Communities of Care

Welcome to the Radical Self-Care for Radical Action blog series. This series serves as a multigenre and strategic compilation of ways to avoid or heal activist burnout. During this new era, we need to keep activism and social justice efforts continuous and sustainable; we cannot afford burnout. While burnout and activism have had close relationships to one another, so have healing practices and social change methodologies. Every week, both leading up to and following the inauguration of a president that has Cortisol levels running high for many, expect a post on what it means to heal oneself in order to heal a country. From neuroscience to yoga to meditation to cardiology, learn how to systematically refuel in these trying times.

Any progressive social change must be imagined first, and that vision must find its most eloquent possible expression to move from vision to reality. – Martin Espada

Communities of Care are my vision for this new wave of activism. They are a way to fuse together self-care, intentionality, service, and connectedness, which are all essential parts of sustainable activism / being sustainable people in general. Communities of Care are:

  1. Focused. They are centered around the same aspect / part of social change. It can be overwhelming to try to change every part of the world at once. It can also be counterproductive. Use your Community of Care as a forum for digging deep into one social change interest / subject that means something to you. There are enough people trying to change the world writ large. What we need are people who are trying to change the world in one particular way to find each other and combine forces. Here are some ideas for where to find people you can focus in with.
  2. Connected. They find times to meet regularly. I find that with any practice, be it yoga, meditation, drawing, or journaling, consistency matters more than frequency. Frequency is often the enemy of consistency. Burnout in activist circles often comes from meeting so frequently that the rest of life falls by the wayside until it catches up with us – as it always does – and that frequency comes to a crashing halt. So, do the math. Meeting with consistency, even if it doesn’t seem super frequent, will result in more meetings, more service, than meeting with frequency and then burning out. Here are some suggestions for connecting in an age when we need it most.
    • Host a potluck / make it a rotating potluck where you connect and check in over dinner. Planning and action steps can take place over tea and dessert.
    • Turn your group into a consciousness-raising and action-taking book club. Read books or articles that will help you take the most effective actions possible. Discuss them. Act from that space of intentionality that literature so often fosters.
  3. Practice Self-Care. In practicing self-care together, community members hold one another accountable to being their best selves, and approaching the work of intense service in healthy and mindful ways. Here are some suggestions for practicing self-care in intentional and social justice-oriented ways.
    • Attend yoga, meditation, and/or general exercise classes together. Allow the studio / gym / classroom to serve as a meeting space, or a time to wind down before continuing the work.
    • Share wellness-related skills. Maybe one of you is a massage therapist, another a yoga teacher, and another a chef. Take time during your meetings to share these wellness-related skills in a manageable way (maybe one member shares per meeting). Beginning these meetings with self-care allows the service and even the planning of service to be that much more intentional.
  4. Practice Service. Once you’ve taken care of body, mind, and soul – or even while doing so – practice service. Volunteer. Phone bank. March. Rally. Decide on what service means to you and do it. Here are some places to find action items for those days when they don’t present themselves organically.
    • CTZN Well is an organization devoted to combining wellness practices and direct service – basically the organizational body that inspired me to do this project on the blog. If you sign up for their emails, they will send you daily or weekly concrete action items that you can take to make this world a better place. From their mission:

Our theory of change begins with people. Through personal practice, community building, and collective action we transform ourselves and restructure our world to support the conditions of wellbeing for all.

We engage in deep transformational work around our values; and are led through relationship to issues like access to healthcare, food justice, living wage, climate change and education. From there, we partner with campaigns led by the people most directly affected and respond in conscious and creative disruption and reimagination of our world. We aspire to move and unify our community at a scale that will have an impact at a systemic and global level.

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