Feeling a little hungover this week? Maybe you drank heavily in either a fit of stress or celebration? If not, you’re probably experiencing the lingering after-effects of an utterly traumatic (yes, I said it) election cycle.
Fatigued? Headache? Digestive issues? All of this could be a result of what psychologists call the “let down effect”–essentially a hangover caused by the sudden reduction of sky-high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline. When these hormones (which can protect your body from perceiving pain or succumbing to exhaustion) start to disappear, the “true” state of your body and mind will begin to emerge. This can manifest as migraines, nausea, an imbalanced appetite, and extreme fatigue.
Furthermore, those of us who are privy to the forthcoming work that will have to be done, even with a “left-leaning” President elect, have likely skipped the celebratory dance parties and instead find themselves revelling in overwhelm.
What to do, what to do?
This week and for the foreseeable future, the answer is simple: we must, must, must rest.
Type-A Activists have long had a reputation for avoiding “self care”, thinking it indulgent for a deteriorating world, or even overly-commodified and therefore of questionable efficacy.
Luckily, as we individually begin to dissect the toxic effects of capitalism and white supremacy, many of us have come to discover something profound: self care is a revolutionary act.
In fact, the self care “movement” itself was created by the women of the civil rights movement, who partook as an act of rebellion against the racist and misogynist world of modern medicine. It was Audre Lorde herself (Black writer, feminist, activist, and civil right activist) that took this concept a step forward in her essay “The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House”, whose title is commonly quoted to remind activists of white supremacy’s unyielding and well-disguised reach.
We can only assume that the master’s toolbox would be filled to the brim with ceaseless work, punishing criticism of human emotion, and the sacrifice of our health for the good of the system. Which, if we’re experiencing post-election burnout, we may well be inflicting on ourselves–even touting that it’s for “the sake of the movement”.
But it’s a simple truth that an exhausted mind and body are about as useful as a screen door on a submarine, and whether we’re pushing through this week to be productive or creative, we’ll probably end up frustrated and banging our head against the wall until we’ve run out of steam.
This practice of self-flagellation will inevitably postpone the healing process that must occur before we are able to take advantage of our “full selves” again.
And so, we owe it to Audre Lord, and to the other women of color in nation’s history who’ve done the hard work of learning to deprogram the habits and thought processes of these oppressive systems, to take rest where we can.
For many of us, this is literal: napping, going to bed early, taking an extra hour in the morning if we’re able.
For more, this is a constant conscious reminder to take more frequent breaks, not blame ourselves for our lack of productivity, and treat ourselves to things that make us happy. This might even mean taking the day (or a few days) off. This absolutely means trying not to think about activism or politics for at least a small window of our day.
In addition to rest, decompression is pertinent to give us the space to process difficult information and feelings. Calling folks in our support system, meditating, yoga, and even more vigorous exercise can help us create that space.
There’s no telling how much rest or decompression we’ll need; this will vary greatly from person to person. But we must honor what our bodies and brains are asking of us. Not sure? Here’s a quick test: are you burning out after 30 minutes-1 hour of “work”? Are you inundated by emotion at the smallest trigger? Unable to focus for even small amounts of time? Do you feel physically ill, even if it’s just a headache making you foggy?
You need more rest.
Don’t fight it. Just take a nap (it’s revolutionary).