Why Reading Should Be Considered Essential Self-Care For Every Activist
Self-care: we've heard the term, scrolled through suggestions, and read the how-to's, but now it's time we developed our own non-negotiable routines if we have any chance at surviving these next four years. While every individual's personal needs are different, I have to say that reading should be considered essential self-care for every activist and resistor.
Since the November election, and especially in the last few weeks since the administration's takeover of the White House, I feel like I've been on constant overload. Whether it's another shocking news report, a less-than-shocking tweet, or a mind boggling press conference, I'm inundated with political news, nearly all of it negative. When I am not absorbing the news, I'm trying to help change it by showing up to protests and rallies, calling and writing my representatives, organizing meetings, and I am far from alone in this experience. People around the country are showing up every day to protest the current President's political agenda, but how long will it be until the exhaustion sets in? In our current hostile climate, resistance fatigue is not an option, which is why self-care is important now, more than ever.
Although I found it hard to turn the news off and put the rally sign down at first, I've learned these last few months that, as Audre Lorde so perfectly put it, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” My own self-care practice involves a healthy dose of yoga, regular walks in the woods with my dogs, and at least an hour a day unplugged from it all, but one of the most important parts of my routine is reading. A book-nerd from birth, I've always loved getting lost in a good story, but now the time I take out of my day to relax with a book is more than just my leisure time. It's my own personal brand of self-care that allows my body to rest, my soul to heal, and my heart to grow, one page at a time.
I've always believed in the magic of reading, but now more than ever, I turn to the power of books to keep me motivated to show up and resist, every day. If you're not so sure about it yourself, here are my 5 reasons for why reading should be considered essential self-care for every activist.
1. It has the power to inspire.
Whether you're reading a fantasy book about a magical adventure or a true story about a war hero, every book has one thing in common: they can inspire readers. In a world where everyday there's news of more hate, violence, and government failings, every activist need to find encouragement to keep going and to keep fighting, even when the odds are stacked against us. Reading books about fictional heroines taking down entire evil governments or real-life reporters exposing corruption and making a serious difference seem to do just the trick.
2. It gives your body a chance to rest.
Between weekly marches, protests, and demonstrations, not only is your mind exhausted from resisting, but so is your body. Reading is a great way to get off your feet, relax, and let your body get the rest it needs to keep going. Let yourself curl up with a good book, a comfy blanket, and a fluffy pillow every once and awhile, and you'll notice that you feel not only better rested, but stronger than ever.
3. You get a temporary break from reality.
We live in a 24/7 constant news cycle, and most of the time the information we're hearing is negative. It's important not to turn a blind ear or a blind eye to what's happening around you, but it's also essential you give yourself a break from it, at least every now and then. Reading fiction can help you do just that. If you allow yourself to take a temporary break from reality, you'll be able to face it again with a clearer mind, fresh eyes, and a little less negativity.
4. It can be comforting.
It's easy to feel frustrated, angry, scared, shocked, and even depressed in the current political and cultural climate we find ourselves in, but the key to keeping your activism alive is keeping hope alive. One great way to do that is by finding happiness and security somewhere in your everyday life. It may seem harder and harder to do that, but one place you'll always find comfort is your bookshelf. Whether you're diving into a favorite book you've read before, or embracing a new uplifting story, books have the power to not only inspire and refresh, but to comfort sadness, assuage anger, and lift spirits, no matter what is happening outside the pages.
5. It improves your empathy.
While you might temporarily be in another world, reading fiction can help improve an important skill you need in this one: empathy. Researchers at The New School have concluded that literary fiction can actually help readers better understand what others are thinking and feeling. Although your self-care routine is supposed to be a break from resisting, you can feel less guilty about indulging in it because reading can actually make you a better activist and ally.