Self-care as Political Resistance

This post was inspired by The Nap Ministry, an organization that explores the liberating power of rest. Also, this post was specifically written as a resource for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color).

How is self-care political resistance?

In a world that doesn’t want you to combat the oppression you face, nurturing yourself is a form of political resistance. If you’re BIPOC you may be familiar with the emotional fatigue that can result from living in oppressive systems and advocating for yourself within these systems. When we practice self-care we’re able to mentally, emotionally, and physically replenish ourselves and foster resilience. We’re able to maintain a strong presence instead of slowly fading away. Nurturing ourselves not only fends off burnout, but it can also help alleviate the psychological and physiological symptoms of oppression.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde (02/18/1934 – 11/17/1992)
American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist

Racism, stress, and chronic illness

Experiences with racism can slowly deteriorate a person’s mental and physical health over time. These painful experiences can foster mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and race-based traumatic stress. Racism can do harm through obvious discriminatory treatment (e.g., name-calling, bullying, etc.) and the insidious daily toll of social exclusion and economic disadvantage. Experiences with racism can lead to internalized racism, fostering low self-worth and self-limiting beliefs. Practicing self-care can help combat the chronic symptoms of racial battle fatigue and race-based traumatic stress, and can promote sustainable wellness.

Self-care is vital for longevity.

Self-care has become associated with a luxury that only upper-class (typically White) people engage in. In reality, the capacity to nurture ourselves is a right that belongs to all of us. Self-care isn’t the occasional effort to “treat yourself,” but it is a vital mindset that can sustain and empower you. Do you prioritize nurturing yourself? If not, why not? What makes you believe that self-care is out of your reach? In order to sustain mental and emotional wellness while advocating for social justice, we must incorporate self-care into our daily routines, especially when it’s not easy.

Self-care won’t always be glamorous

Self-care won’t always feel good. Well, not right away, at least. We often associate self-care with bubble baths, face masks, or eating dark chocolate. While it can be these things, sometimes self-nourishment requires that we make healthy decisions even when it’s difficult. Learning how to say “no,” holding yourself accountable, and setting boundaries in relationships are a few examples of self-care that may be uncomfortable at first, but can lead to positive outcomes.

Take Note: Self-care practices do not include behaviors that foster dependency or cause harm to yourself or anyone else (e.g., substance use).

If you’re stuck on how to identify self-care practices, simply start with what feels good or what helps you relax. The simpler the self-care, the better. Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Layers of self-care

Contrary to popular belief, self-care shouldn’t be limited to weekends or special occasions. It can be integrated into your lifestyle in simple ways that don’t feel like more work. Let’s explore self-care in the following domains:

  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Workplace

Identifying forms of self-care that you enjoy and can easily practice is key. Use the following examples as ideas for self-care that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.

Psychological self-care

  • Creative expression (e.g., creating art, dancing, etc.)
  • Meditation (try the Headspace or Calm apps)
  • Set boundaries with technology & social media
  • Practice self-affirmations (e.g., “I am strong”)
  • Process your thoughts (e.g., talking, journaling, etc.)

Emotional self-care

  • Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people
  • Honor your emotional needs in your relationships
  • Sit with your emotions instead of avoiding them
  • Practice vulnerability in expressing how you feel
  • Allow yourself to cry when you need to — it’s healthy!

Spiritual self-care

  • Make time for meditation and/or prayer
  • Spend time with your family or collective
  • Connect with your Higher Power, whatever that may be
  • Immerse yourself in nature and unplug from technology
  • Practice forgiveness for yourself and others

Physical self-care

  • Prioritize a balanced and nutritious diet
  • Stay active during the day (e.g., take short walks)
  • Practice good sleep-hygiene (stick with it!)
  • Take mindful showers/baths to help relax
  • Stay hydrated (most people are dehydrated and don’t even realize it)

Workplace self-care

  • Speak up about issues that are important to you
  • Set healthy boundaries with coworkers
  • Emotionally separate “work” from “home”
  • Challenge yourself to grow professionally
  • Take intentional breaks throughout the day

Make a personalized self-care plan.

Identify three to five practices in each of the aforementioned domains to make an individualized self-care plan. The keys to an effective and sustainable self-care plan are:

  1. Choosing practices that you’re personally interested in.
  2. Choosing enough practices that you can easily and routinely engage in.

Often times we plan elaborate self-care plans that aren’t realistic or end up feeling like work instead of rest. While there may be times we’re challenged to push ourselves in order to make healthy decisions, having a handful of easy self-care practices is critical.

Your mental health is political.

Caring for yourself is a form of political resistance. In a world that doesn’t want you to protest the oppressive systems you live within, nurturing yourself and making time for rest is a form of self-preservation and resistance. There is a time to move and there is a time to rest. When we practice self-care we’re able to reemerge with vigor to fight the good fight. In a world that wants to slowly suffocate your voice, vitality, and joy — take care of yourself.

Protect your peace.

Learning to care for yourself is a lifelong journey. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself what you need. Photo by Leo Foureaux on Unsplash

6 Comments Add yours

  1. omg loved this one! BOOKMARKED.


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