Taking Care while you Take Action
Reflect and Resist
About half-way through a recent conference call with one of the national organizations working on resistance, a guest speaker was introduced, he invited all 40 thousand + people to practice breathing exercises. “Who has time for this!?” I thought to myself. But his voice was soothing and I began doing the breathing exercises. My shoulders relaxed and by the time the next speaker came on, I was ready to roll.
For those of us who’ve taken up activism during this new administration, the issues are coming fast and furious and we risk protest fatigue. We don’t want to lose interest, it’s all just too important, but we must find a balance.
The Women’s March has some advice with their 5th action in their 100 days of Action: Reflect and Resist. This is a sample, we encourage you to read the full post:
Action five is designed to educate some, and refresh others, through study, reflection, and courageous conversations, so that we can all be empowered by, and learn from, the work of activists who came before us, while being mindful not to perpetuate the mistakes of the past. Community is key to activism, so bring your huddles, neighbors, and your march partners back together, collectively choose a book or article to read, or film to watch. Take time to reflect and, together, discuss the topics that they highlight and the issues that women experiencing multiple forms of oppression have faced and continue to face. Below, we’ve selected five titles from each category to help you get started. We encourage you to choose a resource you feel will challenge you most.
Being involved in the resistance movement can be good for us, it’s our way of taking back control:
Have you noticed that people seem to smile when they are taking action? Sure there is anger and frustration in our voices and purpose, but if you look closely, there are smiling interactions and often beaming faces among those working together for a cause. Just take a look at our collection of photos from the Jan. 21, Women’s March; there were so many smiles as women (and men) celebrated their first steps in fighting back, in taking back their sense of control.
In an interview with WBUR, Dr. Philip Levendusky, director of psychology of McLean Hospital, shared that he doesn’t believe some of the armchair psychologists who claim people are suffering from “post-election-stress-disorder.” He feels from the day of the election our sense of “being in control really dropped, and got replaced with a lot of agitation, depression, upset.”
But he believes many of us have found ways to regain control:
…a lot of the grassroots activities that people are engaging in now is their expression of being back in control. They’ll march, they’ll protest, they’ll talk about it in groups on how to deal with the next election. So, objectively, not much has changed. He is the president, he is not going away. But once people are attached to something that makes them feel like they are able to take some action and are not helpless, that goes a long way towards bringing down their anxiety. I’ve seen that in colleagues, I’ve seen that in clients of mine.
Self-care in stressful times
The American Psychiatric Association has published an easy-read paper that, among other things, recommends:
While it’s important to remain aware of what’s happening around you, your health is paramount. Being an involved citizen is an important part of democracy, but make sure that it’s not at the expense of your mental and physical well-being.
Engage with Purpose
Being involved and informed of political events is important for many people. If that is the case for you, remember to do so in a balanced way that meets your needs, but is not excessively stressful.
Organize your time. Set boundaries, establish priorities, and develop a plan. If you’re overwhelmed by many issues at once, practice focusing on one at a time.
Practice mindfulness when you engage with political content or in discussions. UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center defines mindfulness as “the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences.” A great deal of research has documented physical health benefits of mindfulness, such as better sleep, reduced stress and anxiety, improved concentration and focus, and less emotional reactivity.
Adjust your environment. If you find that your stress has become a more serious mental health issue or exacerbated existing mental health problems, talk to your doctor and consider potential workplace accommodations.
It’s all about being aware of our own reactions and responses.
We can’t do it ALL!
As women, we tend to feel guilty about the little things, the things not done, not finished, not attended to. Let’s agree to give ourselves a break.
You may want to organize a closet, but feel sending postcards or going to meetings (or reading posts on website’s like this!) or taking any kind of action are more important. We create our own priorities and shouldn’t allow the judgement others who don’t share those priorities, to influence us.
If a judgemental friend or family member tries to suggest you “cut back” on your per-Sister activities as though you are somehow harming yourself or others by being involved, you can tell him or her that experts say taking action is actually good for you!
Consider this poster from the days of Suffragettes, and remember that here in the U.S., it took those strong, organized per-Sisters 100 years to accomplish their goal.
Of course, they didn’t have the internet and social media!
Keep fighting. Stay involved. Make the cure contagious.
Vigilance + Solidarity +Advocacy = Resistance.
SOME PER-SISTER’S TAKING BACK CONTROL: