. I think this combined with the pandemic has led to quite a lot of existential thinking – you know, why am I here, what do I want from life, all that fun stuff. I’m definitely still in the midst of letting all that settle and figure itself out… but I have a pretty good idea of how I’d like things to look one day and for the first time since my Blue Jay burnout I feel genuinely excited about this area of things again.
In fact I just finished recording my very first audio course which is going to be available on Listenable, which is a subscription service where you get access to lots of different audio courses. It feels like a really natural extension to this podcast and I’m so excited to see it out in the world. If you want to keep up with when it’ll be available, I’d recommend signing up to my newsletter as I’ll likely share more here.
And on top of this I’ve given thought to my wider purpose. If you’ve followed me for a while then hopefully you’ll know that I believe when we grow as people, society grows as a whole. I truly think the self-development work we do has a profound impact but we have to be mindful of others around us.
For example I mentioned in the last episode on self-expression that not everyone has the ability to express themselves safely. Being aware of social justice issues and keeping this in mind in my work is a core part of what I do – I’m far, far from perfect in this area, but I’m learning.
So today I wanted to focus on an area that can be overlooked for those of us in this boat – self-care for activists and also how to cope in an unjust world, because wow – the world can feel pretty unjust sometimes.
Now, the word activist can be pretty loaded and some of us don’t feel entirely comfortable with it. Even if the word activist doesn’t ring true for you, if you consider yourself an advocate or you discuss highly charged topics like social justice or mental health regularly, then this episode is for you.
While I don’t truly think of myself as an activist just yet, I like to think I’m pretty aware of social justice issues, I do take action (though I’d like to take more) and I do try and prompt others to do the same. I do however feel like somewhat of an advocate when it comes to mental health and try to voice my opinions on the subject, including talking about my own experiences. And while I’ve found being open about all of this to be a passion and something I love, it doesn’t come without its challenges.
Work of this kind, activism or advocacy opens you up to a lot. You may get messages from others sharing their experiences with the topic you’re discussing. You may get criticism. You tend to become more aware of injustices happening and find it overwhelming.
All of this can take its toll emotionally, making it imperative that you look after yourself. Ironically, a lot of activists and advocates find it difficult to take time for themselves, feeling the need to ‘do the work’ or support others more.
If you’re in this position, I’ve put together a few self-care tips to help you do the work and do it from a place of energy and love, not exhaustion.
The first thing I’d suggest is to make this your self-care motivator: “I look after myself because I deserve it and also so I can look out for others”
Really pinning down your self-care motivator is essential and as cliche as it sounds, it really is about not being able to pour from an empty cup in this case. In order to have the energy and the capacity to do what you do, you need to look after yourself.
So next time you find yourself arguing in your head about whether or not to take a day away from social media or to turn down an invitation, remind yourself that you need this time to recharge so you can be 100% present in the future.
The next thing I’d say is to protect your energy. Try to get aware of what you find draining and create some boundaries around that. For example, if people tend to message you about their mental health and you know you aren’t qualified to give advice but don’t want to ignore them, create a message you can re-use that links to support numbers (there’s a really helpful page on Happiful that lists support numbers and organisations, I’ll share the link in the show-notes).
If being on social media and seeing too much upsetting or frustrating content drains you, remind yourself it’s OK to take breaks. In episode 31 I talk about creating a healthy relationship with social media and for a lot of us – that involves taking breaks. Read a book that’s totally unrelated to the topic you advocate for, watch a film, chat with friends.
Remember – your social justice work is a part of you, not all of you. It’s great to be passionate about this work of course, but it’s also OK to celebrate the other parts now and then.
And finally – lean on your support system. You may be more used to being a support for others, but it’s important that you have support yourself. Chat to fellow activists about how they wind-down, talk to your community about how you’re feeling. Spend time with people who ‘get it’ and let them hold you for a while.
And for those times when things feel unjust, try to process your feelings in a healthy way. Honour the rage and anger you’re feeling and give it some space. This may look like journaling, creating art or even talking to a professional. Cultivating some sort of mindfulness practice can be helpful too, something that grounds you to the present moment can stop these emotions from completely overtaking you.
If you’re finding yourself caring for others regularly in your work, you may find a piece I wrote for Happiful about self-care for carers helpful. Or, if you consider yourself to be particularly empathetic, I have another piece on protecting your energy as an empath which may be worth reading – I’ll pop the links to these in the show notes which you can find at bluejayofhappiness.com/podcast.
I hope these tips were helpful, I’d love to hear from you if you have any other tips for taking care of yourself as an activist – come and chat on Instagram. And if you want to go deeper into this topic I would highly recommend the ‘with purpose’ podcast by Madeleine Onstwedder – the entire podcast is dedicated to supporting those who want to show up for themselves as much as they do for the people and causes they care about and the first season is about self-care, I’ve learnt so much from it myself.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the last episode of this series! Until then, take care.