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As activists, it is sometimes hard to shut off the heart and the mind, as the world is in perpetual motion and chaos. Social media is rife with cynicism, excruciating news and clap backs. Our President-elect is the embodiment of every bully, elitist, predator, and well, a lot more. As such, the compulsion to DO SOMETHING is ever-present and hard to resist. Wanting to be active in progressive movements is so important and yet, many activists experience burnout because everywhere the world seems to be at an apex of environmental, political, humanitarian upheaval. It’s hard to stop contributing everything we’ve got so that the world may be a brighter and kinder place.
In these times, it is imperative to balance self care with community care. The journey ahead is long and arduous, so I’ve come up with a few suggestions for activists to self care while still maintaining the ability to contribute to a better world.
TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK AND CREATE A SCHEDULE FOR ENGAGEMENT
According to Pew Research Center “Younger adults are in the vanguard of the constantly connected: Fully 36% of 18- to 29-year-olds go online almost constantly and 50% go online multiple times per day. By comparison, just 6% of those 65 and older go online almost constantly (and just 24% go online multiple times per day).”
A few activists realized they were spending an inordinate amount of time online understandably obsessed with the recent presidential election as many work in drug policy reform as well as other progressive movements. Some opted to engage in a complete blackout from social media for a week, some did for a few weeks while others took a more flexible and mixed approach like setting a social media schedule for engagement, largely due to their work relying heavily on social media to promote their causes and raise funds for organizations which makes it nearly impossible to avoid the internet altogether.
Those with whom we spoke who had the mixed approach suggested deleting social media apps from mobile devices, that way going online required deliberation and a few extra steps to get there. Others decided to unfollow news site that did not provide hope or solutions. Some reported setting a schedule outside of work to check on close family and friends and then turning off their phones and placing them out of close reach each evening. Many reported that although they were still concerned about the future of our country and planet, they were less stressed and able to spend the freed up time concentrating on other things they enjoy and help reinvigorate themselves mentally and physically.
STOP RUSHING AROUND TO EVERY EVENT AND TAKE A BATH
Because of the chaos and incoming administration at the White House, many activists are hyper-dedicated to solidifying some plans for the future. And in cannabis, the industry and movement are facing several nominations which challenge the progress made in our corner these last few years. In any given state, whether it’s medical cannabis flexible or legal-ish, there are a plethora of events. There are fundraisers, protests, testimonies at statehouses, networking opportunities, grow seminars, conventions, tours, media appearances, medical refugee clothing and food drives, etc. Many activists are balancing redeye flights, families, jobs outside of the movement or industry in order to give flexibility financially to contribute to various causes and show up around the country to speak while others are engaged in the blossoming industry with manic and quickly changing regulations, raids, product recalls, lack of banking and the protections that come with that access, etc.
While it may not be entirely possibly to remove oneself from contributing altogether since it is such a necessary time to dedicate our efforts, we suggest at least trying to take a nice, hot bath each week minus the phone and minimize interruptions. Epsom salts can help relax muscles and ease tension. Soothing music and a pore cleansing clay mask with a hot towel can do wonders to clear the mind and give one a fresh way to move forward in our all-important work.
RECOGNIZE YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE
There really is a world of hurt out there and activists know this, breathe this and are abundantly aware of it. However, at some point we have to realize that putting forth a lot of effort each day is a lot and may in fact be enough. Certainly it can sometimes never feel like enough as the world is full of life and life sometimes is suffering. If you have tried your best at being active in making the world a better place in whatever form it is, give yourself some due credit and take some time for yourself. Learn how to delegate if you are in a leadership position and if you are part of a collective group of folks working together, make sure you let your cohorts know you appreciate what they are doing and that it is okay to occasionally take a break. One cannot go 110% all the time. It is not sustainable. It just isn’t.
TAKE THE TIME TO APPRECIATE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE FOR WHOM YOU ARE FIGHTING TO MAKE THIS WORLD BETTER
Many got involved with activism because their families or friends have been targeted and victimized by insensitive laws and enforcement. Sometimes a family will have both parents engaged in changing those laws while other times, it is one parent engaged in activism while the other acts as support financially, emotionally or taking care of the children while the activist parent travels. For some of us, the work is so compelling and necessary, we are on the road or in the air going from one place to another the majority of each month. That means missing some important events or just time in person with the family. During my years as an activist, my own children have understood my work but occasionally remarked that sometimes even when I was home, I was far away. From a personal perspective as well as professional one, I encourage my fellow activists to spend more time with those for whom we are fighting for a better world. They deserve it.