By: Kari Harrison, LCPC
There is a lot of chaos and turmoil happening in our city of Chicago and the world at large, but it also spurs some of us to fight for justice and radical social change. While participation in the fight for justice seems non-negotiable to many of us, constant over-stimulation can lead to burnout.
If you’re already feeling exhausted or want to avoid it (because you want to keep fighting!), Here are five manageable self-care strategies to keep your energy up and your motivation to keep going …
1. Set limits with social media and the news
It is of value for many of us to stay aware and informed of what is going on in our rapidly changing world, but constant monitoring of social media and the news cycle can become compulsive and heighten feelings of worry. and distress. Being in a constant state of hypervigilance like this can easily lead to burnout. Try to set limits with your social media / news consumption.
Examples This can be done by establishing a rule that you only check for news once a day and setting a timer on your phone that limits how long you are allowed to interact with social media. .
It may be helpful to ask yourself, “How am I using myself in looking for more information now?” and to think “this information will be there tomorrow” when we struggle to set those boundaries.
2. Identify safe spaces to recharge your batteries and safe people to recharge your batteries with
Find a safe space in a room or corner of your home. Make this space cozy with items that help you feel comfortable and protected. Hot blankets, aromatherapy and hot / cold showers / baths and candles are examples of regularize sensational experiences that can calm our central nervous system.
Your hypervigilance is there to protect you, but when you are in this safe space, tell yourself that you can let your guard down. Consider if there is a friend or family member that you can talk to in the safety of this physical space, either virtually or in person.
3. Learn to regulate your physical body when you feel anxious or overwhelmed
When we feel anxious or over-excited, our fight-or-flight response shifts into high gear. This can cause us to feel short of breath, too hot, and leave us with a physiological buzzing or flickering sensation. Try drinking cold water, listening to relaxing music, or a deep, focused breathing exercise (inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 8, repeat). If we can learn to calm our bodies down, our brains will follow suit, and this can break the cycle of our anxiety response.
If you have someone close to you who feels secure with whom you can have physical contact, consider asking for a hug. Oxytocin, the hormone released upon physical contact with a loved one, lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) in our body.
Exercise also lowers cortisol, so even 10 to 15 minutes of exercise to get your body moving can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety.
4. Find something to hope for if you don’t feel inspired.
The fight for justice is long and arduous, and sometimes the fruits of our labor seem intangible. And yet there are so many people to watch and admire in the times when we feel helpless.
Try listening to a podcast about someone fighting for change, reading a book (or part of a book) about an activist you admire, or taking a small action for the change you want to see (i.e. (i.e. make a donation, sign a petition, start a reading group). When we don’t feel intrinsically motivated, we can often benefit from a little inspiration from someone / something outside of ourselves.
5. Find like-minded individuals to build your community in this fight
When we are striving for radical change, we need people who share our beliefs and values to help us empower ourselves and uplift us when we feel like giving up. Find responsible comrades and check with each other, connect with each other, and in your moments of rest, create joy with each other.
Rest is not the enemy of change; it is an indispensable part of the fuel for change. Self-care is not selfishness, it is self-preservation. And we must preserve ourselves and our resources if we are to use our body and mind to support others and fight for others.
If you need extra supportive space to deal with any difficult feelings that may be popping up in you right now, consider seeking advice from a qualified mental health professional. A mental health therapist can empower you to rejuvenate, refocus, treat, and cope as you continue to fight for what you believe in.