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Decolonize Your Mind: Self-Care Advice for Activists

Activism and decolonization require patience, perseverance, and psychological work. These tasks result in serious emotional exhaustion that we often ignore. With some holidays coming up, hopefully we’ll have some time to practice self-care, because we cannot be liberated without healing.

Self-care is Not Selfish

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I had difficulty learning that taking time to care for myself was not rooted in selfishness or conceit. We cannot work towards liberation if we cannot function. Experiencing racism or other systemic forms of oppression is often traumatic, and taking time to process and heal those wounds through self-care methods allows time to recuperate from that trauma (or at least try).

Back to Basics

Sometimes, the best form of self-care manifests as prioritizing the bare necessities. Getting eight hours of sleep, eating three meals a day, and staying hydrated can boost your mood and mental health, too. Especially as college students, we frequently neglect our basic needs like healthy food and sufficient sleep, so putting some energy towards those priorities can help keep you grounded.

Move Your Body

When I’m feeling particularly hopeless, everything seems pointless and my body feels as though I have no real purpose, or at least I won’t be able to accomplish anything. During these moments, I find it helpful to move around in some way. Once I finally muster the strength to get out of bed or off the couch, I attend a Zumba class at the gym, or take a walk to campus and back. This movement helps me reconnect with my body, and understand my capabilities. Many studies note the mental benefits of physical activity, so find an activity that works for you.

Put it in Your Planner

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It’s easy to have the intentions of caring for yourself, but sometimes the days escape us and we haven’t taken a moment for reflection. To make sure you remember, schedule specific times for coloring, cooking, meditating, journal-ing, or any other relaxing activity to ensure that you find time for yourself.

Disconnect

Although the shitstorm of social media (and sometimes the entire internet) can test our everlasting patience, not every instance of bigotry requires an active response from you. With so much hate in the world, we cannot afford to react to each one deeply, or take the time to construct a savage social media take-down response. Sometimes, we have to let that shit go for our own sake, for our own mental health.

Healthy Escapism

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Lately, I’ve enjoyed re-reading the Harry Potter books, and once I finish those I plan on moving on to the Game of Thrones series. While these texts are not radical in nature and aren’t written by radical folks, they provide some healthy escapism from the frustrating and exhausting real world. Not everyone likes fantasy literature, but fictional pieces of work allow me to take a break from other psychic and decolonization work. Plus, I always find ways to make Harry Potter a little better (i.e. arguing that Hermione is DEFINITELY black and should have been cast as a black woman (source).

Socialization

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We all take up different spaces on the extroverted-introverted spectrum, but if you feel energized by engaging with other people, reach out to someone for coffee or just a conversation. If you have a pet and have no shame like me, talk to them. Studies show that both dogs and cats listen when you speak to them and say their names, so if you’re not interested in interacting with people, try animals!

Self-care, while sometimes difficult to maintain in our schedules, remains vital to our decolonization process. Many activists including Angela Davis and Audre Lorde have discussed the importance of such activities. Time to reflect, recuperate and be compassionate towards oneself will allow us to direct productive energy towards activism.