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Activism and Self-Care

Women’s activism is not new. On January 20, 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a women’s-rights activist, became the first woman to testify before the United States Congress.

And on January 21 of this year, women united following the inauguration of our new president, a man who has shown utter disrespect toward women. These women came together in peace—not necessarily to protest—but to resist any actions that would oppress or disregard women during this new administration.

Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the Women’s March, but I am so proud of those around the country and the world who were able to attend. Thanks to social media, I could closely watch the events unfold while I was traveling.

I am a baby boomer, so these marches were a reminder of my life in the 1960s. In addition to the antiwar demonstrations that occurred at that time, women fought for reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, and tax-supported child-care centers. The underlying ideology was that women should enjoy the same social, economic, and political rights as men. It was also an era when feminists created self-help groups that encouraged people to stand up for their rights and find ways to take care of themselves during stressful times—and some of these groups endure to this day.

Even though I wasn’t present during the recent march, I resonated with the spirit of the messages I heard. In years past, we women fought long and hard for rights that had been long denied us, so, based on what President Trump said during his campaign, as well as what his advisers and supporters have expressed, many of us fear that these rights will be stripped from us.

Much of Trump’s conservative base has been questioning why these marches occurred, since the president just took office, but as I see it, it’s important to speak up now so that we move forward and not backward. Interestingly enough, there were many men who joined in the peaceful gatherings, and I think the overarching reason was a concern for human rights. Without getting too political, but rather to simply share why so many people have concerns, I’m listing some of the sayings that were on marchers’ placards on Saturday:

  • Resist
  • Equal means equal
  • Make America think again
  • Women’s rights, not corporate rights
  • Rise in solidarity against the exploitation
  • This is not the world that Star Trek promised
  • Women make America great
  • United Against Hate
  • Our rights are not up for grabs, and neither are we
  • Here’s to strong women—may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them
  • Make empathy great again
  • We will not be silenced
  • A woman’s place is in the House and Senate
  • I still rise
  • You tweet, we march
  • Keep your tiny hands
  • Poetic justice
  • Donald Trump—pussy-grabber-in-chief
  • My body, my voice
  • So bad, even introverts are here
  • I can’t believe I still have to protest this f_____g shit.
  • Clean water, clean air, clean house
  • Liberty, no justice for all
  • If not me, if not now, when?
  • The future is female
  • Will swap Donald Trump for 10,000 refugees
  • Equality now
  • Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights—Fallopian 20:17
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter
  • Keep your laws off my body
  • You can’t comb over racism

Furthermore, as someone who tries to raise people’s consciousness, I would like to suggest some self-care tips during these uncertain times.

  • Journaling. Write about what moved you most about the women’s march. If you attended, describe what you felt before, during, and afterward. What was your mother’s attitude about a woman’s role in the world? If you have a daughter, what message do you want her to get from the march?
  • Lovingkindness meditation. While sitting quietly with your eyes closed, repeat these affirmations to yourself: I am safe/I am healthy/I am happy/I am at ease in the world. Take some deep breaths, and then repeat these words a few more times. Then sit quietly, stretch, and open your eyes.
  • Color mandalas. This is a form of meditation. Get a mandala coloring book, and use either colored pencils or crayons to fill in the designs.
  • Create joyful rituals. Such rituals can include smiling at strangers, hugging friends when meeting them, or sending kind texts or e-mails.
  • Each day, engage in at least one activity for pleasure and one for mastery. Read books, knit, do crossword puzzles, write a poem, take a bath.
  • Get out in nature and unplug. When possible, turn off your cell phone off and take a walk or sit in nature.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • East a balanced diet of organic foods.
  • Have coffee, tea, or lunch with a close friend.
  • Engage in daily exercise.
  • Stay away from negative people.

In a Psychology Today article a few years ago, Alice Boyes, PhD, interviewed 17 experts on their favorite self-care tips. Many of the suggestions are mentioned above, but one of my favorite additional ones comes from author Toni Bernhard. She said that her favorite self-care strategy is Active Listening, especially when it comes to yourself. She said, “Crafting phrases that speak directly to what I’m feeling connects me with my own heart. The result is that I feel deeply cared for.”

I think these sentiments are so applicable to these current times, and any self-care strategy we choose to engage in will serve to soothe our bodies, minds, and souls.

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