As our freedom is being systematically dismantled day by day, I see people feeling too overwhelmed to participate in the resistance. I understand — I want to stay informed, I want to do all I can to fight for freedom, but the constant onslaught of awful plunged me into depression after the election. Since the odds of saving America increase the more people we have fighting for the country, I want to share the developing survival strategies that are helping me be an active part of the resistance while also maintaining my personal health.
1. Your action makes a difference.
I went to a town hall where my Democratic House Representative was collecting constituent stories to take back to Congress about how the ACA has helped save lives. After telling her story, a woman said that she wrote letters, called her reps everyday, signed petitions, went to town halls, participated in rallies, but she wanted to do more. She asked what else she could do to help our rep help us. Representative Chu said, “keep doing what you are doing. It is making a difference. It gives us the ammunition we need to go to our colleagues and say, this has to change.” Our numbers matter and these seemingly small actions are moving us forward.
2. You have to do something, but you don’t have to do everything.
A beautiful analogy made the rounds on social media about songs and symphonies with notes longer than any one person has the breath to hold. The singers or players will stagger taking a breath so that everyone can pause, but the song keeps going. That is what we have to do. There are millions of us. If you need to take a break, you can, because others will be taking action. If you have the energy to act, do, because others will need to step back for a rest.
3. Pick a focus.
It’s absolutely staggering how fast and furious the Republican Administration is attacking every aspect of what we value. It’s just not possible for you as an individual to respond to all of it. So pick what is most important to you from the issues — the environment, immigration, women’s rights, rights for those of alternative gender or sexuality, voting/election reform, saving science, saving the arts, saving education, corporate corruption, health care, social security, protecting water, protecting the judicial system… Whatever is important to you, you can find organizations that will keep you updated. Maybe you pick one or two, or a different issue for each day, but give yourself permission to tackle a select set of issues.
4. Pick a reasonable engagement level.
Maybe you decide to focus on saving the ACA. That doesn’t mean you have to address every single thing that happens regarding the ACA. Assess your energy level and do what you can realistically manage from day to day. If you spend 5 minutes on the phone a day, or 2 minutes emailing your reps a day, that’s better than not acting. You can join groups who will send you emails giving you actions to take. Perhaps you put it on your daily schedule, 20 minutes to respond to the action messages in your inbox.
5. Stop when you need to.
You need to stop and take a break when taking action is harming you physically and emotionally. This means you have to be attuned to your body and feelings and notice when you are no longer calm and compassionate. If you find yourself feeling hatred or despair, or your muscles are tightening and you aren’t breathing deeply, it’s time to step back and take a break. You could push through these feelings and sensations, but I guarantee this will cause burnout. It takes a long time to recover from burnout. It’s much better to pace yourself day-to-day, hour-to-hour, doing a little everyday rather than driving yourself into the ground trying to do more than your resources actually allow.
6. Have ways to balance yourself.
If you take action, you’re going to have to face harsh realities. Rather than avoid reality (and action), you can create your own personal relief kit to counter the accompanying anxiety. Finding practices that re-equilibrate you physically and emotionally will help you in all areas of your life. Get outside and get active or enjoy nature (walk, hike, bike, etc or just sit outside and watch a sunset), meditate, take a bath or shower, cuddle with a pet or loved one, practice yoga, breathing exercises, or a martial art, read, do something creative and artistic, use aromatherapy, take a nap. The idea is to stop yourself soon enough, so that techniques like this can quickly help you recenter.
7. Find support.
You are not in this battle alone. Find like-minded people. They are everywhere. Join social media groups, find local groups, make friends, and support each other. We are in this for the long-haul. We are going to take action and keep acting. Isolation and keeping your head in the sand are just not options at this point. This is a fantastic opportunity to forge new connections and feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself.