You are changing the world. We won’t say you can’t do it without eating, because Gandhi. Change-engineering can be a high-stress occupation, but you can learn how to function without crashing and burning. When it comes to self care, it seems like we’re constantly talking about balance, and yet it feels like we are not quite there yet. It’s unlikely a paid sabbatical is in your future, but wouldn’t that be nice?
In thinking about supreme self care strategies, we reached out to some of our favorite change-engineers: you! We knew you’d get it because you’re reading this while brushing your teeth. You didn’t disappoint. Javelina clients from the worlds of business, nonprofits and politics gave us four strategies to help get through that hard work of changing the world and cultivating balance in the process.
1. Invest in Yourself First
Patricia Duarte, President and CEO of Trellis, told us, “I love to read books and reading helps me feel better because I love to learn [about business] through the books.”
We weren’t surprised how many responses recommended podcasts and books. Future Representative for Arizona’s third legislative district, Andrés Cano, has a routine we could all benefit from: “On Sundays, I put the phone away, ask Alexa to play the piano station, and get lost reading the New York Times front to back.”
It comforts us to know someone is reading the paper from front to back on a Sunday. We’ll add into the vision a hot cup of coffee and a pumpkin scone. ‘Tis the season!
Jason Vail Cruz, Sexual Violence Policy Coordinator with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, provided us with a great explanation of self-investment: “I listen to podcasts, read extensively, and attend as many trainings as I can. Some of these activities focus on things related to doing a better job in my field while others focus on my own personal self-improvement. Throughout all of these activities, I also try to focus on the ultimate goal of the work that I am doing. This more than others, assists in keeping my energy to move forward: a world without sexual violence.”
Whether you finally take the time to read the business book on your nightstand or enroll in the upcoming conference you know will help get you to the next step: take the time. You are worth it.
2. Spend Time with People You Love
Just a reminder, your “self” counts as someone you love. Go get a massage. Cook a meal while listening to your favorite record. Some of us need complete solitude to recharge, while others require interaction with people we care about. People need people when we are changing the world. Support keeps us going when we feel like the big thing we are doing is taking way too long.
On family time, Jason Vail Cruz told us, “For me, this is my husband and my chosen family, all who are there to listen when I need it. My support system helps me to create necessary balance through engaging me in fun activities, trips, and family evenings.”
Go camping, sit down to play Cards Against Humanity or a game of Dominoes. You will be happy you did.
What we love about Jason Vail Cruz’s response is not just the suggestion for family time, but what happens during these interactions: “…screen time on devices is kept at a minimum and an emphasis on being present is valued. The support and alternate activities are crucial for re-energizing me to come back to the public policy advocacy on behalf of survivors.” We love when people disconnect from screens and connect to each other!
For Andres Cano, “Time with loved ones is a non-negotiable. When I’m really, really caught up in work, I regain my focus by canceling whatever I have going on for a massage— my decisions are better afterwards.” See! Get those massages!
3. Say NO
Our culture loves to say yes.
“Yes, I’ll organize the fundraiser, speak at the high school, paint the house, wash the laundry, read the book, go to the event…”
It’s OK to say “No.” Did you hear me? You can say “no!” In fact, self care means you must say no.
Saying yes all the time wears you out. You may think fitting seven events into your only free Saturday is the best choice for your future, but really? Just pick one and stay the duration.
When you say no, offer a referral or resource to whoever is asking for your time and help more people connect. “I’m unavailable to be a guest speaker at the event in November, but I know who would be perfect.” Connection. People won’t even notice you’re saying ‘no,’ they’ll just think you’re being helpful, and you are.
Take some advice from Andrés Cano. He told us, “I’ve learned to say ‘no.’ Trying to be everywhere, doing everything, to serve others is totally commendable, and I’ve done it with my eyes closed, but the restlessness and constant back and forth on the road taught me I wasn’t fully present or as effective as I could be if I just politely declined.” Exactly.
4. Practice the Basics
When you start your day with your favorite pecan oatmeal and walking the dog – you are doing the work. When you choose to hike or do Zumba or go for drinks with a friend – you are doing the work. When you fuel your body with healthy foods that help to balance your energy throughout long days and weeks – you are doing the work. To do good work, you have to take care of yourself.
It’s not just the work that’s the work. It’s every day you wake up dedicated to ending something terrible or building something uniting and empowering and you know it’s going to be hard, sometimes thankless, undeniably exhausting, and you do it. Not because no one else is, but because change-engineering takes collective action.
And, guess what? We are all figuring it out. Patricia Duarte told us, “I have not mastered it but I am aware of self care all the time. I recognize that self care is constant work; I remind myself daily that I have a new day to ‘start again.’ I believe that the key to some of my self-care is that I sleep at least 8 hours every night. I have learned to never take things personal. It’s hard at times. I make sure not to skip lunch.”
We don’t just fall into change-engineering. We are here through a series of experiences witnessing a world lacking in some way to collectively meet the needs of people and the earth. Maybe we witnessed and survived violence and that made us want to end violence for others. Maybe some of us have not always had equal rights in this country and we want to protect what has been fought for and continue to foster true equality for all people. Whatever the reason is that made you a change-engineer, thank you. We need you. You are doing an amazing job and we are here to help you do even better.
*Feature image from: https://www.kubashi.com/lifestyle/food-health/treat-yoself-tuesdays/