Whether you were encouraged or dismayed by the results of the 2016 election, it is undeniable that our country has been in turmoil ever since.
With headline after headline declaring unprecedented and shocking news, I find myself vacillating between wanting to grab the nearest pitchfork and start marching, and wanting to bury my head in the sand until everything calms down.
Finding a balance between self-care and activism can be challenging. If you feel overwhelmed by the news, but also want to make a difference in your community, here are 16 ways to care for yourself while still making a difference:
1 | Call someone lonely
There are many people whose troubles will never make the front page, but who deserve our care as well. Reach out to someone you think might be in need of a call – a faraway friend who posts about her colicky baby on Facebook, or your college roommate whom you haven’t spoken to in years. Connecting will do your heart good, too.
2 | Bake a loaf of bread
Baking offers a sense of accomplishment, especially when you wonder if you can ever make a difference. Drop off some muffins, cookies, or an extra loaf of banana bread at a neighbor’s house. Enjoy the leftovers with a hot cup of tea.
3 | Call your members of Congress
This might not really qualify as self-care, but it’s certainly better than ranting on Facebook. You will feel better knowing that your opinions have been heard, and that your voice matters. The Capitol Hill switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.
4 | Hang a bird feeder outside your window
The birds will appreciate it, and you will have something to stare at other than your phone.
5 | Go to church, mosque, temple, or yoga
Church is where I first learned about issues like poverty and other social injustices. Finding places of worship or ritual not only feeds my soul, but reminds me of why I work for things I care about.
If you aren’t the church-going type, think about going anyway, or find another place of worship. Meeting someone who thinks differently than you could help build much needed bridges in our local communities and nationwide.
6 | Take a hike
Of course, a house of worship is not the only place to replenish your soul. When you take a walk outside, you’re less likely to ruminate on the negative. Plus, the more time you spend in nature, the more likely you are to value natural places and thus participate in conservation activities.
7 | Attend a rally
If you are passionate about something, you can probably find a march or rally out there to support and galvanize your passion. Being part of a community with people who are willing to work for a cause can be energizing and affirming.
8 | Step away from the news
You don’t need to follow every detail of every story to be informed. When you realize that you aren’t learning anything new and are just fretting over headlines, it’s time to step away. Becoming overwhelmed and discouraged won’t help anyone.
9 | Don’t argue on social media
When was the last time you changed your mind about a topic because of what your cousin’s co-worker said to you in a Facebook thread? Probably never. And you won’t convince anyone either. Give yourself permission to skip the social media debates, even when you feel certain that you’re right.
10 | Order take out
If you feel particularly discouraged, take a night (or several) off from cooking. Skip the usual comfort foods, and try a new cuisine from a country you don’t know much about. Use it as an opportunity to expand your family’s palate and learn about a new part of the world with your kids.
11 | Watch a movie
If you need a pick-me-up, veg out in cartoon land with the family for a few hours. Picks like “WALL-E”, “Fern Gully”, “An American Tail”, and “Zootopia” are fun to watch and can help launch conversations with kids about immigration, caring for the earth, and diversity. Bonus: they all have happy endings.
12 | Plant a garden
When the ground thaws, think about planting your own version of a victory garden in your back yard. Not only will your hyper-local plot have a lower environmental impact than a trip to the grocery store, but you will get out in the sunshine and have the chance to work with your hands – two easy ways to boost your mood. If you end up with a bumper crop, donate it to your local food bank.
13 | Read a book
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism, especially if it helps give you a new perspective on the world. For me, reading books on World War II has not only helped distract me from the 24/7 news cycle, but also inspired me to fight for what I believe in. Yes, “Harry Potter” works for this as well.
14 | Go shopping
Can a bit of retail therapy improve the world? It can if you shop at the right places. Buy a print from that local artist you like or snag on a new pair of earrings from a friend’s Etsy store. When the world is in turmoil, we need to support artists who help keep it beautiful.
15 | Eat chocolate
When all else fails, eat chocolate. And if you splurge a little extra on a fair trade bar, you can enjoy the melty goodness plus the fact you helped someone live a better life.
16 | Write it down
If you find that you can’t stop thinking about a pressing issue, put your feelings down on paper. It will help get things off your chest and out of your mind. If you’re brave and want to share your perspective, send those feelings to your local paper as a Letter to the Editor. Other people might appreciate reading your point of view.
If you find yourself jumping back and forth between wanting to fight as hard as you can to make the world a better place and wanting to take a long vacation on a planet that does not have cable news, try to find a middle ground. A little bit of self-care might go farther than you think.