Every morning I wake up and I try to work for a better, more just world.
I am a faith organizer for Reconciling Ministries Network.
It is my job to spend each day working with people a little bit each day to do justice, and to push for a world where everyone has enough, where everyone is safe, and where everyone can simple be.
Lately, It seems that my waking hours are not enough. I know I am not the only one, but I often go to bed concerned about the world. I dream about what needs to be done, and I carry the weight of each person hurting with me during my days.
The thing is, friends—we have to take care of ourselves. We have to rest. We have to do self-care. We have to stay healthy.
The world needs us right now more than ever.
It is well known that Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Indeed—for those of us that many in society would like to see gone, taking care of ourselves is nothing short of revolutionary, not to mention just practical.
How then, can we keep ourselves afloat when things bring us down?
I have a few ideas, and I’d love to hear yours.
1) Get Grounded. Get Centered
One of my spiritual teachers, Swami Jaya Devi talks about putting ourselves “in the eye of the storm”—inside the eye it is calm even as the clouds rumble around it. All the world can be swirling in chaos around us, but if we can center ourselves in the Divine, we can be ok, no matter what else is going on around us. Like being in the eye of a massive storm, we stay at peace and calm.
This isn’t easy. It takes practice, ideally a daily practice, to learn to get rooted and grounded in a place of peace. Work with someone if you can—a spiritual director, a pastor, a teacher, or even a friend—to help you learn what helps you to stay centered.
2) Find Ways to Rest
I suggest setting a curfew on taking in media and news outlets. With a few exceptions, after a certain hour there isn’t anything you can really do that day. Whatever is happening, it can wait till the morning. Go to sleep.
3) Know Your Limits
There are many ways to be involved in our political process. All are important. You may not be able to make it to every protest. You may have days when you miss an action or a call you should make. Remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It is ok if you need to step back from something for physical, financial, or emotional reasons. Find what ways you can do the work and do it. If there is something that you cannot do, know that it is something someone else can, and that you can also use your energy to support them.
4) Celebrate the Little Things
Your birthday is important. Your anniversary is important. Finishing that project you’ve been working is important. It’s ok to throw a party for the little things.
5) Do Things in Your Control
Big change and results take time, lots of time. It is easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to feel powerless. It’s important to do the things we can do that show us results and give us control. It may be as simple as doing the laundry. For me it’s weight lifting. I can’t control everything, but I can pick up heavy things and work toward my fitness goals. I leave the gym with something “done” that I can feel good about.
This does not have to mean spending money! Splurging may be as simple as letting yourself lie in the sunshine on a warm spring day, or spending time with a pet. It may be as cheap a long bath or a cup of tea.
7) Practice Gratitude
Another great spiritual practice is to simply make a list of the things you are grateful for. It will do wonders to change your perspective.
8) Take Care of Your Body
Eat healthy foods when you can. While splurging on treats is a good thing to do on occasion, we can also keep our bodies energized with healthy food and plenty of water.
9) Love Radically
Love the people in your life with a wide-open heart. Let them love you. This isn’t just self care; it’s an act of resistance that brings more love into the world.
Art is resistance and self care. Expressing what we feel helps us move through our feelings. Sometimes that art that comes from our self-care can end up being a piece of resistance as well.
And finally, remember who and whose you are.
You are beloved child of God. No law can take that away.
However it is that you take care of yourself, don’t feel guilty about prioritizing it alongside your work toward justice. After all, we have to care for ourselves so we can be ready for the work ahead.
Photo via flickr user Brandon O’Connor