Being an advocate for others is an amazing thing. You open up your heart to others and speak out for those who might not have a voice. You are there to help those who are in need. This is true no matter what cause you stand behind and who you are advocating for. When you are trying to help others, you often remind them how important they are and that they need to take care of themselves…but often, as an advocate you forget to do the same for yourself.
When you have decided that you are going to speak up for others, you take a part of you and open it up to criticisms and the harsh realities of the world. You recognize the bad parts but are willing to do what you can to help. It is an amazing feeling to help others, and often you may feel that you cannot take a break, that you must do as much as you can, 100% of the time. Not doing this, can feel like “giving up” (which is obviously not true). It can be really difficult for me to step away as an advocate. But, for my own mental health, it is necessary sometimes. There are some times that I cannot respond to a story on our website because it is too much on me at that time. Or some times I have to change the station or turn a movie off. It has taken me awhile to realize that it is okay for me to do this. This is me practicing self care. I encourage you to do the same.
I know you, an advocate, cannot shy away from the issue close to your heart, but there are some things you can do to practice self care for yourself. It may change from person to person, but it is necessary to do. I firmly believe that practicing self care, especially in reference to your advocacy, helps to prevent the burnout that many advocates experience. Here are my tips:
- Turn it off. It is okay. Unplug from these issues, turn on a funny show; you do not have to watch it today.
- Set aside time. There can be a time that you read all about the issues, but try to limit it. Tell yourself “I will not read anything about it for an hour.” Or, even say “ Only on the weekend will I do work related things.”
- Spend time with those you love. Those you love are so important to keeping you happy and positive.
- Make a list of the positive things. This could be in your life or in the world. It’s easy to see the bad, but it’s always important to remember the good.
- Cut yourself some slack. Sometimes you can’t stand up to every single thing you hear or every comment you read. It is impossible and it is okay to be human. There’s some days that you have the energy and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up because of it.
- Remember that everyone is fighting a battle. Others may have different issues that they stand behind. Don’t get offended. It’s easy that when you are so passionate, you can get angry or upset when others are not. But this creates negative emotions in your life. You do not need this.
- Treat yo’ self. This could be in any aspect. A book you’ve wanted to read. A movie you’ve wanted to watch. A meal you’ve been craving. You deserve it.
While I do not have all the answers, I hope this helps. It is easy to tell others that they are important, but remember that you are too. If you are not at your best, you are not going to do your best work. Remember we are suppose to put our own oxygen masks on before assisting someone else. You need to take care of yourself; because you deserve it.