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Long-Term Activists Say Self Care Is Essential


TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) - As anti-racist protests continue around the nation, long term activists find it's taking a toll on their health.

There are physical and emotional signs of burnout which can be a problem for new and long-term activists, psychologist Ashley Zapata said. There are specific signs that are physical and emotional.

"Are you just feeling like you don’t have energy to give anymore? Things that used to rev you up, all of sudden you just don’t have it anymore because you're so overwhelmed and so tired," said Zapata.

Zapata said taking time for good meals and sleep are basic actions that can help ward off burnout. Thinking about how you feel is important too. Journaling can help.

"It’s private. It’s for you and you cannot journal wrong. There’s no incorrect way to journal and you certainly can’t overdose on journaling," she said

Zapata also said anyone, but especially activists of color, should not hesitate to reach out for help; from friends, professionals or faith leaders.

Zapata said good self care should be a daily practice. It can be hard to manage when your job is also part of your activism, like hers.

Fabina Benites, who heads the Multicultural Resource Center in Ithaca, has also experienced burn out. For most of her life, she has worked in anti-racism and social justice causes.   Having a strong support group to lean on helps her, she said.

"Being around like-minded people that I could just release and being able to re-energize myself and we lift each other up and give each other hope," Benites said.

She has also developed a daily meditation routine tied to her Indigenous South American heritage. It’s how she starts and ends her days.

Her search for a meditative practice was difficult. She eventually created a practice that fits with her cultural beliefs, but her experience prompted her to start a network called Soul Nest. It's goal is to help other activists who are Black, Indigenous or people of color to find ways to re-energize.

Zapata said her recent experience can be a lesson for other people.

"Stepping back for a moment does not mean you’ve lost interest in the cause. It means you’re taking care of yourself for the long haul," she said.