19 Ways To Practice Self-Care While You Protest

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There has been a whirlwind of marches and public demonstrations since Trump took office in January, and with everything that has taken place recently — the AHCA vote and the firing of FBI Director James Comey, for example — there will surely be plenty more to come. For those joining the resistance, it's important to learn how to practice self-care while you protest, so you can continue to show up when it counts without losing your drive.

In these uncertain times, learning how to take care of ourselves is imperative. The physically taxing act of marching can leave you exposed to the elements, on your feet for hours, arms heavy from holding signs and voices hoarse from chanting. The crowd's energy can make you feel uplifted, but conflict along the route may leave you emotionally drained. But self-care doesn't have to be all spa trips and massages; it can, in fact, be practiced anywhere, and it doesn't even have to cost a thing. Simply by identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them with nurturing, relaxing activities, you can take steps towards self-care that will leave you feeling better physically and mentally and stave off burnout.

Remember, self-care isn't a one-time thing; it's about building healthy habits that will stick with you long after you lace up your boots and hit the rally route. To start, check out a few ways to practice self-care while you demonstrate and prime yourself to keep the momentum going through 2020.

1Stay Hydrated

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With bathrooms hard to come by, even in organized protests, you may be tempted to eschew beverages completely when protesting. Don't do it! Dehydration can leave you feeling fatigued, dizzy, and confused, and in a crowded, high-pressure situation like a protest, that can be dangerous. To stay healthy and perform in peak condition, remember to drink fluids or eat water-rich foods. Bring a reusable water bottle with you, too.

2Limit Your Caffeine Intake

If you usually turn to a big cup of coffee when energy ebbs during a demonstration, cutting back on caffeine may make you feel better in the long run. Caffeine can amp up feelings of anxiety and jitters — never a good thing in a crowd. If you're tired, it's probably your body's way of telling you it needs something (food, a nap, water), so when you hear the siren call of the nearest coffee shop, take a moment to assess what you really need.

3Take A Break When You Need It

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Protests can stretch on for hours, but you don't have to be there from morning to night to make a difference. If you find yourself feeling tired or overwhelmed while protesting, allow yourself to take a moment to yourself. Find somewhere to sit off the march route, giving yourself time to regroup and have a snack — you can always rejoin the protest in a few minutes.

4Be Present In The Moment And Take It All In

Mindfulness is a tenant of self-care and can help reduce stress and anxiety. There is so much that goes on during a protest or march, so try taking a moment to feel the energy around you and take in the experience. Being present in the moment can help you feel more positive about the experience instead of overwhelmed.

5Try Taking A Breather From Phone Use

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If you find your phone to be a distraction, try taking a break from filming, texting, checking your News Feed, and taking pictures, at least while protesting. Switch it to airplane mode, and take some time to just be where you are surrounded by likeminded people fighting for change. You can always switch it back on when it's time to coordinate with friends afterwards.

6Make A New Acquaintance

Strike up a conversation with someone at the protest and find out why they are marching. People of all ages and backgrounds have taken to the streets to protest actions of the current administration, and this solidarity and diversity is truly inspirational.

7Remember To Breathe

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Between chants, that is.

8Stretch out If You Start To Feel Cramped

Whether you're walking for miles or standing huddled in a crowd, be aware of your body. If you start to feel cramped or achey, improve your circulation by shaking out your limbs or stretching. It may feel silly to do this in front of strangers, but suffering from cramps and aches shouldn't have to be part of your political efforts.

9Feel Your Emotions

Take a moment while you protest to lead a kind of mini-meditation, bringing attention to your body, breath, and emotions. Whether it's joy, frustration, or righteous fury that you're feeling, know that it is valid and  take time to experience it, instead of pushing it away.

11Pack Accordingly

Lugging around a heavy bag all day can be a pain in the back (literally), but you want to be sure you have the necessary provisions so that you are comfortable and feel prepared to protest. Before you go, pack hand sanitizer, tissues (for those public toilets), a reusable water bottle, a snack,  ID, cash, and whatever you might need for that day's weather forecast.

12Enjoy The Sunshine (Or Rain)

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While protesting, you will often be exposed to the elements, so it's best to be prepared for what Mother Nature throws your way. Apply SPF and bring wear eye protection; if rain is in the forecast, carry an umbrella (if it's allowed) or bring a rain poncho and remember to wear waterproof shoes. Returning home with a cold or a bad sunburn will dampen your drive to join the next march.

13Help Someone, If The Opportunity Presents Itself

Help someone carry a heavy sign, climb stairs, or cross the street, and it will make you feel good in return. The more we work together cooperatively, the better our chances at making a real difference.

14Attend The Protest With A Positive Friend Group

If it seems like every day there is an upsetting revelation primed to drag down your mood, leave the negative people at home the next time you march. Surround yourself with active, positive people, and you may start feeling the same.

15Celebrate The Small Wins

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Celebrating progress, no matter how small, is crucial to achieving bigger aims. Acknowledging these baby steps improves our motivation, keeping us on the right track. So every time a judge grants a stay or your senator listens to your concerns and votes accordingly, let it bolster your efforts.

16Give Yourself A Pep Talk

We're only a few months into the Trump presidency, and it seems like each day there is something new to fight against. If the news cycle is leaving you exhausted and gloomy take the time to give yourself a little positive reinforcement. Compliment yourself rather than belittling your efforts, and remind yourself that it's OK to stay angry. What you're doing is important. Find a mantra that works for you and let it energize you!

17Enjoy The Exercise

Exercise is good for you (no matter what Trump thinks) — and doing cardio while being politically active is even better.

18Wear Clothes That Makes You Feel Empowered (And Comfortable)

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Comfort is key when it comes to dressing for a protest, and that doesn't just mean layering. Of course you want to dress for the weather and choose footwear that won't kill your feet after a few hours, but finding an outfit that makes you feel confident and strong can go a long way as well.  

19Take The March At Your Own Speed

There's no need to hustle to the front if you don't feel up to it. Remember, it's a marathon, not a race, and there are no participation medals on the line — so take it at your own speed and find the place in the protest where you feel most comfortable.

It's shaping up to be a long four years, but we're already fighting the good fight. Remember to take care of yourself as well as others, and we'll get through this together. We can make a difference.