So, here is the good news: the hellish year that was 2016 is finally over. This past year we have seen countless events that have challenged social justice movements on a national and international scale. However, thinking just because 2017 is a different number that everything is going to be rosy is dangerous. In all honestly, from this point of view, 2017 looks as though it will be fraught with many more trials. I’m not here to be pessimistic, but to rather illuminate and prepare ourselves for the obstacles we have ahead. My mother always told me that if your situation is bad, that is good—because that means there is plenty of work to do.
Never will our skillset for inclusive action, diversity appreciation, and civil dialogue be in more demand as we enter a new year with Donald Trump serving as president. We are all being called to bring our best selves to the table to fight for justice. But lest we get burnt out in the first month, we need to talk about the need to rest/regroup or we will be spent by mid-February, a mere few weeks post-inauguration. In order to do so, it is essential that we take care of ourselves: mentally, physically, and spiritually.
To liken it to Dr. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we need to take time to keep our “saws” sharp. The story goes that a person was exhausting themself trying to cut down a tree with a rusty, dull saw blade. When asked by a passing stranger why don’t they take 10-15 minutes to sharpen the saw to make the task easier, the person exclaimed, “Can’t you see? I’m already behind; I don’t have time to sharpen the saw.”
All too often we fail to account for how much more effective a better version of us would be. How much better would we be if we took the time to exercise, take a quiet walk in nature, or get centered with some mindfulness practice? We all wish for the reprieve of a “good day” – when what we should wish for is the strength to make a bad day easier – permanently! We need to take care of ourselves, first and foremost.
To begin crafting a self-care plan, I will focus on three areas: mental, physical, and spiritual. To do otherwise is to craft a stool for rest with less than three legs of support. I’ve included suggestions below.
Mental Self-Care Suggestions:
Reading for education
Reading for escapism
Binge watch positive content
Take a nap
Go for a walk in nature
Work on a puzzles
Create a bed time ritual
Organize your living space
Listen to TED talks
Say “No” unless it’s a HELL YES
Practice mindful self-compassion
Indulge in your favorite whatever
Physical Self-Care Suggestions:
Focus on better if not more sleep
Give yourself a Mani-Pedi
Wash your face
Declutter and donate to causes you care about
Positive physical touch
Eat clean (takes a few weeks)
Get some sunlight
Touch nature (negative ions are great for grounding)
Take deep cleansing breaths
Wake-up gently once a week
Get/give a massage
Spiritual Self-Care Suggestions:
Give/receive positive affirmations
Drink soothing tea
VolunteerEngage in service
Join self-care groups
Create self-care get togethers
Ask for some help
Call a friend and offer help
Catch a sunset/sunrise
Notice your current emotion
Give without needing recognition or reciprocation
To be totally honest with you, 2017 might be a bit of a train wreck – but there is beauty in the breakdown. And at times, we must step back to push forward. In a plane crash, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, THEN to care for others. I think we need to remember this thought moving forward. There will never be a greater need for love and inclusion than in 2017. We cannot afford to recede into safe spaces or echo chambers of complaint. We need to do work, but to do work we need to make sure we get deep and replenishing rest too.
It is unrealistic to assume we are only about the work, and not acknowledge our needs as human beings, but at the same time we cannot allow ourselves to withdraw and not be about the work – it is about BALANCE. It’s going to take a balance of both to make the impact we dream of for ALL of us. There is nothing wrong with taking breaks. Many greats in history took breaks, Jesus took breaks from healing people to pray in the wilderness; the Buddha needed isolation in meditation to explain nirvana to the rest of us; Muhammad took breaks from fasts with dates and water, etc. There is a long historical tradition of the observance of self-care. In 2017, we need to care for ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us and we need to care for others to make an inclusive future a possible one.