If you're reading this, it means you survived week one of Trump's presidency — congratulations. You may have marched, called your representatives, and written postcards. You may have shared articles on Facebook and other forms of social media. You may have donated to organizations that are important to you. And, if you're at all engaged, you may have felt a rollercoaster of emotions this past week: anger, frustration, maybe even depression and hopelessness at times. And you know what? As necessary as it is to stay engaged, it can get exhausting — both mentally and physically. And it's okay to take a little bit of time to recoup. Self-care is important even when you're committed to being politically active, so I've come up with 8 ways to relax before going back to the fight.
Although it is important, the ability to take time to care for yourself is certainly a luxury that not everyone has. For one, mental health services are not easily available to everyone (and certainly won't be if and when the Affordable Care Act is repealed). But on a more fundamental level, the ability to stop worrying about what's happening in our country — even temporarily — is a privilege that many minorities who are directly affected by Trump's actions simply cannot afford. With that being said, it is nonetheless vital to remain vigilant and energized over the next four years, and that might require taking a small break from the fight every once in a while. So I've come up with a list of small, inexpensive, not time-consuming ways to practice self-care while remaining dedicated to activism.
1. Log Out
Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media are great ways to share and read news, which means they can also be big sources of anxiety. I'm the type of person who's always on Facebook in some form or another — whether I'm at work, on the subway, even on the toilet (yes, even then). Being constantly barraged by bad news is taxing, to say the least, so I'm going to log out. But not permanently — instead, I'm going to make a point to only check Facebook at certain times of the day. That way, I can get a brief break from all the terrible Trump news, but also, when I do read the news I can deal with what's happening with a more focused and measured plan of action.
Ten minutes of meditation a day are all it takes to reap the benefits, according to science, though you can start with as little as three to five minutes. And you don't need anything to meditate — there are tons of online resources and tools you can practice at home, or wherever is convenient for you.
3. Make A List
Psychologists believe that making lists can ease anxiety, combat avoidance, and help you prioritize, among other benefits. So if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the scary things happening, it can help to make a list of concrete ways you can help. It will help you stay focused and organized, and you can get that mood boost when you cross an item off your list.
4. Look At Cute Animals
It may sound a little frivolous and immature, but a study actually found that looking at pictures of cute animals can improve focus. Yes, actual science said this. (Yet another reason we need to trust science.) So if you're going to be reading the news anyway, why not take a minute or less to watch a cute puppy video? It will not only temporarily distract you and lift your mood, but can also benefit you when you're ready to get back in the fight.
5. Take A Deep Breath
There's a reason we've all been told since birth to take a deep breath when we're feeling stressed or overwhelmed: it's because it can help quell your body's stress response. Make sure you inhale deeply from your diaphragm and practice what's called diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing to get the full relaxation effects.
It's been proven that physical activity reduces stress, reduces fatigue, and increases concentration and alertness — all things you need in order to keep fighting for the next four years. And you don't need to spend hours at a fancy gym or yoga class — even five minutes of aerobic exercise, like a jog or brisk walk around the block, can have positive affects on your mental health.
I shouldn't have to say this, but getting enough sleep is essential for basically doing anything. On a short-term scale, sleep deprivation can make you anxious, forgetful, and unfocused. Long term it can lead to psychiatric problems, including depression. It might seem obvious, but you need to be getting enough sleep.
8. Complete Small Acts Of Resistance
For me personally, not feeling like I'm doing enough to fight can also be a source of anxiety. So to combat this feeling, I'll do what I call "small acts of resistance." For instance, if you are able, make a small donation to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, or another organization. Make a quick phone call to your senator on your lunch break. Write a letter or postcard to your representative expressing the issues that are important to you — and as a bonus, writing has proven to be therapeutic, improve mood, reduce blood pressure, and improve psychological well-being. There are simple ways to make your voice heard even if you're not attending a protest or some other large-scale event, though those are just as important.
Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, taking a break can help with your fighting stamina — and if this first week is any indication, we're all going to need it.