As an activist or “social justice warrior” which is what activist are now commonly referred to on social media, is a person who campaigns for some kind of change. For example, participating in a march or protest, you’re an activist. I am an activist. I know this, as a matter of fact I named my blog The Awkward Activist for this exact purpose. Each activist has a certain social issue they focus on when campaigning for change, for example, I focus on race, gender, and sexuality. But when blogging and talking about these issues, especially when talking about issues you personally identify with, it becomes emotionally and mentally draining. Reading every new headline or news report from a news outlet or tweets from my fellow followers on Twitter alerting me to another police brutality case, homophobic or transphobic rants from politicians, an increase in sexual assault on college campuses, or the influx of violence against the trans community can sometimes be too much to take or handle. Each day is another punch in the stomach for every new headline that comes across my mobile screen as most news nowadays is bad news. We are in the digital era where we can see and read every story, good and bad. And while many will say that it is an activist own fault that they have gotten themselves into this situation, the reason activists do the work they do is simple, it is because they care. I care about writing, educating people, and protesting these issues because I want the issues that I am writing and passionate about to get better or disappear all together (I don't see that happening anytime soon though).
But when you’re an activist everyone’s struggles are more important than your own, but who is there for you when you’re struggling?
As an activist one of the most important things is practicing self-care as this constant absorbing of information, especially bad news from police brutality to rape culture can lead to an activist not only becoming burn out, but also, depressed. Burn out is a state of emotional and often physical exhaustion (newtactics). It is not a matter of spending too much time on a task or issues, but rather that an activist feels as though they have invested a significant amount of time and emotion into a task regarding a certain issue, but no results have stemmed from that task. They feel they have nothing to show for all of the work they have put in. Activist burn out is real and caring for yourself as an activist is not selfish, but is self-preserving as you can not help or serve others if you yourself are also struggling mentally and emotionally.
What is self-care exactly and how does one go about practicing self care, especially as an activist? Self-care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is unique to each individual person as that person has to find what works best for them, but self-care is extremely beneficial to activists. As activists our activism is our self-care; discussing and talking about the issues we feel most strongly about helps us care for ourselves as we are then not keeping these emotions in, but we also find support systems and networks through our activism. We find people who we can not only discuss these issues with on an almost daily basis, but also people who we can discuss how these issues are affecting our emotions and feelings.
Activists also need to remember that our feelings are valid. Good, bad, or in between all the feelings we feel are valid and real. Meaning just because you feel angry or sad about something does not mean those feelings are irrelevant just because a person may advocate for the issue that they are emotionally reacting to. Their emotions are still valid.
A few self-care tips is first figuring out and doing what makes you happy. If that is painting or drawing, working out, taking a walk around the neighborhood, or even just pampering yourself by doing your nails or soaking in a bathtub with a bath bomb in it, it is all self-care. Self-care should and needs to work best for each individual person, there is no linear or general way of self-care so do not feel pressured to do what may work for someone else. As an activist, but also a regular person who experiences and is affected by life happening on a daily basis I encourage everyone to start practicing self-care in their daily routine.