This guest post is cross-posted from SouLar Bliss, and is written by Adaku Utah. Adaku Utah is the founder of SouLar Bliss, and is an activist, healer, teacher and performance artist committed to nurturing authentic expression within people and transformative and healing community spaces. She is a proud social justice co-consirator, committed love warrior and ever-evolving mover and shaker. Adaku has worked as the Social Change Initiatives Coordinator at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH), where she led ICAH in planning and implementing youth-adult partnership practices and coordinated state-wide sex education school board organizing initiatives. Currently, Adaku works with Project SAFE as a project facilitator, training and supporting youth and adults in educating and organizing around sexual health and reproductive justice issues.
Adaku & I co-facilitated a workshop called “The Revolution Starts with Me: Promoting Self-Care and Preventing Burnout” this past weekend. Check out Adaku’s awesome re-cap of the workshop, and be sure to check out SouLar Bliss for free and low-cost self care events in your area, Like Soular Bliss on Facebook, and follow Adaku on Twitter.
This weekend Nicole Clark and I presented “The Revolution Starts With Me” at the 26th Annual Conference for Student and Community Activists: “From Abortion Rights to Social Justice” at Hampshire College. The Revolution Starts with me is a workshop that utilizes healing practices, interactive activities, storytelling, and skill-sharing, to support activists and social justice organizations in thinking more critically about the importance of prioritizing self-care. Together we explore and grapple with how we practice self-care in a world that does not prioritize our self care, how we carve space for ourselves when we’re being pulled in multiple directions, how schools, agencies, collective spaces and community organizations support us in prioritizing self-care, how we create sustainable practices that not only prevent burnout but allow self care to thrive in our lives on a consistent basis. Throughout the workshop everyone in the workshop individually and collectively share a wealth of practical recipes, remedies, rituals and resources that support short and long term self and community care.
We had a brilliant mix of 40 folks!! Here is some of what we shared with each other during the workshop. Thank you soo much to everyone that came out. What a blessing and honor it was to build community and sacred space to be and share with each other.
- Recipe to Deal With A Toxic Boss
Remember that your emotions are equally important.
Create boundaries-as many as permitted without risking your job.
Stop trying to manage their emotions. This is not your job and you dont have to do this.
If their toxicity is more than you can bear, get out of there. Without shame or guilt.
- Recipe for Grounding Yourself
When things are overwhelming and I feel emotionally overwhelming the advocacy center taught me how to ground. Focus on your breath and let yourself feel your feet grounded. Point out three or more physical things around you to let you know you’re still alive. Use sensory description when you are doing this (I see the clock is blue, I feel the soft carpet, I smell sweetness). Remind yourself of 5 positive things that have happened to you recently. Remind yourself of positivity in the future.
- Recipe for Sadness: hug a puppy! If you don’t have a puppy, google puppy pictures
- Recipe for Burnout: Make sure people know just how much you are doing!!
- Recipe for an Over-Worked and Goal-Oriented Person
Create a longterm plan of modest goals with self care. This will provide structure and provide satisfaction in the accomplishment of the goals. Example joining a sports team creates a solid schedule for an individual to follow, and hopefully the athletics provide an enjoyable and soul-full opportunity to relieve emotional/mental exhaustion, and to help reduce long-term physical exhaustion.
- Recipe for Empowerment
1 verse Lauryn Hill
1 poem Audre Lorde
1 verse Erykah Badu
1 poem Assata Shakur
- Recipe for Self love-winter version :cup of tea, blankets/pillows, book/magazines/tv show (not work related), closed door, phone off ,computer off
- Recipe for Self Love-summer version
comfortable clothes, go for a walk, leave phone off or at home, bring a friend (animal or human). Take 1 hr (Suggestions: stop and sit at a park bench, bring a picnic, go somewhere with nature)
- Recipe for Self Care
Snuggle up with my puppy and watch lady and the tramp with a big bowl of spongebob kraft mac & cheese. Generic will not do. Also, don’t wear pants!!
- Free Write Recipe
Get a piece of blank paper. Set a clock for 5 mins. Begin to write whatever comes to your mind, don’t worry about spelling errors, messy hand writing, or anything that would effect you from writing whatever comes to your mind. You don’t have to write names or anything. Whatever comes to your mind is what goes on the paper, unscripted.
- Recipe Build an Altar to Your “Dark Selves”
The things that debilitate or torment you about yourself are the things to embrace, celebrate, and bring into the light. Honor all you are even the balanced dark.
- 7 Divine Words of Self Affirmation : I AM-Whole, Perfect, Powerful, Strong, Loving, Harmonious and Happy
- Vegan Gravy and Mashed Potatoes
This is my go to comfort food to soothe my soul. I don’t use measurements sorry. Fill a pan with olive oil and one diced onion on high heat. Once it starts to simmer, add flour slowly while stirring, until it takes on a smooth but very thick consistency. Turn heat to medium low, stir and let chill. Add seasonings. I like cajun seasoned salt, rosemary & thyme, but anything will work. Transport to a pot and add vegetable broth while stirring until it takes on a consistency slightly more liquify than desired. Add veggies of choice. I like kale, corn, peans, carrots and tomatoes. Let it hang out on low heat.TATERS: Boil potatoes. Once soft, drain water. Mash with chives, soy milk, olive oil, salt and earth balance.
A written, collective endeavor that reminds you and everyone in your group/organization that they are loved and valued. At the end of a meeting, have one sheet of paper per attendee with their name written on top. Invite everyone to write a personal message to that person that affirms them and celebrates their strengths.
- Lady Juice for That Time of the Month
3 drops tincture of raspberry leaf
1 handful of kale
- Remedy for a Long Week
Spend some time alone. Go dancing. Drink “Tension Tamer” tea. Find a friend and go roller skating. Sleep IN. Enjoy a glass of wine. Watch your favorite t.v shows. Engage in some self love.
- Remedy for sore throat
1 part water + 2 parts honey + as much citrus (limes or lemons work best for me). Heat up mix until hot. Take half a breath. Hold your breath. and shoot mix like whiskey as fast as possible to the back of the throat. Try not to breathe for as long as feels okay. Repeat as needed/able. You can add cayenne pepper too to the mix.
- Remedy for Positive Self Talk
Have you ever stopped and listened to what you say to yourself? “I’m not good enough! “You can’t do this” “You’re going to fail” Stop and listen to your self talk and check yourself. Think “would I ever say these things to my friend, my family, or my loved one?” When you catch yourself speaking negatively, check yourself ! Say positive things about the work you’re doing, think of all the hard work you’ve done and appreciate and value yourself.
- Ritual for Heartbreak or Negative Emotions that Need to Be Released
Imagine that emotion is a color. take a shower and envision that color all over your body. Take a fresh lemon cut it in half and use it to wash away the emotion. Once its all gone throw the lemon over your shoulder and don’t look back. Smudge body with sage before and after.
- Ritual for Grounding
When feeling crazy or anxious or scattered or dissociated or whatever…
Close your eyes, touch your pinkie to your thumbs (same hand), raise yourself up onto your tip toes while standing, then drop your heels. Repeat as necessary to reach a feeling of more calm and centered. And remember: Always keep breathing in from the belly. Namaste
- Ritual for Burnout
When I am on the verge of burnout, I can feel tension in my body, in my jaw, in my hands. As an artsy person, I find I can release tension by doing art, specifically collage or painting. Tearing paper, pulling up grass, something that releases tension but won’t physically exhaust me. Scribbling, laying out materials and getting messy and stepping out of your comfort zone. Play loud or soft music. Make a ritual of it and take as much or little time as needed.
- Ritual for Honoring Those Who Came Before Us, Those Who Sustain Us, Those Who Love us, Those Who We Respect, Admire, and Wish to Honor in a Particular Place to be done in the company of good or soon to be good friends
whats needed: jar/basket, slips of paper, pen
Ask everyone in the group to think of someone they want to dedicate the rest of the day’s activities to…it can be someone living, no longer living, fictional etc. Take time to think of that person’s energy, write their name on a slip of paper. When you are ready, place the name in jar/basket, silently one at a time. When everyone has gone, people can share who they are dedicating the day to.
- When I Feel Heartbroken and Defeated: I look in the mirror or picture and myself in my head and say “I love you, I respect you, I trust you” because if I love + respect myself. I can trust myself to make decisions which are both what I want and what is good for me.
- Self Care Ritual
Get on my bike. Ride on the paths that correspond with my energy levels for stimuli, physical activity (ex. up vs. downhill, quiet vs. loud, straight vs. curves)Eat something! Incorporate as many fruits, veggies and nutrients as possible. I find I feel better when I eat vegan but whatever I feel in the mood for. Stop when I’m full.I live to bike too. But share with my housemates because everyone needs a little pick-me-up. It makes me feel accomplished and (re)connected to my house community. And remind both myself and others that we need to look out for each other.
- Ritual : Spend a night alone with your favorite comfort food/drink, and take the time to enjoy yourself. Read a book, snuggled on the couch with a glass of wine in front of a fire. Turn up your favorite cheesy music and dance around. Take time to just be in your own skin, with no one’s demands or expectations. Acknowledge your needs and wants and let yourself have them. My alone nights I come home and take a long bubble bath with a glass of champagne. Immediately get into my most comfy pjs. Good book on the couch!, Another glass of champagne. Sleep when I feel like it! No schedule
- Dance at least once every couple of weeks in safe, non movement space, no need to talk work. I go salsa dancing
- SouL Sanctuary at Stone Circles: retreat for activists and social change advocates
- Off the Mat, Into the World: programs, trainings, workshops, yoga+social change
- For those days when you want a good exercise to smile: www.cuteoverload.com
- Eternal Summer of A Black Feminist Mind podcast/blog
- Adrienne Maree Brown blog
- This Ain’t Living Blog
- My friends. Plan and simple. Being able to laugh with your friends, act like friends with your friends is revitalizing
TIPS FOR SELF
- Animals are way better to talk to than humans
- Eating regular meals is key to not screaming and ripping one’s hair out
- While smoking is bad for you, don’t try quitting mid semester
- Try not to forget the way toxic people have treated you, no matter how close they are
- Video games on mute + audiobooks = awesome
- “Should” is a stupid ass word
- “When you realize how perfect the world is, you will tilt your head back and laugh” ~Buddha
- Love yourself and those around you (for your health, their health, and because capitalism, oppression and subjection don’t want you to)
- Recognize your roles, appreciate yourself
- I have to allot time during each day where I do something that is purely for myself and it is something that is and makes a positive impact on my physical and/or mental health
- Incorporating physical activity is very important for me. Carving out specific time to exercise and not letting myself push it aside for a passive or less healthy alternative.
- Working on surrounding myself with positive people and only trying to channel positive vibes and not harbor negative thoughts and emotions
- Having my thoughts, feelings and actions all align and be in accordance is very important.
- Work smart
- Biscuits and gravy always help. You can find vegan/veg options online
- Free write
- Make food in quantities to share
- Watching an episode of my favorite TV show
- Making a strawberry and raspberry smoothie (strawberries, raspberries, ice and almond milk)
- Laying outside when it is sunny and warm
- Talking to a friend who is supportive
- Going out dancing
- A glass of wine with chocolate
- Looking at food blogs
- Writing poetry
- Attending open mic nights
- Volunteering in the community
- Spending time with family
- Allow yourself to believe in authenticity and legitimacy of emotions. You are allowed to feel _______________
- Solve a small problem
- Check in with your past to see your growth
- Hula Hoop
- Remember your worth
- Loving yourself
- Being your own support/backbone. Don’t depend on others to make you happy
- Put your hand on your high heart . Rest your hand on/above your left collarbone
- Remembering that you have people who will/can support you
- Slow things down
- Knowing that you are a strong individual
- Believing in your abilities
- Taking time out of your day to do something you know helps you
- Don’t let petty things hold you down
- Don’t let what others think or say affect who you are what what you do
TIPS FOR COLLECTIVES
- Poetry-reading and creating it together.
- Eating a meal together! A big bowl of soup on a cold night or grilling food on a warm night. Everyone can help prep, cook and clean.
- One of the most valuable lessons, i’ve learned was hearing Sonia Sanchez speak and one of her messages was how gossip and negativity hurts us and our communities. Seek out this speech and her work. Holding ourselves and each other accountable to confronting when we can or letting it go when that’s what’s needed.
- There is not just one way to be an activist. We get fed images of marches and protests. We picture going door to door with pamphlets, or shouting reallly loud. But we need to zoom out, to start including new forms of activism. A uniform activist model wont work. We need to see people in any and all walks of life. We are living and working with social justice intention. As activists we limit ourselves when we create an image that not everyone is happy confining themselves to.
- When the image of an activist is expanded, suddenly we don’t need to change ourselves. We don’t need to be different. Being myself can be an act of revolution because I bring something to the movement, even if it is in my thoughtful silence, or my passion for meditation.
- Revolution. we need everything we can get. We need doctors and police women and therapists and toddlers and students and people who are unemployed and yet are still wise with much to offer. We need everyone. Let’s not exclude.
- My house is a safe space and collective in my activist community. There are a lot of people coming in and out. One thing that I always find so wonderful and nice is when people offer to help me clean. By cleaning together we keep the safe space together and comfortable for others.
- Just hanging out! some of the best self care (collective) was being on a porch, just sitting (some smoking) and talking and listening and learning.
- Crafting together! fun and can be a much deserved mental break.
- When dealing with activism forge emotional bonds with the people around you (for support, trust and fun!). A close affinity group will give new strength in the movement. The movement will help you form healthy, deep, lasting, personal relationships.
- Keep positivity present. Think and speak positively about yourself and others to keep your mind healthy.