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Photography Ryan McGinley, Styling Emma Wyman. Dazed Summer 2018 issue

Activism and self-care: How to look after yourself while saving the world


TextEmilia Ortiz

When concentrating on the needs of the community, it can be a challenge for many activists to recognize their own needs

Dazed Beauty Wellness Editor Emilia Ortiz is the no bullshit, Brooklyn-based bruja, spiritual advisor, creative, mental health advocate, motivational speaker, empath, fairy Godmother you’ve been waiting for. Ortiz aims to make healing spaces more inclusive and accessible by using her Instagram @Ethereal.1 as a platform to educate and raise awareness of mental health issues and offer advice, guidance and understanding.

Activism is hard work. It’s about survival. Surviving where the work takes you, surviving the mental toll it takes. As a mental health advocate, I have often grappled with my self-care needs, and with social activism on the rise the need for self-care in activism has risen too. When concentrating on the needs of the community they serve, it can be a challenge for many activists to recognize their own needs and address them. Activists learn how to take care of the community they serve, but not themselves. Many strive for a better quality of life for others but forget to better the quality of their life along the way. Enjoy what brings you joy, amidst the chaos. You’ll need to know how to one day – after all, what’s next after changing the world?

I wanted to highlight some ways that activists can practice self-care while saving the world, as well as some ways that community members can assist in the process.

Make a list

When you feel like you’re the only one who is doing anything and it’s overwhelming you, make a list of at least three people you know who are working to make changes. If you have organized with them before, reflect on how that made an impact. Reflect on how there are others around the world and even in your hood, organising too.

Take time for yourself

At least once a week, set out 30 minutes that are designated for you to do things that have nothing to do with activism. Try to make this something connected to joy, but it can also be to release. Dance, cry, take a nap, eat some food, take a shower or bath, go for a walk, talk to plants, draw, play with a dog or animal, do breathing exercises, meditation etc. You are a whole person, not just an activist. Feel the other parts of the human experience. It can help when you feel the work is endless.

Remember to eat and drink

Set an alarm to remind you to eat and drink water. We often get so caught up in the work, we forget to eat or drink. Then by the time we do, it’s usually something not good for us.

Be kind to yourself

Be kind and forgiving with yourself. Allow yourself room to make mistakes and grow. Work on accepting that, a single person cannot change all that is wrong in the world. But you’re doing your best and that’s all you can ultimately do.

Ways the community can help activists:

Check in with them

Ask if they need anything. Don’t only speak to them when you need something addressed. Engage with the human side of them, tap into your empathy. Use it to help you navigate what they may need. Sometimes it’s as simple as needing food, or a “how are you?”. Respect their boundaries. Be open to organising to help them, the way they organised to help you.

Be forgiving

Allow them the space to grow and learn. When they mess up, give them room to right their wrongs. None of us are perfect.

Financial support always helps

Support activists financially when you can. Sometimes that means buying merch or collabs, sharing it on your social media so others can buy if you can’t. Activists need a roof over their head and food too. They have families and dreams of their own - aside from a better world. They also can’t fund their causes out their own pockets usually.

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