When Self-Care becomes Collective Care
This was written for the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence ~
When was the last time you took a day off from work to focus on your own healing and restoration? In our movement to end domestic and sexual violence, particularly during a socio-political climate where tensions are constant, often times our response to those tensions is to act. There is a sense where ‘taking a break’ or ‘taking time off’ might feel impossible and that there is so much responsibility that is carried. There is a principle called ahimsa which is one of the yamas of the eight limbs of yoga. It is a practice of nonviolence toward self and towards others. This yoga teaching emphasizes that in order to prevent and address violence in our world, you must address that within yourself. It is easy to participate in harmful internal dialogue that you have to keep pushing forward in this work even if it is at the expense of your health.
The good news: there are many people in this movement to end domestic and sexual violence. Even better news: the work of each person in this movement inspires others to take action. This work is shouldered by many, it is everyone’s duty to encourage each other to practice caring for ourselves. When we do this, we are taking care of each other.
When leaders and coworkers are able to model how they practice self-care, it encourages a healthy and trusting work environment. Once self-care practices are established and practiced, normalize them! There is still an underlying stigma that mental health is not a part of overall well being. It is usually easier to take a day off of work when you have the flu or a fever. It’s not so easy to take a day off if your mental health is suffering. However, when you begin to normalize taking time off for your whole well-being, this also allows leaders and coworkers to do the same and to come back feeling their best. You can be an example!
Okay, so you got to the point where you were able to get over the internal dialogue on whether you should take a day off to take care of your health. Great! Now what?
Self-care is no stranger to our work. The key thing is implementing your own self-practices! Whatever it is you do, it needs to be something that restores and gives you life, which is a practice of ahimsa. A common narrative that people may share within this movement is when they take time off, it can be a challenge to completely unplug from work. This is when your team can help to hold each other accountable to getting rest. While you might feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility, remember that the work will continue to move forward as you rely on the other people around you for support. The beautiful yet contradictory reality about change is that it takes time and it is a struggle. It is important to pace actions so that it can be sustainable. The movement to end domestic and sexual violence will continue to progress and achieve victory upon victory as long as we take time to care of each other.