“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any woman or non binary person working towards revolution should be taking good care of themselves. Or, it’s becoming pretty well known. More and more activist zines, mainstream publications and of course, bloggers, are dedicating time to remind their readers that radical self care is ‘a thing’ that should be treated with as much as important as planning actions or attending meetings, within the sphere of activism. It is perhaps in this context that Audre Lorde’s words feel most prevalent, and where I have drawn inspiration for this article. Whether it’s dealing with burnout or gendered violence, all of us experience pain in so many different ways, and taking the time to rectify this is something really powerful that we can do for ourselves. Not only will it make us better activists, working in sustainable movements, it will make us better people, who can handle whatever bullshit we’re thrown in a Post-Brexit, Post-Trump, Pre-Election time.
And so, self care. The clue is in the name; self care is the act of taking the time to care for yourself, recharge your batteries, and generally feel better about yourself. I’d say there are as many self care practises as there are people on the planet, and so it should be, there is no one size fits all method to happiness. But there are some methods that have been proven to work, which I will be exploring below, along with a quick overview explaining why. You know yourself, and you know what you best respond to, you may notice most of my activities can be done alone as I consider myself to be an introvert
🌟SELF CARE TIPS🌟
Before we get into the activities I have found the most useful, let’s set the mood. For some, care is something that doesn’t come naturally, and that’s completely fine. It can feel too selfish for anyone not used to putting themselves first, and could even be uncomfortable. When so much of your activism centres around empowering and elevating the voices of the oppressed, it can almost feel silly to focus any energy on yourself, but I’m here to tell you it’s important. Here’s a few suggestions for creating the right environment.
1. Make sure you do something entirely for yourself and not something that’s secretly related to work, and its only purpose is to make yourself happy
2. Think of this as a wholistic experience. Try to have something for every sense e.g. Taste = food or drink, sight = film, tv show, touch = velvet blankets, stress ball
3. Try to place a limit on how much time you spend on self care, for some it can be distressing not knowing when you’ll go back to your regular routine
4. See if you can avoid social media, even if it’s something you don’t find triggering. This will help to make sure you’re completely focused on yourself
5. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing unless you know you’ll be unreachable for a long day which could be worrying. It could create more pressure telling someone, as they’re likely to ask ‘how are you feeling NOW?’ as if to say your time for indulgence is over, and you’re supposed to have made a miraculous recovery. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s completely fine if you don’t feel anything at first
6. Remember self care is something you don’t have to apologise for, nor provide explanation, it is for YOU and no one else
7. Make this is a regular occurrence, it’s not a one time deal it will only work if you devote time for yourself often
💝SELF CARE ACTIVITIES💝
The fun part! We’ve all seen the problematic Buzzfeed-esque articles proclaiming self care = pizza, and I’m here to help you unlearn this. The activities you do should be considered, hopefully prepared in advance and tailored to your personal needs. This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope you will find something that helps!
1. Give yourself space from toxic people. I don’t think you should ever be in a position where you’re forced to be in contact with people who just aren’t good for you, but this is especially important when you’re feeling vulnerable. Block, mute or unfollow those people you’ve been meaning to, and take comfort in yourself for prioritising your feelings
3. Make yourself a self care pack (preferably during a time of stability for you) Follow the 5 senses plan: yummy food, relaxing candles/oils, playlists, photo album, but only use these for self care, don’t integrate them into regular activities. This will also feel more indulgent, which you deserve!
4. When you feel your mood slipping, but you’re not in a state of despair, immediately try to list your 5 favourite memories, 5 funniest jokes, 5 favourite holidays. Keep coming up with short and sweet lists to distract you, until you start to feel more relaxed
5. If you can’t physically take time out and have to stay in a situation that’s giving you anxiety, try looking around the room and picking out all the red items, or try to give names to all the people you don’t know, or narrate what you’re doing e.g. ‘I’m sitting on a train and I can see x and I can hear y’
6. Shred something – seriously it’s so great
7. Take a luxury bath, use a fancy bath bomb or light candles or take snacks, or even watch a movie. Not only will this appeal to all your senses, it’ll be different to your regular baths
8. Go for a walk/run and make sure you’ve got your playlist!
9. Have a clear out especially of things that hold unpleasant memories e.g. Clothes an ex left behind, papers from an old module (make sure you donate anything you want to give away) when this is done, do a deep clean or rearrange your stuff
10. Take yourself on a date! Go and have a meal, or watch a film that you want to see completely by yourself and try to enjoy your own company. You are strong and you CAN pick yourself up
Consider this my bibliography. As mentioned, there are plenty of articles out there
1. Relaxing/Meditation music https://youtu.be/VnQ8AhkX7bQ
2. White Noise https://youtu.be/wzjWIxXBs_s
3. Feminist self care tips http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/06/take-care-of-yourself-as-feminist/
4. Feminist quotes to inspire http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_584abe48e4b0bd9c3dfc4acd?
5. Spotify playlist of beautiful songs https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify_uk_/playlist/6y3CuT7MDDoPNXaD69frug
6. Guardian article: why female students should take care of themselves https://theguardian.com/education/2015/may/06/take-care-female-students-you-owe-it-to-yourselves