In today’s world of social media, live streams, and constant news from all around the world, it can be overwhelming and stressful to take everything in and process it constantly. The constant negativity revolving around unjust murders, bombings, and systematic racism can be quite difficult to cope with. Mental health can suffer as individuals work to fight against oppression, discrimination, racism, and more. This is why taking a moment to pause and look after your mental health during the fight for social justice is vitally important. Without taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of and fight for others.
The Toll of Activism
According to the director of the Center for Healing Racial Trauma, Dr. Candice Hargons, activism affects people “...psychologically and physically by increasing stress, raising our heart rates and blood pressure, cause muscle tension, migraines, sleeplessness, and induce feelings of sadness, anger, fear, numbness, fatigue, and hopelessness.” These effects on the body are not exactly surprising, as watching people be unjustly killed, imprisoned, and treated unfairly in other ways can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.
However, it doesn’t just see the events on television that affect individuals. Actively fighting against the system can induce anxiety, stress, and tension in the body. Not being heard and being gaslighted by the government and other authority figures can increasingly negatively affect mental health. Taking care of this can help save lives from depression and other mental illnesses. Therefore, work must be done to sustain proper mental health care.
Taking Care of Mental Health While Being an Activist
There are a multitude of resources to help you take care of yourself while fighting against injustices in your own country. Advice from various doctors, therapists, social workers, and more that have been trained in racial trauma, gender discrimination, LGBTQ+ issues, etc. has been offered to aid in this issue specifically. These are some tips offered by such professionals.
Talk to a Therapist that is Trained in Social Justice Issues
One of the first things you can do is find a therapist, counselor, or another mental health professional that is trained in social justice issues related to race, LGBTQ+ issues, gender, mental health stigma, healthcare, refugee issues, and more. These individuals will be prepared to discuss your concerns and ways that you can look after yourself while advocating for your cause.
Many websites have directories that you can filter through to find a professional matched with your needs and concerns. Some websites to consider are Therapy For Black Girls, PsychologyToday, and even Instagram. You can find various professionals to follow and read advice from if you are unable to attend therapy sessions.
Participate in Activities That Bring You Joy
Remember that joy is an act of resistance in itself. Being happy and participating in activities that make you happy despite others trying to tear you down is a win in itself. Consider having a picnic with friends, calling a family member you haven’t talked to in a long time, going to a museum, or really anything that brings you joy and happiness.
Exercise or Meditate
Taking time during the day to exercise will improve your mental health dramatically because it takes your mind off of activism for a little while. It also releases endorphins, which help alleviate stress and other symptoms of anxiety. You’ll even start to sleep better.
You should also make time for meditation to bring yourself into the present moment and help your body to relax. It can be mentally and physically exhausting to be so hyperactive and on-alert all the time while practicing activism. Consider meditating to an inspirational podcast related to a subject field you are interested in.
Fight the System at Your Own Pace
Remember that even the individuals seen on the front lines of protests and marches are not there every single day. They must also take care of their mental health to have the capacity to keep doing their work. It is okay to slow down and take time for yourself to reflect. Let yourself feel and be aware of what your body needs. Consider journaling to document your feelings on the days you need rest.
Physical touch can also help improve your mental health in a major way because of the oxytocin it produces. Oxytocin helps alleviate stress and anxiety, and it can be released simply from hugging a friend or other loved one. Even a gentle tap on the shoulder can bring about this healing. Remember this next time you are feeling low and want to share the love with others.
With all of the news going on worldwide, it is easy to see how mental health can be affected by so much negativity. Fighting for what’s right is extremely important, and at Northstar Transitions, we urge you to fight for causes you believe in to help others. However, we also advocate for taking care of mental health. Activism can be exhausting and take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional health. This is why it is important to slow down every so often to recharge yourself to get back out there. You cannot help if you are burnt out. For this reason, we believe the above tips will help to recharge those social justice batteries to get you back on the frontlines. Taking a moment for yourself and not doing too much at one time will keep you mentally healthy and allow you to make rational choices in the fight for justice. For more information on taking care of mental health while fighting social justice, contact us at (303) 558-6400.