Across all generations, there’s this unshakable vibe that we’re living through an unprecedented period in history, in Nigeria. The ENDSARS movement has become a protest to end police brutality, end bad roads, end poor education, end unstable electricity, end corruption, end insecurity in the country, end poor healthcare, end poor standard of living, and so on.
Chances are we are all burnt out, or almost right now. We’ve been taking this nonsense for quite a while. Now a dam has burst and we are raging. But the truth is no matter what we felt then, it is nothing compared to what’s about to shake our emotions. All the resurfaced horror and brutality stories coming out, the more recent deaths, the disregard still being shown in the face of our stand; it’s always darkest before dawn. According to Angela Davis, a prominent social justice activists cautioned that self-care has to be incorporated in all of our efforts because it is what will eventually move us along the trajectory that may lead to some victories. It is difficult to take a break – even temporarily – when something or someone is depending on you.
In this case, it’s your sister, your brother, your new protest friend, your future and your unborn children. But you should recognize that it is unrealistic to be on the go 24/7 when pressure is already elevated. Disregarding your health, physical and mental, puts you at risk for burnout, compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. Think of your actions during this ongoing crisis in Nigeria, as a marathon and not a sprint. The best way to get through it is to pace yourself out. That way you do better in seeing to your own needs and feelings as well as others. What happens when you don’t pace out? You start to lose focus because your needs keep pressing on you but you’re ignoring them. Then one day you get tired and start staying away from the stressors completely, becoming useless to the cause.
If you’re looking for how you can practice some self-care during this period, I’ve got some ideas. Here’s where you can start.
The effects of drinking water is sometimes underrated. Water energises you for a long day of protests. It prevents dry mouth, promoting gum and teeth health. It promotes heart health, helps your kidney function better. It keeps your body cool, helps muscles and joints work better, if your fingers are going to be bent over the phone or laptop tweeting and reposting. It cleanses you inside and out. Hydrate, and fight for your right. The minimum litres for a woman to drink is 2, the minimum for men is 3. It helps if you have your own assigned water bottle that helps you measure so you know how many times in a day to refill for optimum health.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FEELINGS
So yes, we are all tired. But you should still watch out for elevated signs of anxiety, irritability, disengagement, low mood and exhaustion. Scream into a pillow if you need to. Call your bestie to rant. Cry, let it out. It’s counter productive to swallow your feelings when your body is begging to drop some rain. Find a safe space to truly feel what’s going on. You’re only human, after all! You’ll feel better after you’ve had that emotional release. Ensure you have someone to talk to or speak with when you start to feel overwhelmed, and that someone has to be emotionally intelligent to make you feel better. Go inward, and pay attention to your feelings, only then can you address them before you crash and burn.
This sounds sacrilegious to utter in these times but, just 10 minutes to yourself can go a long way in helping you recharge. Getting in some exercise might be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling down, or busy fighting decades long abuse of political power. Use the time to do something that lifts your spirits and engages your mind in a different way.
Take a brisk walk that lets you get some air and clear your thoughts, practice deep breathing, stretch, do some yoga, take a long cool shower, get a foot massage, just take some minutes to let yourself recharge hence reconnect. If you’re on the road all day, then definitely some stretches and deep breathing will benefit you even more.
PAY IT FORWARD
There is no amount of money that is too small to donate to a cause. Note that first. From $1 to N1000. But that’s not the only way to pay it forward. You can take someone out for lunch. Tell protesters individually how proud you are of them. Thank organizers and educators too. Get someone a nose mask or a T-shirt as they head out. Invest in people’s mental health. Share this post, share every encouraging post you find and keep fostering a community of love and oneness.
Yes, another sacrilegious thing to say, but going off for 10 minutes or 1 hour won’t damage the movement. Sign off social media. Delete one or two apps. Take a break from the streets and watch a romance or feel good movie. The truth is your real life continues whether you are in a protest or not.
Your mind is spinning out of control whether you acknowledge it or not. Stepping out of a situation completely doesn’t make the situation better, or worse, it makes you clear headed, with a new perspective and drive, to go back in and attack again!
Above all, don’t give up. Don’t ever feel worthless or helpless or that what you’re doing isn’t contributing to the cause or to people’s lives positively. Don’t feel guilty for ever giving your body what it needs. But don’t give up. There is a difference between doing nothing at all because you feel hopeless, and taking a break after high power fighting. Speak to a professional if you have feelings you cannot process. Loving your country is one of the most powerful love there can be, it is also consuming. Take care, love and light.