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Get up, get the kids ready for school, take them to school, get my husband up so he can get ready for work, write 10,000 words or more for my graduate class, a blog, my book and various other projects, do some cleaning around the house while it’s empty, go pick up the kids from school, supervise their time doing homework, cook dinner, go to a meeting of some sort or another, come home, get the kids into bed, decide I have no energy for a shower or bath, then crawl into bed myself. This is what many of my days look like, but not all of them.
People are busy, but we activists are extremely busy. On top of work, school and kids, we devote so many hours of our time to a cause we believe in. Sometimes, we donate our time and money to more than one cause. We may have little or no time to take care of ourselves. We have little time to spend with friends who aren’t involved in our cause. We end up with TOO MUCH STRESS!
Everyone has a certain amount of stress in their lives and that is healthy. Stress motivates, gets the cogs in the machine turning. However, too much stress can cause burnout, heart disease, a weakened immune system and many other things that can put a dark cloud over our lives. We, as activists, must take proactive steps to avoid having too much stress in our lives. Here are some helpful tips to avoid having too much stress:
1. Just say no. If you don’t have enough time in your day to do something for someone else when they ask you for a favor, say no. You will be doing yourself, and them, a favor when you don’t cause yourself unneeded stress and give them the opportunity to ask someone else who has the gift of extra time for help.
2. Treat yourself. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods and exercise. Healthy people are naturally better able to ward off stress. After a busy day I make sure I relax and take care of myself the next day. I watch TV, take a walk on my favorite nature trail and take a long, hot bath without interruption. You are the most important tool for positive social change as an activist, so treat yourself with importance, because you are a brilliant soul!
3. Cut it out. Look at your busy schedule, and cut any unnecessary, time-intensive activities out of it. Ask others if they can complete a task for you. If a partner or friend is an activist for your cause, then take turns going to meetings and events, reporting any important happenings back to each other. This is what my husband and I do. Because we are both activists for the same causes, many times my husband will go to a meeting, report our progress to them, and then come home and report the organization’s progress to me. This is a great way to free up time to treat yourself to some healthy relaxing.
4. Just 30 minutes peace. If you are one of those people whose schedule is booked up solid, and who is so busy taking care of others or fighting for a cause you have no time for yourself whatsoever, so much so you forget to eat, shower and get sleep, follow the three previous tips but also schedule some “me” time, at least 30 minutes, every single day. You need it. And, you cannot take care of others without taking care of yourself. I repeat, YOU CANNOT TAKE CARE OF OTHERS WITHOUT TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF. It’s impossible. The stress will eventually overwhelm you and you will not be able to do a damn thing but take care of yourself every minute of every day until you are back on track. So, if you truly care about others, at least care about yourself just as much. You deserve it; you deserve more than 30 minutes for yourself everyday, but give yourself at least that much time to do some self-nurturing.
5. Write stuff down. After saying to cut things out of your schedule and to put “me” time into your schedule, I almost forgot to mention to, in fact, keep a schedule. One of the most frustrating, stressful things a person can do is try to keep all of the information needed in a day right inside of their noggin. Writing stuff down, and keeping a schedule, takes that burden off of your grey cells to be able to concentrate on other things. I used to just try to remember appointments, meeting dates and times, and when all of the events I wanted to attend were happening, but that stressed me out to no end. I would feel just awful for forgetting important events. Now I keep a schedule, and I have for years.
6. Be confident. Stop that negative self-talk. Know you are wonderful. My mom always harps on me about my weight lately, and how good I would feel if I lost a few pounds. This is because she has been on a weight loss mission the past couple of months and when she loses those pounds, she feels so good about herself. It’s so odd, though. She feels so very bad about herself when some of the weight returns, as though there is something wrong with her. I am healthy. I don’t care how much I weigh. I eat healthy foods, I exercise and I feel good about myself. I feel really bad for my mom because no matter what, it seems like her self worth depends on external factors, such as the attention from men she gets, or the compliments she gets on her weight loss. Don’t be like my mom, learn to love yourself for who you really are, and have confidence in who you really are. For my mom, her weight is a constant source of stress. For me, my weight has no bearing on my life. Love yourself, love yourself, and love yourself!
So, if you are an activist who is about to pull her hair out of her head and you are so stressed out you can’t function anymore, then follow my helpful tips and you will be on the road to stress recovery! And, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because we all need a helping hand sometimes.