SELF-CARE AS AN ACTIVIST
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
This essay is adapted from a 'zine that I curated for this year's Brower Youth Awards.
Environmental activism can be draining. We fight hard for what we believe in and do not always find the justice we are searching for. We are told that we have reached "the point of no return" and that our actions are for naught.
As stewards of sustainability, each one of us is capable of being an activist. When we rally against fracking, we can consider ourselves activists. When we plant a little herb garden on our kitchen counter, we can consider ourselves activists.
But no matter what we do to help heal this world, it’s essential that we make time for self-care. Self-care is a crucial part of every activist’s toolkit. And it’s one “tool” that we so often neglect in the throes of eco-anxiety.
What does it take to integrate self-care into our daily lives? The first step is to recognize that self-care is by no means selfish. Taking the time to truly nourish our sweet, striving hearts fortifies us to better care for the people and the planet. We cannot fundamentally fight for the world we want if we do not also live the way that we want. The environmental movement is fixated on the future. Self-care is a way to bring our attention back to the present. To how strong we feel when we take a hike. To how much more at home we are in this world when we walk through the warm summer night and listen to the crickets chirping.
Self-care is also crucial because it helps us seek succulence in our work. It’s easy to frame activism as a relentless battle. But what if we saw self-care—taking the time to nap in the sun, to paint pottery with friends, to cook supper with family—as joyful and juicy? What if we used self-care as an opportunity to focus on the kinds of experiences that are climate change-proof?
Ecologist and nature-based life coach Lynn Trotta always asks herself “What would love do?” when she is faced with fear about the future. Those simple words hold the whole world.
What would love do?
Love would take care of herself and those she treasures.
Love would enjoy the perfection of this sunset.
Love would not worry about what she might lose but instead will celebrate everything she already has.
What would love do?
The next time you are feeling drained from the fight, fearful of the future, go and sit (on a rock, in a field, in the embrace of a hammock) with this question. It will guide you toward the kind of self-care practices that will reinvigorate you best during those rocky moments when our reptilian brains rear to life. It will remind you that love will always be in infinite supply.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT