Tips, Tricks & Reflections on Self-Care from FRIDA Community
Aug 31, 2017 | Healthcare, Knowledge Building

FRIDA’s community is huge and we asked members from our advisory, staff and grantee partners about practising self-care and their reflections of it. Here are a few from our advisors, who share their thoughts, tips, reflections and more:

Leanne SajorWhen I think of “self-care” for activists in the feminist movement or those of us who identify as women’s human rights defenders, I must unpack the meaning of “self” and “care.”  It is important to do this with a political lens because so much of the self-care promotion in mainstream conversation is about commodified, self-indulgence. It is easier to find #selfcarestrategies that isolate our fatigue, manipulate our despair, and capitalize on our active resistance to survive. When self-care is marketed to us as individuals and communities with critical needs for healing and wellness, care becomes a hashtag, a good or a service that needs to be consumed to help us “turn off and recharge.” On the contrary, self-care is not about disengaging because it is fundamentally about claiming our power. When I reflect on the moments I seek self-care, I ask myself why I feel alone, drained or threatened? I think about the practices, institutions, and systems that exploit, inflict violence and disempowers. This enables me to understand my feelings beyond just myself by providing context to my experience. I feel less alone and more importantly, I begin to feel grounded in the people and movements that resist these oppressive forces. 

During some of my most vulnerable times, my friend Nafisa from CREA reminded me, “self-care means feeding back into the ecology of movements, peoples and ideas.” We must remember this as a political exercise that is about cultivating the vitality and sustainability of our movements. Our personal and mental wellness that are pathologized as individual issues are absolutely intertwined with larger systems of oppression, therefore pulling back from the people, movements and communities that organize against oppressive forces only emphasize the isolation of our struggles. Rather, what we must do in our darkest moments is to honor our feelings, reach out, and fine-tune our analysis to remind ourselves of our collective power.

Finally, none of this is to underestimate the impact of our work on our bodies and minds- the marginalization, trauma and violence we face are real. But as our elders have shown us, it is a long journey in pursuit of human rights and justice for all peoples. As activists in the movement we must both learn from the wisdom drawn from our history and challenge our current praxis by ensuring that our ways of organizing does not merely demand for persistent strength and courage, but also makes space for the wholeness of our being. 

Lois Edith Gonzaléz: 1. Desconectarme del mundo por unos minutos los fines de semana… Es decir no contestar llamadas, ni mensajes relacionado a trabajo y activismo. Aprovechar cada día libre para hacer un pequeño paseo (ex: tomar un café con amix, salir de fiesta, visitar un lugar nuevo o ya conocido que me guste mucho. En especial salir de la ciudad) 2. Lo hago para recargar energías positivas y así iniciar un excelente semana. 2. Es importante hacerlo para continuar aportando al feminismo. Considero que con energía positiva podría dar más de mi como activista es como limpiar el cuerpo de negatividades y no olvidarse de que a nuestro primer territorio no debemos de descuidar 

Jenny Lisbeth Domínguez Rivas:  El autocuido me parece tan fundamental como alimentarse! mi autocuido constantemente es mi fortalecimiento espiritual, manejo de cuerpo y mente, meditación y correr en el parque. También me ayuda mucho verme con mis amigas y desahogarme o simplemente pasarla bien, hablar, comer o bailar. También considero a mis amigas como mi red de apoyo. Leo mucho y me fascina estar con mi familia al menos un rato el fin de semana. Constantemente estoy recibiendo mujeres para apoyarles en su proceso de violencia. Creo que no podría hacerlo bien si no genero mi autocuido constantemente. También duermo muchooooo e intento desconectarme del trabajo los domingoooos, me encanta la terapia de imanes !! 

María Díaz EzquerroMe llevó bastante tiempo aprender la importancia de cuidarnos, querernos y priorizarnos en esta lucha contra un sistema patriarcal y neoliberal voraz que lo arrasa todo; nuestra energía, salud mental, y a veces también salud física, incluidas. En este sistema en el que las tareas de cuidado recaen en las mujeres, el autocuidado es una estrategia política. En este sistema que nos amenaza, violenta y nos prefiere calladitas, el autocuidado y cuidado colectivo son estrategias de resistencia feminista. A nivel individual, cada día practico autocuidado de muy diversas formas, intento dormir al menos 7 horas y reservarme siempre tiempo de calidad para y con la gente que quiero. He vuelto a incluir el deporte de nuevo en mi vida diaria y he aprendido a respirar gracias al yoga. Ahora trato de escuchar a mi cuerpo e intento brindarle siempre lo que me pida. Sin embargo, si tuviera que destacar una práctica de autocuidado sería, sin lugar a dudas, los paseos diarios con mi perro Chili (en la foto). Para mí, los paseos en las mañanas son los mejores momentos de desconexión con el mundo, y de conexión conmigo misma, la naturaleza y mi amigo perruno favorito.

Pic credit: María

[It took me a while to learn how important it is to take care of ourselves, to love ourselves and to prioritize ourselves in the struggle against a patriarchal and neoliberal system that ruins everything, including our energy, mental health and, sometimes, even our physical health. In this system where the responsibility to care falls on women, self-care is a political strategy. In this system that threatens us, perpetrates violence against us, and prefers we stay silent, individual and collective self-care are feminist strategies of resistance. At the individual level, I now practice self-care in very diverse ways: I try to sleep at least 7 hours and spend qualitative time with the people I love. I re-included the practice of exercising/sports in my daily routines and learned how to breathe, thanks to Yoga. I now actively listen to my body and I always try to give back what it demands. If I had to highlight just one activity, I would choose my favourite self-care practice, which are, undoubtedly, daily walks with my dog Chili (in the pic). For me, morning walks are the best moments to disconnect from the world and reconnect with myself, the nature and my favourite doggy friend.]

Schemel Patrick: I try to practice it daily – my morning ritual acts as self-care for me and a great way to begin my day – I engage in devotion (reading affirmations and daily inspiration messages) and breakfast with a view (my veranda and coffee with whatever else I’m having) — it’s a good place to begin since sometimes your day can be unpredictable. It’s also important to begin my day on a positive note. This is important to me because we (me) need to be in a good place personally to deal with the challenges of the day, most times the issues and groups we work with are not as socially acceptable as they need to be.

Sally Ali AlHaq: Work out, it keeps me sane and polite!

Semanur Karaman: I have started doing this exercise recommended by a fierce feminist where I set intentions for the week through a visualisation exercise. Which is I visualise in vivid detail what I want my week to look like, and when I feel stress come back to it. It can also be abstract imagery by the way, or imagining through metaphors. Oh and also my cat… Anything that has to do with my cat!

Lame Olebile: I find that spending time alone helps me destress. Being around people can be overwhelming and then add work. Being around nature, barefooted and enjoying fresh air makes me get in touch with my mental and physical health. So, I look for these places. Reading fiction, meditation and working out are also great ways for me to disconnect from the world and look into myself.

Barbora Nemcova: Spending time alone in nature (and with my dog) is what helps me most. I try to do yoga every day, which is something I had to grow into – I used to find yoga super boring but now I actually do feel so much better – physically and mentally – after even a short time on the mat.

To read grantee partner stories on self-care, click here.