Self Care for Political Activism

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Just me in my political punk band.

I have been putting a lot of energy into political activism lately. When I get like this my self care tends to slip a bit. I walk around with a baseline of emotional and physical tension, my sleep suffers, I eat bad things, I am quick to anger, quick to tears. I often have to remind myself to practice what I preach. Below are three big things I do to move anger and anxiety through my body and make room for a more grounded emotional baseline.

 

Practice good sleep hygiene.
For me this means GOING TO BED, and it means I need to stop looking at social media & news at least an hour before bed or else I’ll be up all night stewing over it. This is really tough for me, but I have to remember that whatever it is can wait until tomorrow and I need rest to deal with it. Read a nice, fun, fiction book, or a funny biography and go to sleep. And when I inevitably wake up at 3am in sweating in fear, instead of reaching for the phone I put one hand on my belly and one hand on my chest and breathe deeply and calmly until I either fall asleep or I am calm enough to get up, do some stretching, and then go back to bed and read my book until I’m sleeping again.
Repeat this mantra: Whatever it is can wait until morning.

Move the body.
I am sitting here, typing away on my laptop or phone with my shoulders up around my ears, fuming, furious, frightened, I can’t even feel my legs, I don’t even know if I have legs, I am just a furious brain and a fast beating heart with some fingers attached. When was the last time I took a deep breath? I have no idea. Sound familiar? It helps to get into our bodies, and feel them, and not neglect them. Get outside, go for a walk, go for a run, ride your bike, have some sex, do some yoga. Lift something heavy over and over again. Put on your favorite music. Get uncomfortable, get wet, get cold, feel the burn, feel your body. This is your first home. It belongs to you. YOU get to decide how you want to feel. Decide to feel POWERFUL. A strong body is a vital asset. Let your mind have a break and enjoy the freedom of retreating into the physical for a while.
Repeat this mantra: I am strong and I am well.

Untangle your emotions.
It is easy for me to go from zero to sixty when it comes to the news, or social media lately and that is because I tend to take things personally. For example, sometimes I hear something about civil rights being taken away and I feel a deep sense of personal betrayal rising in me. It is as if I am simultaneously experiencing every betrayal and violation that has ever occurred in my own life, rather than just dealing with the one in front of me, now, here, in the present. Although this personal connection is what drives my activism, I need to untangle these abstract issues from my own personal experience and resist the urge to time travel emotionally, otherwise my emotional baseline is hijacked. This requires self-awareness and practice. (I fail at it all the time, FYI.) It means taking a moment to pause and untangle what is present in the now, and what was present for the past and give these emotions their own space. I can still be angry and upset about current events without bringing in very old emotions to cloud the issue. I can still find space for those old emotions and give them the healing they need while untangling them from my feelings about current events. Often this means stepping away from the situation for a minute and giving myself room to untangle. If you need help understand what untangling means or how to do it, email me.
Repeat this mantra: I get to decide how I want to feel. There is space for all of my emotions.

Love.

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