It can be difficult to access your self-care practices when you don’t feel very Zen, or during times of intense conflict and emotional disturbance. When there are very real outside issues in the world that need to be addressed, how do you still make space for renewal and, at the same time, take action to create change?
Your self-care practices and activism may seem like they are mutually exclusive, but they can go hand and hand. If you shift your internal perspective of making time and space for your personal well-being from somehow selfish or unnecessary to, instead, realize that this foundation actually serves both you, the individual, and us, as the collective, accessing these tools when you most need them becomes easier.
When something happens that you don’t want, either on a micro or macro level, the first biological response hardwired in your DNA is to react. As Deepak Chopra explains in his book, How to Know God, your nervous system comes preprogrammed to respond to the world as you live your life. Fight-or-flight mode and reactivity are your most primal responses to external disturbance. It’s important to remember that these responses aren’t bad or incorrect. They’re necessary and important responses that have been cemented in your biology to protect you when you are in immediate danger.
Over time though, when continually triggered, fight-or-flight mode and reactivity create inflammation in the body, manifesting itself as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, high levels of the stress chemicals adrenaline and cortisol, and overall tension in your body and minds. Living constantly in fight-or-flight mode and reactivity aren’t sustainable and don’t often result in long-term good decision making. Thus, you can let these responses arise and flow through you—along with the feelings that accompany them—but you make an effort to not live your entire life from these responses.
Is it possible to feel anger without becoming angry? This is where your commitment to mind, body, and spirit renewal comes in. It’s not necessarily easy but it is possible to navigate through difficult circumstances where intense feelings arise without constantly living and operating from fight-or-flight mode and reactivity. When you make the renewal of your mind, body, and spirit a priority, and your self-care becomes non-negotiable, both our personal and collective wellbeing will improve.
Through consistently practicing the restful awareness response with practices like meditation, yoga, prayer, time in nature, or Ayurvedic best practices, you will trigger a whole host of other biological responses to life that will support you. When you activate restful awareness consistently, even in the most difficult external circumstances, you can enliven responses like intuition, creativity, vision, and collective connection. Self-care doesn’t mean doing nothing in the outside world, and activism doesn’t mean just taking external actions. Being a conscious activist requires processing our personal emotions, staying committed to your mental well-being, and taking action from a place of inner alignment with inspiration and vision.
Support Your Own Well-Being
When it comes to your daily practices of well-being, especially during times of great change or emotional upset, remember to keep it simple and individualized. You have to claim the right to self-care as you see fit. Everyone is different and therefore has unique practices that will work for them. There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all wellness, so find what works for you and leave the rest.
The renewal of your mind, body, and spirit doesn’t need to mean a luxury wellness retreat or a day at the spa. It can be as easy as sitting in the sun and just breathing for 10 minutes a day. It’s more important than ever to practice these stress-reducing activities each and every day. If you don’t have 30 minutes to meditate, or an hour to do a full yoga class, don’t give it up entirely. If you have five minutes to meditate—do it. If you only have 15 minutes for yoga, practice a few sun salutations.
Make your wellness routine work for you—not the other way around. Remember simply having 10 minutes of quiet time, reading a book, going for a walk in nature, or talking to a friend who inspires you also counts as self-care. Wherever you can, do something that takes you out of your comfort zone in your daily routine. If you’re already doing things on a regular basis, see if you can add in one additional well-being practice a week. If you’re not currently integrating anything for your self-care, commit to doing something at least three times a week that challenges your normal day-to-day schedule and moves you in the direction of renewal from the inside out.
The most powerful activism is accompanied by mind, body, and spirit renewal. So often though, when you desire to do out in the world, you may neglect the practices that help you just be inside of yourself.
When you’re experiencing a lot of personal or collective discomfort, it can be difficult to practice, especially in the midst of stress. Simply by living your life, you will encounter stress, and this is pretty much unavoidable. Stress is defined as the biological response of your needs not being met the way you’d like on either the personal or more universal level. Now more than ever, there’s the potential for personal and collective stress to arise in your daily lived experience. Just five minutes of the news these days can leave you angry, sad, or anxious—or all three.
This response is normal, and it’s okay. Life will never be all sunshine and rainbows, and you don’t practice meditation, yoga, or other self-care tools so that it will become that way. You don’t use your spiritual tools as a way to bypass your feelings or the work that needs to be done out in the world. There will always be storms that come. Some are more intense than others so make sure you don’t use positivity as a weapon of "should" toward yourself. It’s okay to feel a range of emotions as they arise. The practices you integrate into your daily routine become tools to help you navigate the storms while maintaining calm and inner peace, not in an effort to avoid bad weather entirely.
Here are some practices where self-care and activism can go hand and hand:
- Meditate and call your senator.
- Practice yoga and vote.
- Diffuse essential oils and check on people in your community.
- Go on a retreat and teach meditation at the local Boys and Girls Club.
- Eat organic, balanced foods and donate to your favorite charity.
Create Lasting Change
Remember, self-care and well-being look different for each and every person based on their lifestyle. In order to create change that lasts, make sure you’re integrating shifts that are sustainable and make sense for you and your life. Some people work from home with a 40-foot commute, others travel two hours a day in a car or train to and from their home and office. Some people have spouses and children, while others are single with pets and friends as their circle of community. Make changes that support you from the inside out and that are realistic for your personal lifestyle.
When in doubt, simply introduce the question, “How can I support myself with self-care”? Don’t forget the and—that’s the action part. Now is the most important time to commit to your own personal practices of self-care and also share them with others. Now is the time to make access to things like meditation and yoga more freely available to all people, not just a select few. Self-care is not a privilege. You can shift well-being into making personal and collective well-being an important foundation of navigating stress that’s available to all.
Deepak and Latin music superstar, J Balvin, created a 21-Day Meditation Challenge to support this intention—of making meditation more available to those who need it most. If you feel inspired, share this free meditation experience with one other person who may benefit. Conscious activism combined with personal well-being is how you will renew your mind, body, and spirit both individually and collectively.