We all have times where we feel overwhelmed. Whatever your struggle, passion or duties may be, there can be moments that simply feel impossible. At times like these, to suggest that you should prioritise taking care of yourself seems ridiculous. But the truth is that self-care can make you stronger, sharper and more able to cope with whatever life throws at you. It’s not indulgent to invest in yourself.
For me, my go-to self-care strategy is yoga. Yoga acts like a ‘pause’ button on a life that often feels like it’s on fast-forward. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the honour of working with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust staff who have been creating space in their schedules to practice yoga together. Strength, flexibility, balance: all the elements we work towards in yoga are also useful for a successful day in the office. And by letting go of tension before it builds up, we are more resilient to external stresses.
Stress comes from many sources. Every headline can be a cause for concern. Local, national and international news make us feel like everyone should be in a constant state of anxiety. Droughts and fires make is seem as though even the natural elements want us to be in a heightened state of nerves. Even positive events can see activists working overtime coordinating campaigns. And all this on top of daily concerns: caring duties, money worries, household responsibilities.
It’s not unusual for these burdens to be particularly heavy for women, who often bear the duty of care for others, as well as the weight of disproportionate impact from the negative political or economic changes that dominate the news. As such it can be especially hard for women to carve out the time needed to care for themselves. Yet self-care is important for building the mental, physical and emotional energy we all need to flourish.
Self-care can be anything that helps you feel more like yourself: chatting with friends, getting a massage, reading a detective novel. Your strategy could be something that makes you laugh, or relax, or feel energised. I like yoga because it reminds me to be entirely in the present, instead of worrying about what happened earlier or what’s going to happen later. I close my eyes, breathe into my belly, and unclench my jaw. In doing so I begin to unwind.
The staff at Rape Crisis work exceptionally hard, in challenging conditions. It would be understandable if they felt that their work is too important to take a break from, their cause too pressing to pause. But for an hour a week, they’re taking the time to reconnect with their breath and their bodies, and in doing so they’re practising more than just yoga. Their practising an approach to self-care that hopefully leaves them more resilient to stress and more able to focus.
Whether you’re fighting the patriarchy or fighting fatigue, take a moment to reflect on what you need to renew yourself to continue giving it your all. Nobody benefits if an activist burns out, and right now we need as much positive energy as we can muster. Self-care is a strategy to strengthen your cause as well as yourself.
Rose has extensive experience working in international fundraising, advocacy and development. She currently lives in the UK and is passionate about human rights and social justice work. She is also a qualified yoga teacher.