Beginner’s Guide to Self-Care For Activists

Odds are that you have had to care for something in your life. Whether it’s a plant, a home, or a loved one, you have seen the consequences of putting off the necessary care. You plants end up wilting, your home’s value diminishes, and the health of a loved one deteriorates. Even with these facts in mind, it is easy for us to avoid applying the same strategy to our own well-being.

Lucky for you, this article is here to give you some tips on how activists should practice self-care. However, remember that each person is different and unique. What works perfectly for one activist may not be suitable for another. Choose your care wisely. Also check out this comprehensive list by Self Development Secrets for hundreds of self-care techniques.

Why is Self-Care for Activists Important?

When you are involved in activism, community organizing, or social justice work, caring for yourself is tough. The emotional demands can quickly drain your energy reserves. Compassion fatigue, in which those who care for others gradually lose their compassion, is a real threat for people trying to heal a broken world. People who pour themselves into advocating for the less fortunate forget to prioritize their own needs. Burnout continues to be a problem in both activism and the social service sector.

But in order for a movement to create lasting social change, it needs supporters who are resilient and able to sustain themselves over the long haul. That’s why self-care for sustainability and impact is so important for activists.

What Does Self-Care Mean?

Self-care is defined as those activities that are done to improve your daily life. That improvement can be emotional, mental, social, spiritual, or physical. Most of these tips will engage more than just one of these parts of your life. The self-care activities can vary from meditation to a long chat with a friend. You may find some of these tips work better for you than others, or that you need to mix and match self-care strategies to restore you completely.

The primary purpose of self-care for activists is to recharge. It’s about knowing when to step back and replenish your resources so that you can stay passionate, engaged, and impactful over the long haul.

Although self-care has a reputation of being all about relaxation, the truth is sometimes self-care is not totally enjoyable. For example, going to the doctor or paying your rent is not fun, but it’s necessary to take care of yourself in these ways. After all if you’re not healthy and sheltered, you can’t fully offer yourself to help others meet their needs.

With a consistent regimen of self-care strategies, you can stay sustained over the long haul to keeping doing the important activist work you do. Whether it’s serving the underprivileged, building strong communities, or advocating for a better future for all, you want to put your best self forward.

5 Basic Tips for Self-Care

1. Honor your body’s needs

Your body needs constant nourishment, upkeep, and movement. That includes regular exercise, grooming, eating a nutritional diet, getting the right amount of sleep, and addressing health issues you may have. Listen to your body’s cues about what it needs to feel its best, and keep exploring until you find activities that make your body feel like a well-loved and comfortable home.

2. Find your community

The best way to self-care for activists is to surround yourself with people who affirm your experiences and that are willing to accept you for who you are. Join communities that are as enthusiastic about inclusivity and justice as you are. At the same time, you want people who are compassionate and understand that self-care isn’t selfish—it creates the necessary strong foundation to being able to be of service to others.

3. Limit the things that drain your energy

When you’re involved in advocacy or activism, there’s an expectation to always be working at 100%. The urgency of the issues you’re trying to solve can make it seem like there’s no time to rest. But energy is not an infinite gift. Activists who work too hard, too fast, will soon burnout unless they take breaks to recharge their batteries.

Be conscious of the activities, people, and things that consume your energy in unfruitful ways. Create relationships that nourish you and give you a sense of purpose. Make time to rest and relax. Budget some alone time too.

4. Avoid traumatic experiences

Disconnect yourself from interactions that elicit your flight or fight response. Find your personal safe spaces. Do not feel guilty about turning off news that is creating a roller coaster of emotions for you.

Similar to how soldiers at war develop a level of numbness to violence, activists and can become numb to the suffering of others if they’re exposed to too much pain. Be mindful of your own thresholds. Give yourself permission to step back, knowing that in the long run this will actually help you stay more compassionate.

5. Find help when you need it

When a crisis emerges in your life, be big enough to ask for help from your friends, family, and community. Don’t be embarrassed to seek professional help. Even if it’s not crisis-level, whenever something negatively affects your well-being you owe it to yourself to seek whatever help you need.

Remember that self-care is not selfish. You need to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help anyone else. Self-care is always about patience and practice. Repetition is the key to both a great life and self-care. If something does not work for you, find a substitute. The goal is persistence, not perfection.


Rebecca Temsen is an author, entrepreneur and most of all a wife and mother of 2. As an entrepreneur, she has no shortage of failures and enjoys helping normal people move beyond failure to reach their full potential. Rebecca uses her ever growing skills in writing to inspire people. website  |  pinterest  |  facebook

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