We asked these AFSC staff: How do you care for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually while engaging in social change work?
“Spiritually, it’s meditation and prayer. The hardest thing to do is practice stillness and detachment. Physically, it’s yoga, working out, eating right—and sometimes not eating right, like treating yourself to your favorite food. Getting enough sleep where you’re actually resting. Mentally—breathing and allowing yourself to slow down, and being realistic about what you can and can’t do capacity-wise. Emotionally, being aware if you’re burning out, and being careful what you consume. Choose the right people to be around; choose when to engage and when to disengage. Pick your spots.
“The work is so draining, so desiring of your full balance, that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can fall into that savior complex realm where you’re building your identity around helping others, and you don’t feel valuable when you’re doing nothing. People get afraid of falling behind, but social justice is not a competition. Remember the things that make you smile and do them. Produce as much joy as you can internally and externally. We all affect each other.” —GREG CORBIN, DIRECTOR, SOCIAL JUSTICE LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE, PHILADELPHIA
“Self-care is extremely important in this work. First and foremost I think we have to pace ourselves. We can’t jump onto every bandwagon, or think we can be present to all the issues that come our way. I’m a firm believer in exercise—especially if it is fun. I am also pretty into my spiritual practice, which follows along Quaker lines—going to Meeting, joining a half hour online meeting several mornings a week—and I have monthly visits with a spiritual director.” —LAURA MAGNANI, HEALING JUSTICE PROGRAM DIRECTOR, WEST REGION
“Working in a politically and emotionally charged Jerusalem, I find quiet and calm during the sunset hours, for the light in the skies of Jerusalem at sunset is quite special. Also, I appreciate the Palestinian sense of humor, which helps us all in the office to get on with our work. As a foreigner with many privileges in this land, I try to laugh at myself a lot, not taking myself too seriously and trying with humility and fairness to do my job, which is what my team expects me to do.” —MATILDE GOMIS-PEREZ, COUNTRY REPRESENTATIVE, ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
We'd love to hear from you! Do you have tips for staying inspired for sustained activism? Email us at email@example.com.