When facing the challenge of saving the world, you are your most valuable resource
By Fernanda Matsuoka, from YCL
Climate crisis is the biggest threat against humanity. But if you're reading this, you are probably aware of that so I will spare you of the speech about the urgency to take action. I'd like to move forward and to ask you, activist, an important question:
Have been looking after your most important asset to help the world: your life?
Being an activist is so important, but it comes often with many emotional costs if not handled properly. Often activists involved in social causes have deep emotional investments and profound senses of responsibility to create change. Many of them are becoming overwhelmed by the size of the threat of the climate crisis and get what is being known among the field of climate change as activism burnout.
At the moment we are needing activist the most, we are seeing a lot of them breaking, and this is alarming. We need to build a culture that allows us to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of the planet.
How to engage in causes while remaining resilient and not letting them consume us?
Before discussing how we can spread the culture of self-care in activism to avoid bur, firstly we need to deconstruct the idea that self-care is egocentric, or superfluous. When talking about activism, the cultural assumption is that self-care is an expression of selfishness. Especially since the cause you're fighting for might be very personal to you, it's easy to assume that it is a cause of life or death. But the reality is that activism is actually a long-term battle, that will require a lot of resilience.
So one of the biggest challenges to providing self-care is being aware that to be a good activist does not mean that one has to suffer. We need to shift the speech and acknowledge that self-care actually is the most empowering thing we can do for our causes. Your life is your most important tool for you to take action. If you really care for the cause you're fighting, you need to be in shape, physically and emotionally.
YCL vision to spread the culture of self-care among activists
We are often talking about overwhelming feelings when taking action to tackle climate change. Based on our experience, we came up with the following tips to kick-off and start to better take care of your activist self:
Learn about yourself to develop coping mechanisms: Burnout might lead you to think that you're broken, but it's not that black or white, but rather an indicator that something is not right. It is the perfect timing to conduct an investigation about your feelings, the causes and symptoms of the distresses. Research your feelings and test which coping mechanisms. Either meditating, exercise, listening to music, learn what works for you. And when you realize you're not doing well, take action and if necessary, step down. Tomorrow will be another day.
See the bigger picture and develop a strategy: it’s important to acknowledge that activism is a long term effort. To make your activist journey sustainable, we propose you to develop a strategy to take action, planning and gathering forces. Research, learn and find mentors to think of your activist journey like a career path, that you nurture with patience and dedication. By that, you will be able to canalize the efforts and increas the chances of seeing progress on your causes. Plus, this will make you stronger to face racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious intolerance and other difficulties that you will find on the way (it's a sad true, but acknowledging that they exist and they are bigger than you will protect you).
Join an organisation and build a network: Since activism is a mission that includes gathering forces, self-care goes further from being an individual’s concern for their own well-being, but a collective goal. Having a network will help you heal better and quicker, and will be helpful to you to find opportunities to grow. With that said, we invite you to join our #YCLNetwork :)
Ask for help if necessary: we need to deconstruct also the concept that vulnerability is a weakness. We were raised in a culture that values people that has great achievements conquered by him or herself. And taking care of yourself leaves the presume that you are vulnerable and need care. And this also has to change. If you need support, your network is there for you, sharing the same concerns and stresses that comes from being an activist.
Support others: After getting good in taking care of yourself, return to your community and support others around you, teach others about how to take care of themselves too. It will make you feel great and you will elevate your role as an activist.
To conclude, I'd like to invite you to see the TED video below from Yana Tavanier, that talks about a new term named "Playtivism", a new way to act and advocate for change. Hope you start right now to take care of yourself, dear activist. And see you there!