How to Stay Woke and Protect Your Mental Health
The fight for justice and equality demands the strength and courage of individuals willing to place their hearts and bodies on the front line. This is what we admire about the activists in our communities—past and present. However, the costs of being on the front line often amount to extensive trauma exposure that leave us vulnerable to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. Here are a few reasons why it is important to prioritize our mental health while staying WOKE.
Because we are not defined by oppression
Waking up in a society rooted in systemic discrimination shifts social struggles to the center of our existence. Waking up and identifying sources of love, peace, and spaces of freedom equips us to avoid chronic fatigue, low morale, and feelings of hopelessness.
Because your gifts are not limited to your social labels
We are born with unlimited possibilities and numerous gifts, but in life and in activism we frequently limit ourselves to the gifts we use to survive. When we take a breath, a moment away from the chaos of 24-hour news cycles, we discover that there are other things that we are good at and enjoy. Perhaps these things could ultimately benefit the causes in our lives, but first and foremost they remind us that social labels that are meant to classify us lack the depth and breadth to encompass all of what we can do or be. Engage your curiosity as a self-care intervention and its likely you’ll fall in love with an untapped part of you.
Related: How to Protect Your Energy While Staying Informed
Because nature demands balance
According to The Kybalion, by the Three Initiates, one of the principles of the universe is the Principle of Polarity. This principle teaches that everything has an opposite and exists on a spectrum. Hot and cold, short and tall, up and down, black and white. This principle reminds us of the significance of balance. Are we spending as much time surrendering as we are resisting? Laughing as we are crying? Loving as we are fighting? If not, then we will find ourselves out of balance and creating a ripe environment for depression and anxiety to thrive.
In their early stages, symptoms of depression and anxiety can serve as warning signs indicating that we lack balance. If ignored, these signs become impairments that quickly deplete our energy and leave us feeling unmotivated. Taking time to assess for balance allows you to align with nature, and refreshes you to continue the good fight.
Because trauma is real
There is nothing harmless about replaying and re-watching footage of the execution of an innocent person at the hands of the police. We cannot kid ourselves. The images, the videos, the comments, the social media wars, are all causing an overproduction of adrenaline that makes us hypervigilant and unable to find rest or find solace.
I’ve been there, sitting on a train wondering if one of my fellow passengers intends to turn this moment into the next Las Vegas massacre. We are living in unpredictable and dangerous times, which is all the more reason to reduce our trauma intake.
Protecting your feelings is a radical act of self-love and a necessary practice in the fight for social change.
The physiological effects of trauma make it difficult to process information and make clear, effective plans for social change, or personal wellness. If our trauma intake is left unchecked, we will find ourselves knee deep in a movement rooted in fear, instead of love and compassion. You don’t have to watch to be informed. You can close your eyes and plug your ears when it feels overwhelming. Protecting your feelings, the invisible forces that often guide our actions, is a radical act of self-love and a necessary practice in the fight for social change.
Because your life matters too
If only we valued ourselves as much as we do the communities that we are fighting for. Our passion to help others can inadvertently eclipse a healthy love for self. This looks like saying yes when our bodies are saying no, feeling guilty for not attending a social justice event (even though you have been at ALL the others), or decreasing time with loved ones and increasing time posting on social media. Sound familiar? Movements need leaders, not martyrs. Part of leading is modeling positive self-care for those around you so that you can all continue the important work of social change for years to come.
Because these are marathons, not sprints
Movements are not won overnight. The decades of work that led to Civil Rights Legislation were a series of building blocks, patiently and strategically stacked, one on top of the other. It took collaboration between groups and organizations, twice as many setbacks as victories, and most of all, the endurance of hope. We are in this for the long haul.
Enjoying the moments in between will keep you strong and stable for the road ahead.
Neglecting our mental health by denying our symptoms of depression and normalizing our anxiety will certainly shorten our stints as activists, and weaken our movements. In between rallies, have dinner parties with music and laughter and love. Find time to connect to the reasons you joined the cause. Family, community, freedom, love. Enjoying the moments in between will keep you strong and stable for the road ahead.
Because you are not fighting alone
We need you. We need you happy, healthy, and positive. We need your brilliance, your spirit, and your abilities. We are here if you get tired, and we want you to lean on us. The weight of our world does not rest on your shoulders alone.
We need you happy, healthy, and positive.
Allow the rest of us to carry the load with you, and above all, take care of yourself.
Read next: Practicing Self-Care in the Wake of the #MeToo Movement
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