Metaphors on Metaphors

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.

Ideally, self-care and activism are the perfect marriage. Self-care is a set of actions that increases energy, charges metaphoric batteries, and replenishes symbolic cups of vitality so that they run over. When these cups run over, activism thrives off a necessary surplus rather than the amount allotted for an individual. As mentioned, activism is a taker of energy, a source that gladly drinks up that which runneth over.

While self-care is quite literally caring for the self, activism is action on behalf of others and/or a purpose that is inherently greater than oneself. Self-care without that essential culminating purpose can often turn to selfishness, self-indulgence, or at least something to feel guilty about. Activism without the backbone of refueling often becomes martyrdom. When the two exist in interdependence with one another, they engage in a beautiful dance of self-care so that we, as activists, can show up as our best selves, and do our best work in ways that serve others and our causes the most.

Just as natural as the marriage between self-care and activism is their separation. Self-care is preventive medicine. In a Western culture of diagnoses and drugs, preventive medicine is a “should do” not a “must do.” When we contract an infection, we take antibiotics. There are a plethora of medicines we can take before getting sick, but ironically, those do not seem as time-sensitive or important.

“Getting sick” is both a metaphor and reality of burnout.

Activism takes on another extreme entirely. Activism is like medicine, a necessary response to something that is going on. If it is preventive, it is because symptoms have already shown up. Unfortunately, there are enough problems already occurring that demand immediate attention. As a response, activism demands an urgency that self-care doesn’t. As a result, the candle burns out, the energy wanes, and issues that once had armies of people tending to them suffer from a lack of intention and originality of thought.

It is time to get self-care and activism back together. Let’s get them back together through Communities of Care.

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