Self-care is a Political Act

It feels like I’ve been drowning in articles about New Year’s resolutions this week. I struggle with the whole Resolution thing, though, because it often seems that January is a time when we’re encouraged to declare war on our lives (or at least our bodies). We spend so much time working to reclaim our bodies from those who would control us—why turn the tables on ourselves every New Year?

self preservation lorde

I think we do battle with ourselves plenty over the course of the year. I don’t think we need to feel pressured to do (yet one more) thing that brings more stress, makes us feel bad about ourselves, or ultimately doesn’t serve our physical or emotional well-being.

What’s more, many of us spend a lot of time doing important work: taking care of others, working for social justice, and doing our part—however small—to try to make the world a better place. We’re told that the work itself should be its own reward, when in truth, it can be both rewarding and also really exhausting. We’re told that self-care is frivolous, superficial, or an excuse to disengage. Many of us—women especially—are shamed into ignoring their own physical and mental health, sometimes to the point where we just don’t have the energy to participate in the work that we care about deeply.

The world can be a scary, discouraging, sometimes tragic place, but it’s a world that needs you Caring for yourself is not self-indulgence. In a time when it can be increasingly difficult to watch the news or engage on social media—let alone stand in protest (or cross a picket line to go to work or get health care), taking care of yourself so that you can continue to fight for justice and equality is a political act.

BecauseI know a lot of very smart people, I asked friends and colleagues for their favorite self-care routines. We hope you find something inspiring and restorative that works for you.

  • Remind yourself there are people who love and care for you. Remind yourself every day you matter.” ~Kate
  • I’ve been thinking about how to better take care of myself at work, rather than add another thing to my outside of work to-do list. This year self-care won’t be about what I do, but what I don’t do. Don’t listen/read news outside of work. Don’t volunteer for any position I could get hired for. Don’t watch TV/movies with gratuitous violence.” ~Katie
  • Be patient with yourself.” ~Kate
  • Deliberately schedule time for self-care in your planner (with an alarm!) to focus on whatever makes you feel better and more connected with yourself–mindfulness, walking, blogging, doodling, meditation, a cup of tea with no one else around. Honor your appointment with yourself the way you would with anyone else –because YOU matter just as much as that big meeting you have scheduled later in the day.” ~Emer
  • Ride a bike. Take a walk.” ~Jim
  • I started writing daily with the goal of talking out anything bothering me instead of letting it fester.” ~Sasha

Looking for more ideas?

Revel in good things:

  • I have a box where I save little notes or cards or printed emails that people have given me in appreciation of something I did or said that I can look through when I am feeling unappreciated or not good enough.” ~Kathy
  • My colleagues and I start our daily morning meetings with an “attitude of gratitude” from the day before, before we delve into all the issues we will face.” ~Rose
  • I have a folder on my phone called “Are You Sad?” where I save my silliest photos; I look at them when I need to laugh.” ~Jennifer


  • Archie smileSnuggle with your pet. They are soft. They ask very little of you. They love you.
  • Make friends with a teenager (because they are awesome!).” ~Crystal
  • Call, text, or FaceTime/ Skype with a friend who lives far away. Reconnect and remind yourself that there are people out there who care about you.

But also, disconnect:

  • Read. It’s like watching TV in terms of checking out of my life, but unlike TV, it doesn’t make me feel terrible, even if I do it for nine hours. Also: it nurtures my brain, which is the most important part of my body/life.” ~Alex
  • Give yourself permission to close some of those tabs, unsubscribe to some of those newsletters, block the people on social media who cause you distress.
  • I try not check social media or email before 8 am. I like my mornings to be relaxed and unplugged me time.” ~Erin

Take care of your body:

  • The thing that keeps me sanest and most grounded is having a massage twice a month.  While the rest of my life is not all about me, massages are.” ~Sara
  • Make sure you have health insurance—you deserve health care when you need it.
  • Kickbox.” ~ August

Whatever it is you do to take care of yourself, we hope you’ll be kind to yourself in the New Year.

(p.s. Have a self-care routine that brings you peace, calm, joy, and health? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *