If you look around at the way the world is today it would be easy to understand why a lot of people are depressed. The state of politics is a shambles, with a sell out tory government and Donald Trump the president of the United States, things have never been so hopeless.
But amongst the despair in the world there are still people who try and make a difference to it. The unsung heroes, the volunteers, campaigners. Those on the picket lines, those sharing their stories, speaking out, those of us who are fighting the good fight.
For every ounce of bad there is in the world it’s counteracted tenfold by the good. But it’s important to remember that even those of us fighting for justice need to look after ourselves. Campaigning for anything in this world takes a lot of energy and determination and when you roam into the jungle that is politics, the tigers come out to play.
People will hate you and shoot you down for your efforts, especially in the day and age of social media – everyone has an opinion and some people are not afraid to express it, usually rather rudely. Trolls on twitter are rife and no one is safe from it, not even celebrities.
I remember when I was volunteering for the cause in Calais. I was putting all my energy into it. I, along with many others, felt something needed to be done about the situation. It was approaching winter and many of the refugees didn’t even have the basics to see them through.
My good friend Sue set up a support group for donations and from that it rocketed into a mountain of responsibility none of us asked for, but we were happy to do. Luckily having kids and other responsibilities meant my involvement was very little but I heard some right horror stories about how people were treated, including some of my friends, when all they were trying to do was help.
I couldn’t continue campaigning and volunteering because I found it too hard. I have to protect my own mental health as much as possible and when people are shooting you down and personally insulting you for what you believe in, it gets hard. The reaction I had for trying to do good was disheartening and it started to make me feel depressed.
It’s important that if you are campaigning, especially for mental health, that you’re looking after your own mental health too. You can’t put from an empty cup. With this in mind I’ve put together a list of tips for self care when campaigning.
1. Don’t take it home
Make sure you don’t take your work home with you. It’s easy to get consumed in campaign work because you want to do your very best and you want to fight for the people who can’t fight for themselves. You can’t fight if you have no strength though. So it’s important to recuperate when you can and make sure you’re getting enough rest.
2. Don’t let it consume you
It’s easy to get caught up in the lives of others when you’re fighting to make them better, but remember you also have to look after yourself. This isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. Don’t let your life slip. You won’t be able to help anyone if you do. Make sure you put campaigning to one side for at least one day a week and dedicate that time to doing something you enjoy, and spend time in your own world.
3. Ignore the naysayers
There will be plenty of them, trust me. It will infuriate you at times. Don’t take it to heart, politics brings us together but it also divides us. You will never be able to please everyone and there will always be someone who doesn’t think what you’re doing is a good idea. You don’t need to prove anything to them, just ignore the spiteful comments and keep fighting the good fight!
4. Make the most of your support network!
The good thing about activism and campaigning is that you will usually be part of a strong network of like minded people. Spend time with these people. These people are your team, your family. So you may lose a few friends? You will make more! Focus on the people who believe in your goals and watch your life change.
If you keep these tips in mind then there’s no reason why you should stop campaigning but remember not to burn yourself out, take care of yourself and then you can take on the world. Also, it’s okay to take a break now and then. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or you’re not passionate, it means you’re human. A wonderful one at that.