Jennifer Duffield, assistant dean of students, hosted an online self-care lecture to Elmhurst University students and staff on Nov. 10, where she provided tips on how to remain mentally healthy as an activist.
Duffield believes that if an activist doesn’t take care of themselves, they can’t help others. “Taking care of our physical bodies helps us continue the physiological behavior [required] for activism work,” she explained.
“It seems to be only about the individual, but we need to expand our view of the self beyond the individual to everyone we touch,” Duffield said.
Self-care, according to Duffield is, “active self-preservation, a necessity for survival, and a form of resistance.”
Mental health disproportionately impacts people in minority groups. Both the Black Panther Party and Rosa Parks used self-care techniques, including yoga, to build resilience and resistance in the Black communities.
As a staff member at EU, Duffield focuses on continuing her activism from her college years.
Duffield manages a busy life by having a social network group with similar interests. She advised activists to engage in radical self-care regimes that enable them to support others.
“It’s very much a reciprocal relationship,” says Duffield, noting the importance of curating a social network group to help take a load off of the emotional labor that comes with advocacy.
Activists may struggle with several impacting conditions which include, post-traumatic stress syndrome, burnout, and disengagement.
“Self-care does not need to be some big elaborate plan to add to your calendar,” explained Duffield.
A self-care regime would release pressure caused by activism, some techniques can be as simple as eating healthy or drinking less. More elaborate techniques could be breathwork and exercise.
Duffield shared that if a person outside of the impacted community wants to participate in an activism activity, it’s important to be aware of the position that they may play.
“[For] some cases, it may be important to take a back seat. If that’s the case, you need to ask what role you can play,” explains Duffield. “You don’t have to do everything, but you do need to know your appropriate role.”
Duffield’s workshop focused on self-reflection and ways to incorporate self-care into an activist’s life. Advocates may encounter dangerous situations or distressing events.
“[Self-care] helps you respond instead of react,” emphasized Duffield. “You will have control and life won’t feel as chaotic.”