Young people today seem far more able to talk about and understand mental health than the generations before them. This is undoubtedly a good thing as both an open dialogue and compassionate outlook are essential for addressing the growing mental health crisis among young people. However, it seems that despite this growing conversation there is still a belief that self-care is somehow selfish and a waste of time. In this short blog I want to talk about why this idea is a myth and that actually, as young activists, self-care is one of the biggest acts of defiance that you can take part in.
There are many factors which have caused the unprecedented levels of poor mental health in today's society, and eco-anxiety is just one of them. The term eco-anxiety refers to the stress caused by the current and future harm to the environment as a result of climate change. This stress and frustration towards the inaction on climate change, as well as many other social and political issues, leads many to turn to activism. This is inherently a good thing and at Teach the Future fighting for the world that you want is a fundamental part of who we are and what we do. However there can be a toxic habit within activist spaces of sidelining self-care which is detrimental to both individuals themselves and the movement as a whole.
In many ways the odds are already stacked against young people today and trying to carry the weight of a movement on your own shoulders will inevitably lead to burn out. Not only is this going to be damaging for you and your own mental health but it allows current systems to stay as they are. Essentially burnt out and exhausted people can only do so much and the powers that be depend on people being too tired to fight back. It’s important to remember that this isn’t your fault, you did not create the system that forces people to work insanely long hours or live with the stress of multiple social and economic crises. What you can do, as far as is possible, is refuse to uphold these systems. One of the best ways you can do this is to look after yourself as much as you can for the preservation of both your energy and your sanity.
What I can’t do in this blog is tell you exactly how to do this, I’m still figuring it out for myself. Besides the fundamental trio of getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and eating a balanced diet, self-care is going to look different for each person. What I can recommend to you is taking the time to figure out what self-care is for you, what makes you feel rested, what makes you feel happy, what makes you feel alive? Figure out these things and then do them! It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t just practice self-care for the benefit of what you can bring to activist spaces. You should do it because you deserve to live a healthy and happy life for the simple reason that you’re alive. This also doesn’t just apply to young people but to everyone who’s at mercy to the extremely stressful world that we live in.
If you want to defy the system as it is and make the world a better place it’s time to start practicing self-care.