In times as tumultuous as in today’s world, finding the means to take care of yourself proves difficult. Because of the instant and globalized culture around us, we are constantly bombarded with news from dawn to dusk–even longer. As a result, any sense of joy we experience is fleeting. Often, the negative news we are constantly exposed to has a lingering effect–we think about it during our commutes, meals, and workdays. In other words, we are victims of rumination. Any leisure time we do have to grasp in the utilitarian society we live in is thus spent discussing the state of affairs. Negativity hardly leaves us–because we’re so used to it, we do not notice how much of our energy we lose as a consequence until it’s too late. Our compassion leads to a co-opting of suffering. Those of us who are care-givers, whether professionally or personally, are particularly susceptible to compassion fatigue. Thus, self-care, although a privilege for the many, is more important now than ever.
“Negativity hardly leaves us–because we’re so used to it, we do not notice how much of our energy we lose as a consequence until it’s too late.”
Clinical psychological studies have shown that increased self-care helps individuals suffering from negative rumination combat emotional exhaustion. Guided meditation, coping exercises, and cooperative methods are often utilized in reaching mindfulness and decreasing negative effects. In some cases, combating rumination is just the tip of the iceberg. Care-givers may also become victims of Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder in personalizing the trauma of those they are helping.
This article lists out various methods of mental self-care. Some are coping mechanisms that can work as temporary distractions while others can help get to the root of some issues. Every method is effective in moderation. This list is not a replacement for proper medical attention. Know when to seek the advice of a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or primary care physician. Remember, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, suicidal, or victim to self-harm, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or visit their website here.
Now, let’s get to some self-care!
- Take a mindful walk. Often, we’re so absorbed in our lives that we forget to notice the little things around us. Mindful walks help us appreciate what we have and remind us that not everything has to be sad.
- Cuddle an animal. If you don’t have one, ask to borrow a friend’s pet. Or, better yet, if you have a humane society nearby, volunteer in your free time. Animals benefit from care from you just as much as you do from them!
- Sign up for an activism to-do list. Many times, our anxiety and exhaustion stems from a sense of helplessness. With a weekly subscription to a to-do list, you can pick a few projects to work on.
- Try to find a therapist in your area. There are many resources that let you find the best specialist for you. If you’re tight on funds, fear not! Some therapists take on cases with no payment expected. Just call beforehand to ask!
You have limits. Don’t take on more than you can chew.
- If one-on-one therapy isn’t your thing, you can also move towards group therapy. Feeling validated by others who share similar feelings can prove to be healing.You have limits. Don’t take on more than you can chew.
- Say no. There is an expectation to accommodate for the requests of friends, peers, and co-workers. But, just like them, you’re also human. You have limits. Don’t take on more than you can chew. If you need a break–or just don’t feel like going to an event, you have every right to decline a request.
- Indulge in some of your favorite childhood past-times. Sometimes, you just need to build a pillow fort in your living room, pop some popcorn, and watch Little Bear to feel comforted.
- Reclaim your time. More often than not, we find ourselves exhausted because we have to constantly explain our situations and our struggles. While education is pivotal to change, sometimes educating can be too draining. Save the explaining for another time.
- Clean up your space. For some individuals, a cluttered work space or living space can prove overwhelming. Do the dishes, vacuum, and make your bed. It’ll cross some chores off your mental checklist.
- Play some video games. In a small study by specialists at East Carolina University, it was found that video games helped decrease left frontal alpha activity (tied to negative and depressing brain function). If you find yourself too worked up, take a break and game on.
- Express yourself through art. Often people find it frustrating when coping mechanisms just distract them from the looming stress of the week ahead. But, when creating–whether through crafting, painting, drawing, or photographing–the pent up frustration and emotion can manifest into something material and tangible.
- Start a blog, private or public, to help you journal your sentiment. That way, you’re putting your thoughts–and possible solutions, into a physical form. If public, the journal can be your way of contributing to change the structures you find unjust. If you aren’t comfortable with typing out your issues, try writing them in a guided journal. List your frustrations, stresses, and worries and subsequently list tangible ways to solve them.
- Watch your favorite comfort movie or comfort shows. If Bob’s Burgers is how you cope with the stress of the day, binge watch it when you’re feeling particularly down. Feeling like belting out the soundtrack to Frozen? Go ahead, no one will judge you.
- Cook your favorite dish. Is it something that reminds you of home? Is it super-indulgent? Sweet? Savory? It could be all of the above! The point is, to you, it’s comforting. Why not renew your energy with a bit of food? If food is a primary segway to comfort for you, try to incorporate as many healthy and substantial meals into your daily routine. Sometimes, it’s time to put down the mindless snacks.
“Don’t beat yourself up for being affected by what you and those around you are going through.”
- Exercise! For those non-athletes, it does sound daunting. But, exercising is proven to release endorphins, a feel-good neurotransmitter. A rigorous jog or some peaceful yoga can not only make you feel better, but add structure to those days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed.
- Acknowledge your feelings! They are valid! Don’t beat yourself up for being affected by what you and those around you are going through.
- Unplug from the internet. The constant barrage of negativity through the news, social media, and other outlets are a major cause of negative feeling. Take a moment to realize that the world is much bigger than its problems.
- Cry. Cathartic release through tears is often discouraged–it can be taken as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. We all cry for a reason, so own it. Let out a good sob.
- Open a photo album. You’ll see that you made it through the hard times of your past–and hopefully the good moments have been properly captured. Utilize that energy to motivate yourself to keep on doing what you’re doing.
- Find your happy place. Whether imaginary or concrete, everyone needs a sanctum sanctorum. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and understand the sources of your stress and anxiety. Challenge it, push back against it, and be your biggest cheerleader. Yes, for activists, the weight of the world seems to always be on your shoulders. Acknowledge you cannot bear the brunt of it all. More often than not, you’re doing what you can. Always remember that.