So, we’ve all been immersed in the fascist firestorm tornado that is current affairs at the moment, and undoubtedly many of us are feeling the effects of it in our mental and physical health. So here’s a wee guide on how to do self-care in these trying political times.
Whilst it might be tempting to say “Why the fuck would I have a bubble bath when I have a Nazi to punch”, you have to remember that bubble baths and Nazi-punching are not a zero-sum game. You need to keep caring for yourself so you can continue to do political action in the first place. No movement is improved by having its members be burned out husks of themselves who haven’t eaten or slept in days because they’ve been so busy being woke. It is more important than ever that we take care of ourselves. So here we go!
- Consider temporarily turning off your social media if, like me, you get sucked into the 24/7 rolling carnival of horrors that is the news. Or have set times during the day when you check it, and allow yourself no more than an hour or two on it. It’s been proven that constant exposure to negative news has a serious physical effect on your body, so please give yourself a break.
- Make sure you keep sticking to your routine as much as possible. The world may feel like a bin fire, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still eat your breakfast, go to the gym, and attend class.
- Remember to rely on your friends. Ask for a hug, have a snuggle with your flatmate on the sofa with a cup of tea. Go and watch a movie with your best friend and have an animated discussion about it afterwards. Ask that cute person for a coffee. Make sure you’re still investing time and emotional energy into the things that make you feel good and safe, not just the things that make you scared and angry.
- Make sure you’re eating well. I know that my anxiety goes through the roof when I think about the political situation around me, and I end up having real issues with remembering to eat, which invariably makes me feel worse. Make sure you always have food in the house, and then remember to actually eat it.
- Try to avoid stuff like caffeine and alcohol. Whilst both might make you feel good in the moment – caffeine to fuel your rage-filled blog rant/march in the city/letter-writing to MPs, and alcohol to forget everything – you generally end up feeling a lot worse afterwards. I’ve certainly been guilty of getting howling drunk because I’ve been so scared and done with politics, only to end up crying about Nazis next to a bin because everything feels even more overwhelming when you’re tipsy.
- GET SOME SLEEP. For the love of God, try to sleep. Turn off your electronic devices, have a bubble bath or whatever, just try and get at least 6 hours of sleep a night. It makes an unimaginable difference to how strong you’ll feel on a day-to-day basis. Sleep is seriously underrated as an influence on mood, and it shouldn’t be. SLEEP.
- Activist burnout is real. Whilst everybody with both a conscience and a brain is probably more stressed out than usual right now due to the current political climate, those involved in specific forms of activism are more at risk from total burnout. Read up about burnout, and if you’re really suffering and don’t know what to do, take yourself to a medical professional. There is help available, and you are not a bad or failed activist for needing it.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Keep discovering things that make you feel good, and keep looking after the ones you care about as well as yourself. And remember, needing a break and needing something nice is not pathetic or a sign of political weakness. As the great Audre Lourde said:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
So go on, eat your breakfast and have your bubble bath; you can punch that Nazi later.
[Morgaine Das Varma]