Activist Self-Care (Without the Bubble Bath and Puppies)

downloadGetting involved in bisexual advocacy can be draining. We asked our favourite bi activist from across the pond Miles the Bisexual to tell us how they juggle self care and Getting Shit Done.

Every day, at least one person in my life asks me how I’m doing. My reply is usually some version of “I’m tired,” and they’ll laugh before moving on to other things.

It’s funny to some because I’m a young, active person and I’m supposed to have enough energy to be able to live my life, do my job, and keep up with school/my internship, while still having enough energy to do miscellaneous tasks throughout my day.

When I tell people all the things I do they get more understanding, but I’m still met with the occasional chuckle as I say, “I’m going to work in an hour, I’m going to take a nap”. The truth is, I am tired. I am always tired. I run a very active Facebook page, I work anywhere from 18-25 hours a week, I spend 12+ hours a week at an internship, I write, I spend 20+ hours a week involved with classes/student organizations, and I do my best to stay active in my community’s LGBTQIAP+ movement. I get a day and some change with my boyfriend, and shove family time/friend time in wherever I can.

If I had known being an activist while in college would have been like this, I probably would have stepped back before I even got started.

There is no “Activist Guide” that can completely prepare new activists and advocates for the world they’re about to get into. Little tasks here and there begin to add up, coffee becomes a staple in your diet (sometimes taking the place of foods you actually need to stay up and running), power naps are the enemy (as they often turn into 3 hour sleep sessions), and other self-care necessities are thrown to the wayside as you struggle to balance your weekly agenda with all your responsibilities. Hell, I’m writing this at noon drinking a room temp mason jar of wine because that’s how I cope now.

We get so caught up in helping others, and in maintaining appearances of a functional life, we don’t even realize we’re drowning sometimes. But what do we do? Not all of us can, or want to, stop being an activist. So, from one frazzled activist to another, here are some quick, and realistic, tips on surviving through the mess we’ve flung ourselves into.

Please, for the love of god, find one cheap, healthy, and quick snack to pick you up…

When our lives get busy our food because quick and easy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat what you want, or go broke trying to keep up with the latest healthy eating fad. But having cheap, healthy stuff on hand can help you feel like you’ve got your shit together. Some nights, when I’m really feeling like I need some green in my diet, I’ll cook a whole back of spinach and throw in some bell peppers. But usually I resign myself to an apple and a banana a day, with some nice lettuce wraps if I have 1 minute to prep my food. Not too much, but enough to make me think “wow, my ass sure was healthy today. Time for a McDouble.”

…And skip the coffee (or liquor) at least once a week

My daily routine doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to relax and recharge. I survive on coffee (doesn’t help that my paid job is being a barista), and the not so occasional beer after work. I stay up late, wake up tired and bloated, and start the whole thing over again. I can go through multiple bottles of wine on Saturdays without a second thought, and I’ve realized that my caffeine sensitivity is also a caffeine addiction. But these habits can end up negatively affecting us in the long run.

At my last checkup, I had my first breast exam. While my doctor was feeling up the business, she made sure to note that the tissue in my chest was beginning to harden.

“How much coffee do you drink?” “Well, I am a barista and a college student”

It didn’t even occur to me that my high caffeine diet was doing that to my body. No clue. And my day drinking isn’t exactly helping me stave off the alcoholism I know I’m capable of. I’m almost always dehydrated, waking up with sore joints and crusty eyes. Cutting out a few coffees drinks a week and one or two beers a week has helped me stay hydrated and more confident in long lasting health.

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Keep medicine on you, always

Face it, a lot of us take medication. Some of it may be “as needed”, other may be the kind of medicine you have to schedule your day around. A lot of us also slip up and forget that medication exists, or that we need ours. You may be in a rush, you may be caught up in finishing a review of a report on LGBTQIAP+ statistics, or you may be caught up in your life outside of activism. Regardless, skipping days on medication can lead to the medication no longer working or hormonal up and downs that can do damage to existing conditions.

I keep my extra pills in an Altoids container hidden in my bookbag, with the big pill bottle locked up in my car and house. When I need it, it’s there.

Learn when you need to prioritize paying the bills over getting that article/graphic up

So often we get caught up in the changes we’re trying to bring to the world, we forget that capitalism is still a bitch that we have to deal with. You can’t always blow off that shift at the restaurant, or call in sick to a 9-5. No matter how much we want to get done for the positions and projects (which we’re often unpaid for), we have to put the main source of income first every now and then. Being an activist is fulfilling, but we’re already underfunded enough.

Put yourself first, pay your bills, do what you need to do in order to keep doing good.

Limit yourself to one Facebook argument every 4 days

I hate Facebook. I really do. The discourse ™ has reached a level that could rival Tumblr. Every day I find myself being dragged into multiple arguments, either because I have to moderate them or because I can’t help but drag myself into them. It gets tiring.
In an interview I did for a Bi activist study the other day I told the interviewer, “You get this surge of energy when you go to leave a comment on an argument thread, but the minute you hit enter you feel drained. Then it repeats with the next comment.” In my case, that surge of energy is the almost immediate raised levels of anxiety that trigger some strange adrenaline response. Once that hits, I’m good to go for about an hour before becoming frustrated and wishing I could just throw a match on the whole thing and walk off. Somehow, for some reason, I keep going (against my better judgement).

At some point you have to just close the laptop, put the phone on airplane mode, and go get a drink – but not too many, remember #2. Or not, no one is judging here.

Ask your partner/s/friends to remind you when to step away

When you can’t bring yourself to put down your phone or put away your laptop, that’s when you should have someone in your life pretend to be an usher at the movies. Those gentle reminders to “put away your phone, please” are necessary to keep our mental health in check.

We CAN and WILL exhaust ourselves if we keep going. If you’re like me, you’ll keep going even when you’re around your significant other/s or close friends. I will completely ignore my boyfriend for the time it takes me to read a thread and comment, and as soon as I get the notification of a reply, I ignore and comment again. It would be fine if it was a once a day, quick thing. Who doesn’t occasionally ignore their partner/s or friends for a quick social media check? Once those checks become constant, and effect your mood, then you need to realize “hey, maybe this is not good.”

Go ahead and give your partner/s and friends the green light to remind you to put your phone down, help teach them the signs that show you’re becoming emotionally distressed or anxious, and flat out tell them “if I am too wrapped up in this, and if my mood is being effected more than usual by what I’m engaging in, nag the shit out of me to put the phone down.”

I could go on and on with #6 and involving partner/s and friends in self-care, but I’ll save that for another piece.

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Miles Joyner

Miles Joyner is the creator and sole admin on Miles the Bisexual. They have written for The Matador Network and their own personal blog. They're just now starting to dive into bisexual activism after being out for about 5 years.

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