Recovering Outside the Western Medical System – Part 2

Bootcamp and Everyday Activism trainer Karen shares with us her top 5 tips for self-care to prevent activist burnout.

Last month I posted a blog reflecting on my journey into self-care and social justice. In this second blog, I share my 5 tips for self-care to help you to prioritise your inner peace and wellbeing:

1. “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Finding places where you can speak truthfully about your experiences, process emotions and receive validation is an important act of self-care. Equally important is being able to hold space for others to do the same. Whether that’s in one-to-one or group therapy, 12 step programmes, peer counselling groups or within your group of friends, the more we do this, the more we can develop the ability to communicate our feelings effectively.

2. ‘”Is imposter syndrome a bad thing?” a client asked. “No, it’s a background hunger to be more authentic.”’ – David Bedrick

Existing in spaces where we feel forced to be inauthentic can create mental, emotional and spiritual stress, which can manifest physically. Finding ways to express your true self can create a deeper sense of joy and self-love. This might take the form of creativity, play and connecting with your ancestral traditions. Speak your mother tongue and spend time with people who do. Take your favourite food to work and allow the smell and taste to uplift you and remind you of home. 

3. “Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” – J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

What you resist persists, so taking care of myself involves letting go of the temptation to numb my feelings. Learning to sit with my emotions and be present has been a great act of self-care. This may involve examining our relationship to alcohol, nicotine, social media or other addictive substances and compulsive behaviours, and replacing them with healthier ways of processing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. 

4. “The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The black goddess within each of us – the poet – whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.” – Audre Lorde

A great way to move beyond numbing our feelings is by connecting to our bodies and the sensations we feel. Finding ways to feel fully embodied using practises such as meditation, breathwork, and yoga can help us to feel the full range of our emotions. When discomfort arises, we can learn to hold it in our awareness, asking it to let us know what message it wants to send. Sometimes the message is that we’re hungry or thirsty, and sometimes our body is asking us to take some time for quiet contemplation. Sometimes the message is that we need to move our body through dance, yoga or exercise. Sometimes the discomfort doesn’t need a reason to be there, it just is, and that’s ok.⁣

5. “Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” – Maya Angelou

Rest is an important part of my recovery toolkit. Inspired by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, who writes about the importance of ‘going home’, I take every opportunity I can to catch my breath, retreat from the world and allow myself to just be. From improving sleep hygiene to scheduling duvet days, it’s important to be intentional about resting well. Learning about the importance of sleep and creating the right environment for it can make all the difference to our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health. That is an act of self-preservation. 

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