January 17, 2017
By Mollie March-Steinman
I want to encourage activists to choose their battles mindfully.
The next few days, months, and years will be especially demanding. The incoming Trump administration signifies slashed social programs, emboldened white supremacists, families being torn apart, and cruel, ceaseless war. It will be a painful, gut-wrenching, dangerous period for most of us. At a time when we are just beginning to gain momentum in our struggle against systemic injustice, it feels as though our progress has been ruthlessly steamrolled. We can look at everything that awaits us and dissolve into overwhelmed puddles of tears. We can lash out at each other from anxiety and exhaustion, and narrow our views until we are all alone. We can turn to bitterness, cynicism, and suspicion. If we take this path, I fear we will grow resentful and inactive.
There is another option, one I hope we will choose instead. It begins with self-care. I have provided some suggestions for energy-conservation below, and I hope they will help you explore your own self-care strategies.
We can live joyfully.
Hold hands. Show affection.
Listen to music that makes your soul feel light
Create. Bake muffins from scratch, paint flowers on your walls, laugh loudly!
We can put aside guilt.
Listen. Learn. Move forward.
Choose more helpful thoughts.
We are all works in progress.
We can forgive.
Practice patience when possible.
Stay focused—use energy purposefully.
Emphasize accountability & allow for a meaningful healing process.
We can be kind.
Speak warmly and gently with yourself & others.
Love actively & earnestly. Grace the world with your passionate light.
It is incredibly challenging to weather draining experiences without a keen sense of humor, lighthearted attitude, and the ability to find joy and have fun every day. Many activist spaces I have entered seem to eventually take on a gloomy tone, which is often both fatigued and intense. This can happen when people spread themselves too thin and neglect their personal needs for a broader mission.
If one engages with every nuance and opposing view about animal rights, environmentalism, or general semantics, burn-out can occur much faster. By instead engaging in productive, focused conversations with an end-goal, activists can conserve their energy and practice self-care. This is important to keep in mind during times that are painful for human rights and justice.
Just as discouragement is contagious, so is laughter, joy, and positive energy. Taking care of yourself is not selfish—it is a necessity. That means making time to exercise or spend time with your loved ones, even if it means missing a march or rally.
I want to conclude by saying that you are entitled to a full, healthy life. Try not to be consumed by each new challenge that arises. Every issue does not demand an equally urgent response. Avoid drowning in guilt and self-criticism. It is not helpful to your progress as an individual, or to the progress of your movement. If you want the world to be a happier, fairer, kinder place, I encourage you to start by committing to your own well-being and beginning each day with a compassionate awareness.
Mollie March-Steinman is currently self-designing an Economic Justice major at Chatham University. She is passionate about promoting peace and justice for all. Mollie is an intern with the NewPeople Editorial Collective