Self-Care Strategies: 100 Places to Start

Burnout/Mental Health

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Below is a list of 100 self-care strategies. Self-care is not a word that we hear very often in animal rights communities. This seems ironic, given that burnout, compassion fatigue, and secondary trauma are so prevalent among animal rights activists. Activist communities tend to prioritize action above self-care; the movement above individual activists; volume of work versus quality. These tendencies come from a good place, but create serious issues.

The problem with not discussing self-care is that it leaves each of us more vulnerable to burnout. Even though our movement is growing every year, it is not growing nearly as fast as it could be. Organizations, groups, and the movement are continuously losing valuable members to issues that are preventable.

As activists, we have a tendency to take on as much as possible. Sometimes over ambition leads to long-term inefficacy.

So, where do we start? We need to have an understanding of burnout. Organizations need to prioritize staff and volunteer sustainability. Grassroots groups need to think about how they can support one another and to examine group dynamics that could be leading to burnout. And individual activists need to recognize the importance of self-care in long-term sustainability. The movement needs you in 10 years as much as it needs you now. We need to be honest with ourselves and seek balance.

Some ideas in the list might seem silly, but others might work. Different people find that different things help, and it isn’t a failure to try something that doesn’t end up helping. Experiment: try doing one activity a day and notice its impact. Add your own strategies to the list. Eventually you will have a go-to toolbox of strategies that you can use daily and that you can pull out when things get particularly rough.

 

  1. Relax your body by taking deep breaths. Slowly inhale and hold it for 2 seconds, then slowly exhale and hold it for 2 second. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Listen to your favourite song (or sing it in your head).
  3. Google “pictures of baby animals” or click here.
  4. Take a bath or long shower.
  5. Call a friend.
  6. Go for a walk. Feel the sunshine (or rain, or snow!)
  7. Write down how you feel.
  8. Write what you are mad, sad, or unhappy about and tear up the note – throw it away.
  9. Throw ice cubes against a hard surface (ex. sidewalk or brick wall)
  10. Exercise: run, walk, jog, bike, yoga, dance, go to the gym
  11. Develop a daily stretching routine to loosen your muscles and release trapped tension
  12. Punch a pillow or punching bag.
  13. Scream into a pillow.
  14. Draw a picture.
  15. Think something nice about yourself, repeat it until you believe it.
  16. Make a realistic goal in your mind and repeat in your mind that you can do it.
  17. Break problems and projects into smaller parts and make a goal for each small part.
  18. Take up a new hobby: sewing, playing an instrument, photography, graphic design, yoga, painting, baking, board games, etc.
  19. Get a massage.
  20. Have a good cry.
  21. Go to sleep an hour earlier tonight.
  22. Do something for others (ie. volunteer, write an appreciative note to a friend).
  23. Make yourself a healthy meal.
  24. Try to cut down on unhealthy foods/drinks; these foods increase stress responses. Try replacing your morning coffee with herbal tea. Limit alcohol consumption. Avoid sugar and chocolate. Don’t demand purity, just make the effort to put healthy things into your body.
  25. Sleep in.
  26. Write things down to free your mind up to think about other things.
  27. Start a daily journal.
  28. Hug someone you love.
  29. Spend time with an animal.
  30. Reach out to others who may also be having a hard time. Check out online support groups.
  31. Try counseling.
  32. Write about a traumatic or difficult experience. Just for yourself.
  33. Watch a favourite TV show or movie.
  34. Think about a very happy day: imagine all the details and replay the day in your mind.
  35. Have a bubble bath.
  36. Light some candles, put on some gentle music, and read a book.
  37. Play with playdough.
  38. Colour in a colouring book.
  39. Take care of your body right now. Do 30 jumping jacks, jog on the spot for 30 seconds, do as many sit ups and push ups as feels good. Notice how your body feels after you have moved it.
  40. Give a homemade gift, card, or note to someone you love.
  41. Make a list of your goals: personal goals, relationship goals, activist goals, etc.
  42. Choose one goal and brainstorm some concrete steps you can take to achieve it.
  43. Turn the radio on loud and dance around until you feel exhausted.
  44. Call or email an old friend.
  45. Do something that you loved as a child.
  46. Write a letter to a political prisoner.
  47. Read an inspiring poem, book, or blog; watch an inspiring movie; listen to an inspiring song.
  48. Think about another social issue you’re passionate about and think about ways that you could get involved. It could be volunteering at a sexual assault centre, helping out at a youth shelter, doing anti-poverty work, etc. Diversifying the work that we do can help us find balance.
  49. Write down the achievements you have made so far in your activism. It could be a time you helped someone go vegan, a campaign you’re proud of, an impressive number of leaflets you’ve distributed, etc. We need to celebrate our small achievements.
  50. Re-read your favourite book.
  51. Spend time with a child in your life.
  52. Spend time in nature: going for a walk, having a picnic, watching the clouds, etc.
  53. Try gardening.
  54. Give meditation a try. Search “guided meditation” on YouTube.
  55. Give yoga a try. Go to Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and try the “Yoga for Healing” playlist.
  56. Do one thing today just because it makes you happy.
  57. Moisturize your skin.
  58. Take a moment to enjoy your favourite smell. Cut a lemon, smell a candle, bake cookies, smell vanilla, spray your favourite perfume.
  59. Treat yourself to something. Take yourself out for dinner, buy yourself a vegan cupcake, get a new pair of fuzzy socks.
  60. Wear comfortable clothes.
  61. Read a comic.
  62. Tidy your living space.
  63. Go to the beach.
  64. Look through old photo albums.
  65. Swing on a swing; go down a slide.
  66. Hug a teddy bear.
  67. Read positive affirmations. Make your own list of affirmations that you can repeat to yourself.
  68. Take a nap.
  69. Say no to something.
  70. Tell someone you love them.
  71. Daydream.
  72. Play a game, alone or with someone.
  73. Jump in a pile of leaves.
  74. Forgive yourself or someone else.
  75. Have a games night with friends.
  76. Have a vegan potluck.
  77. Wake up with the sun.
  78. Watch a sunset.
  79. Make a gratitude journal.
  80. Schedule an hour today to do something you love.
  81. Make a craft.
  82. People watch.
  83. Join a support group.
  84. Read about other social justice movements or inspiring movement leaders.
  85. Laugh.
  86. Take a long hot shower.
  87. Have a green smoothie.
  88. Do a soduko or a crossword puzzle.
  89. Eat some chocolate.
  90. Have a cup of hot tea.
  91. Fly a kite.
  92. Write a poem.
  93. Hug a tree.
  94. Give yourself a massage.
  95. Celebrate your half-birthday.
  96. Get a haircut.
  97. Go to a concert.
  98. Attend a free event: community play, a music show in the park, a workshop at the public library, etc.
  99. Stargaze.
  100. Make a list of things you love about yourself.