Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.
– Audre Lorde
As you know, FRIDA team members work from all around the world. And in order to ensure that we support each other in this journey, we value the critical importance of taking time out for ourselves and prioritising personal needs from time to time. FRIDA considers self-care as a feminist political strategy to ensure the feminist movement sustainability and our personal resilience. We recognize the different physical, digital and psychological security challenges that young feminist activists face because of who they are and/or the work they do.
We acknowledge that young feminist activists work in very pressure environments, bear witness to violations and violence, and often face health problems derived from burnout, exhaustion and stress of our work and activism. We recognize the possibility of being exploited by working in pressure environments, especially when, as young feminists, we are both grateful and passionate about our contributions to the young feminist movement.
Since FRIDA’s community is spread all across the globe, we are usually working 24 hours every day, given that someone or the other is online in their respective time zones. In such a scenario, it becomes very important to ensure that every team member maintains her/her work/life balance, and is strongly supported by every other team member. Since FRIDA staff works remotely, we have also put together some working principles to follow and observe, that can help us maintain the work life balance well. In addition, some of the tools, protocols and practises we follow while working remotely can be viewed here.
What does Individual & Collective Self Care Look Like?
One of the first things to recognize is the importance of “self” in the idea of self care. It cannot work unless we, ourselves, make a conscious effort to work towards it. Individual self care can only lead to collective self care. So, unless we care for ourselves, we will not be able to care for and prioritise the needs of our colleagues and peers. It is also important to remember that it can be a difficult and, often, disappointing act to follow and can take a significant amount of time to incorporate individual self-care and wellbeing practices in our daily routines.
The best way to deal with this difficulty/disappointment is by looking at self-care not as yet another added task on your to-do list, but to look it from a broader perspective. Whether or not we are working, we ought to be prioritising our needs and desires over everything else. Just like our feminism, it is an everyday and living practise that we are constantly learning and unlearning; not just a work ethic to follow.
There are so many ways that one can practise self care in our everyday lives: by paying attention to the way we look, dress, eat, sleep, enjoy, recreate etc.; reconsider our personal practices; relooking the prevailing culture at key spaces: the organizational space, the activist space and how we choose to participate in them; being consistent in our struggles and always learning to pause and reflect on what we have managed to achieve and what remains to be done. These are all acts of self-care processes that bind our life, workplace and the larger movements. It’s also crucial to note that there is no right or correct manner to practice self-care. We all define our own individual ways of doing it.
Here are some good tangible examples of individual self care, that FRIDA members have modelled:
- Limit work hours to 8 per day and sign out of all chat modes after work hours.
- Dedicate an entire hour for lunch break and avoid rushing with it while still working.
- Put the right amount of tasks on your plate; do not overwhelm or underwhelm yourself
- Go for a run or walk during the day- get up to move- so that you aren’t sitting in front a screen the entire day.
- Make sure you are hydrated, nourished and well-rested before you start each day
- Include one self-care goal per week in your weekly goals; update your calendar with it so others can get inspired and replicate in their daily schedules.
- When traveling, budget in time to recover from jet lag and rest after your trip
- Use allocated holiday leave to take a proper break from work and not check emails during vacation days and holidays (use and practise vacation responder)
- Practise Reiki, Yoga and other body-mind exercises
- Play board games–scrabble, chess, ludo–to keep your mind sharp, focussed and engaged when not thinking of work.
- Spend quality time with your loved ones. Remind yourself of their beautiful presence and support in your life.
Here are some good tangible examples of collective self-care, that FRIDA members have modelled:
- Be aware of any sensitive issues or subjects that may need a trigger warning.
- Be aware of any major issues happening in the personal lives of your colleagues that may require their attention or may impact their lives or work.
- Respect when colleagues tell you they need to be offline.
- Learn to say no and empower others to flag unreasonable expectations and timelines.
- Communicate clearly about any unresolved issues with an individual team member.
- Limit channels of communication for work; do not use FB chats and WhatsApp for ongoing work conversations.
- Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of a call catching up on life and personal updates with the team member you are speaking to.
- Have a team meeting or check ins to chat about non-work-related issues occasionally.
Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Start today!