How to Prioritize Self-care While Fighting for Change

From starting a gratitude journal to turning off your phone before bed, here are small but important ways you can tend to your well-being while working toward a better world.

Marko Geber/ Getty Images
Marko Geber/ Getty Images

This inflection point in history is teaching us that there is so much more to be done to create long-term change, and taking continuous action necessitates taking care of our own physical and mental well-being. As Thrive CEO and founder Arianna Huffington recently wrote, “Now is the moment for activists to reclaim self-care instead of allowing it to remain largely commodified and disconnected from our collective efforts to end a deep-rooted system of racial injustice or in any other way make the world better.” And as Rachel Elizabeth Cargle, founder of The Loveland Foundation, recently posted, “Meditate AND call your senator. Go to yoga AND vote. Breathe deeply AND donate to causes that matter…”

We asked our Thrive community to share with us how they’re prioritizing self-care while doing the work that leads to change. Which of these will you try?

Start a gratitude journal

“I’ve started a gratitude journal. Every morning, I sit with my cup of tea and remind myself what I am grateful for as I start the day. Many of us are grieving right now, and when we are ready, there are rays of sunlight and hope waiting for us. That is what sustains me in this fight for systemic change.”

—Mita Mallick, head of diversity, Jersey City, NJ 

Connect with others

“Connecting with others is one of the most profound methods of self-care that I have employed during these historic and turbulent times. In the early days of quarantine, I began reaching out to dozens of old friends and scheduled one telephone call every afternoon when we could chat on a ‘walk and talk.’ These daily conversations, rain or shine, allowed me to move my body, breathe fresh air and most importantly, listen to others from across the country. It was incredibly healing and reassuring to reconnect with childhood buddies, former newsroom colleagues, and college friends. The best part is that the interactions have only continued as we now share what’s happening in our respective communities, workplaces and homes and collaborate on how we can work together to fight systemic racism.”

—Heather Cabot, Rye, NY

Try meditating 

“Meditation is my form of self-care right now. During my meditation, I focus my intent on using my voice as an Asian American female to promote justice and seek ways to do it. Usually, something comes to me during the meditation itself or shortly thereafter, and I act on it.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and life coach, Birmingham, MI

Be forgiving with yourself

“In the United States, we have never been through a more powerful movement at this scale. There is information coming in from every direction. There are voices that need to be heard and actions that need to be taken, while still keeping our businesses, work, and personal care afloat. To make time for self-care, I’m reminding myself that it’s important to remain open and forgiving. And while having those qualities is certainly warranted and needed for the people around you, I’m talking about being open and forgiving with myself admitting that I’ve made mistakes, and that I played a role — albeit unintentionally. I’m practicing being okay with not having all the correct answers right now. I’m listening, taking notes, and forming action plans.”

—Pia Beck, business coach, Denver, CO

Unplug before bed

“I have been prioritizing my self-care by taking time to wind down before bed every night. The first thing I do is power down and turn off my phone a few hours before bed. The blue light that’s emitted by your phone and your laptop can inhibit your body’s natural melatonin production. That light tells your biological clock that it’s time to wake up, potentially throwing off your sleep cycle and messing up the overall quality of your sleep. Calming an already-stirred up mind can be challenging, so implementing some calming practices before you even get into bed can go a long way.”

—Kanchan Nebhwani, co-founder of Drumi, Boston, MA

Schedule “self-care blocks” into your day

“I intentionally schedule three ‘self-care blocks’ into my day. My phone goes on Do Not Disturb, and I take 45 minutes during each block. The morning block is dedicated to prayer and reflection before the workday begins. During the afternoon block, I run an essential oil diffuser while I eat a healthy lunch — usually including spinach, for the magnesium that affects serotonin levels. The evening block after work is done is dedicated to cardio in order to release endorphins and improve my sleep.”

—Kamryn Adams, author, New York, NY

Check in with your breathing

“One small way that I am prioritizing self-care during these anxiety-triggering times is by asking myself, ‘Am I breathing?” I know that breathing is something that we don’t have to think about, yet with the many issues facing Black Americans, I sometimes get stuck in holding my breath. I hold my breath when I see the news, when I run my errands, when I’m working, or when I’m talking to friends and family. There are so many times daily where I catch myself not breathing that I typically don’t even notice it until I become out of breath. By simply checking in with myself, I am able to prioritize my well-being. Once I realize that I am not breathing properly, I tap into my meditative breath work to not only oxygenate my blood, but also to do a body scan. Since I have made this a part of my self-care routine, I am more conscious of my anxiety and stress, and make it a point to stop what I am doing and just breathe.”

—Sharitta Marshall, customer success manager, Tempe, AZ

Prioritize mindfulness

“I’ve re-discovered the benefits of mindfulness. I schedule ten minutes before starting work each morning and use a combination of mindfulness exercises, including breathing, body-scan and gratitude meditation. I’ve found it really helpful over recent weeks to encourage me to pause, breathe, control my wandering mind, and be more present with my wife and children. It’s become a regular start to my workday.”

—Jamie Butler, executive coach and facilitator, Hampshire, U.K.

Take time to reflect

“The one small way I’m prioritizing self-care while doing the work that leads to change is to constantly turn the mirror to see and feel how I’m responding to events happening around me. For example, when I posted a video on social media of an African American woman passionately expressing why events such as looting were occurring in cities across America, someone commented that they weren’t buying it. In the past, I would not have responded because I’m not comfortable with confrontation. However, times are changing as so many of us are now willing to look into those places we’ve repressed for so long. I responded to this person’s comment, and it was an important step of responding with compassion for the woman in the video, for the person making the comment, and for myself as I recognized a deeply held old belief, was a conscious self-care choice that inspired compassionate change within and around me, as reflected in the comments from others who subsequently responded to that post.”

—Amy Camie, CCM, certified clinical musician, St. Louis, MO

How do you carve out time for self-care as an activist? Share with us your tips in the comments.

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