How to practice self-care in political adversity

This is a post that I started writing earlier this year, before Brexit. After Brexit, summer went into a bit of a disarray and I lost my ability to write anything that wasn’t commercial.

Counter-intuitively, perhaps, I found it hard to be creative because I had too much to say. It becomes hard to order your thoughts when they’re racing. Harder still to get them down and in some kind of structure that makes sense.

This week, after the surreal and distressing US election result, I felt compelled to finish it and share with you my reflections on self-care in 2016.

Being selective with music

The older I get, the more selective I become.

Musically, it is very easy to be this way. I can afford to be very selective, because there is an enormous wealth of music out there at my fingertips. I’m fortunate enough to have a couple of friends on my musical page who never fail to recommend me things that focus me, melt me or set me off on a dancing frenzy.

The Spotify Discover Weekly algorithm is also my friend (I have said it before and I’ll say it again: if that algorithm was a boy, I would definitely date him).

I don’t think I am alone in my musical selectivity. I imagine that whilst our tastes might be wildly different, connecting with music in this way in 2016 is fairly standard.

So music and selectivity: this works. But are we this selective in other areas of our lives?

Becoming numb to negative sensory input

In recent months, it’s occurred to me that there were many things that I was exposing myself to – unthinkingly – that were causing me upset. Things that were causing my stress levels to rise and affecting my overall happiness.

Mindlessly scrolling a Facebook newsfeed, when I’d only finished scrolling through a minute before on the same train journey. Not seeing anything that piqued my interest in a positive way.

Having to resist the urge to snap at the right wing friend of a friend who seemed to get his opinions exclusively from the Daily Fail. Or even seeing all of the left-leaning stories, outrage and opinion shared – all of which I agreed with – but that I wasn’t actually able to do anything constructive in response to. Especially not through the medium of a social network.

Flitting between The Guardian, BBC News and Vice (for a bit of light relief, in theory) and on all three being faced with overwhelming negative, visceral, emotive stories wrought with conflict, politics, excesses and controversy.

I realised that I wasn’t being mindful about what I read – or doing anything constructive to act on it – and it was hurting me. I was becoming numb to it, but it was affecting my subconscious.

Being selective with what you feed your mind

So, I decided to control my sensory input in a positive way by being more mindful about what I passively consumed.

I stopped reading and watching the news on a daily basis. I tried to limit my time on Facebook (an ongoing battle). I tried not to engage in too many political discussions that weren’t constructive.

And I started being kind to my mind in other ways. I surrounded myself with candles and soft things and romanced myself, even when it was just me. I tried to feed myself healthy food (most of the time).

I’ve also been practicing yoga to manage my stress levels, fitness and connectedness with the deeper parts of me. As I’ve written about before, this has really improved by body image and negative thought patterns. I still let my mind wander a little when it wants to, but try to bring it back when my thoughts become too circular.

And, this would be an honest post if I didn’t say that, yes, I’m probably drinking too much prosecco – but it’s a relatively safe way to get a release outside of the yoga studio (shush).

Being active and finding constructive ways to help

Don’t for a moment think that I’m advocating political ignorance and suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand – because that couldn’t be further from my intention. This is about being constructive.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that we look after our minds.

It is important that we practice self-care in the face of political adversity and the advance of the far right. That we get ready for a peaceful and constructive “fight”.

For me, this means only keeping half an eye on what’s happening and meanwhile trying to upskill in ways that mean hopefully I can do something to help.

The things that have been constructive for me, that might be constructive for you are:

  • Working on my ability to spread positive ideas digitally through honing my digital marketing skills (at the moment these messages are commercial, but the skills are transferrable).
  • Improving my ability to write persuasively and in a way that engages people emotionally.
  • Developing my ability to build and participate in positive social movements and communities, like Brighton Digital Women.
  • Forming strong networks of friends, colleagues and activists, who share my left-wing views or are open to learning more about them.
  • Working on my public speaking and leadership skills so I can use these in the future.

Create, don’t hate, in 2017

Self-care is about being mindful about your sensory input and trying to put your anxious energy into doing constructive things.

As 2016 draws to a close, 2017 is a time to create – not hate – as a friend of mine so aptly put it.

This is a time to be active and develop yourself into a person capable of being persuasive, strong and calm.

Because I think we have a lot more change to come.

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