Self-Care Now More Than Ever!

Audre Lord

Here’s a reminder that self-care becomes even more important during stressful times. The need for self-care would seem obvious, except that some on the right deride people who ask for it as weak, and a culture that supports it as dysfunctional. That attitude diffuses into the general culture and causes people to feel guilty about wanting or needing self-care.

Some good people also feel guilty for “taking time off” to care for themselves when there’s important social justice work to be done or others in need of serious help. But your disempowering yourself through self-neglect isn’t going to help anyone. (To paraphrase the airlines, you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.) Many successful activists (and others, of course) devote hours each day to exercise and other forms of self-care, which helps them maintain not just their health and energy, but motivation and focus.

As the poet and activist Audre Lorde famously wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

I think most people know what self-care consists of: abundant sleep, good nutrition, exercise, recreation, socializing, and being proactive on any physical and mental health needs. But what it really is, is a commitment. If you’re not giving up other activities to care for yourself, you’re probably not really caring for yourself.

How much self-care do you need? The answer is, “as much as you need.” Part of self-care is listening to, and trusting, yourself. If you feel like you need more sleep, or more time off, or to consult a doctor, therapist or other professional, respect that truth and act accordingly. Almost all of us need more self-care than we like to admit, but denying one’s need for it is perfectionist (shortsighted and grandiose), and therefore a dead end.

And never, ever judge your need for self-care, because that’s also a perfectionist dead end.

An under-discussed aspect of self-care is filtering your inputs, both offline and especially online. If your social media feed is currently an ongoing stream of panic, fear, rage, grief, negativity, and other disempowering emotions, it’s not helping either you or the cause. (Or, probably, the people posting.) So filter it (and your offline discussions, if necessary) to let in more information and strategies and empathy and compassion, and (much) less of the discouraging stuff. This probably means removing some people from your feed, which might lead to some social awkwardness. But you should experience a pretty quick rise in your mood.

Please note that I’m not saying that the fear, grief, etc., are unwarranted. I just think there’s a point (different, perhaps, for each of us) where it’s healthier to move on to step #2: resistance. Paraphrasing the famed early 20th century labor organizer Joe Hill, “Don’t mourn. Organize.”

Finally, invest time in taking care of others in your orbit–and not just your loved ones. “Random acts of kindness”–even just a welcoming smile to a stranger–cost little or nothing and make both you and the recipient feel good. And each one strikes a blow, however small, against hate.

If you have thoughts or suggestions on self-care please leave them as a comment!

Comments

  1. thanks for this note. I’ve not gotten much done since November. I’m using a social media and news blocker; I still get a lot of news from the organizations I support via email… even that input feels overwhelming…

    …I’ve got kids in targeted populations.

    One of my posts went a little viral, and I attracted the attention of a hate site operator; he posted pictures of me and my children, and started sending harasser’s back my way. His site is protected by the proxy service Cloudflare; they protect ISIS recruitment sites, too, so the chances of them honoring my takedown requests were nil.

    So I had to accept that I’m there, the call to action against me and my family lingers in his little hate gallery. but it convinced me to give up on political posts to social media. I give money, I have volunteered in the past and I will again in the future. I call my reps. But there’s no reason to engage with strangers via social media sharing.

    Wish I had figured this out, before the pictures of my kids went up.

    • Hi Jay, I’m so sorry about your experience being targeted by a hate site, and especially based on your family. That’s terrible, and I wish you all well. I do think it’s a good idea, for many of us and for a lot of reasons, to reduce social media.

  2. jose brandao says:

    Time for oneself is king. Great post, great reminder. Every second spent off (offline, off work, offroad, with lights off) refreshes this overinformed life. I was listening to an old triphop album today in the car and caught myself annoyed the tune was too slow.

    As for the haters mentioned in the another comment, what goes around, comes around. Nothing much to be done apart from ignoring (restrain orders might come in handy as well).

  3. As a health coach and owner of a fitness business, I am a big advocate of self-care and appreciate your article on the topic. However, I am “on the right” and take exception to the fact that you felt that it was necessary to state at the beginning of the article that “some on the right deride people who ask for it as weak…..” I’m not sure why you felt the need to make this statement.

    Without going into an unnecessary tirade here, I did want to point this out to you. You are a very insightful writer and I look forward to reading future newsletters. Just keep in mind that some of your readers who are on the right are good people too. Thank you.

    • Hi Cindy – Thanks for your comment. I attributed a lack of respect for self-care to “some” (key word) on the Right because many mainstream Right Wing thinkers have expressed those sentiments, and been celebrated and rewarded for them. The Sommers / Hoff book I linked to is one example; the infamous “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua, who boasted in her book of using harsh and punitive parenting methods with her young daughters, including depriving them of bathroom breaks until they’ve done their work, is another. You also see widespread disdain by people on the Right when people call for safe spaces, trigger warnings, and other supports, the calls for which are also forms of self-care.

      I don’t think you’d find anything comparable on the left, at least by people who are in the mainstream of left opinion. Gloria Steinem wrote a whole book (Revolution From Within), a major theme of which is how she moved away from self-sacrificial habits and into more self-care, and she encouraged others to do the same. Audre Lorde (quoted in my piece) also on the Left.

      I’m sure you do great work in your fitness business, and help many people. I know there are many good people on the Right. I do think the Right gets it wrong on this issue, though.

  4. Again and always, you are the best! Thanks for the first aid.

  5. I’ve been working on my own post on this topic and struggling to find the right words, probably because of the fear of sounding selfish or weak. Thanks so much for putting this conflict between doing and self-care into such a wonderful post.

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