Self-preservation means healing and caring for yourself to maintain your power, your spirit, and your love as you navigate a world that may challenge and oppress the things you represent and care for. In the past few years, self-care has become a household term for busy people to remind themselves to pause and enjoy life. For the social justice community, it is a practice of resistance against oppression. Only by showing love and care for yourself can you become stronger to fight another day.
In our work with the immigrant and refugee community, having difficult conversations and navigating issues on race, gender-based violence, mental health, and human rights, among others, is a daily challenge. This year, WISE is taking huge strides to revise and improve our health and wellness policy as an act of self-preservation and resistance. One of our major changes is a 32-hour work week!
In this blog, our team shares personal activities we do or mantras we follow to practice self-preservation.
"Nature makes me feel calm, loved, and it reminds me to stay present and to be grounded in myself and love."
I stay connected to my values and understand that everything is connected. I always remind myself to be gentle with myself, to give people grace, and to be unapologetic when I need to set boundaries or choose to disconnect with people who do not understand or appreciate me. I challenge my initial assumptions by asking myself questions to probe me to think deeper than what is being projected before me. Sometimes I can do this on my own or I seek advice from someone who I trust to give me a broader perspective on the situation. But, the first thing I do is to reflect on my own experiences to understand and heal from my past hurt and traumas in order to see through a clear lens versus a cloudy lens that keeps me from seeing the true picture.
Nature makes me feel calm, loved, and it reminds me to stay present and to be grounded in myself and love. It’s truly always healing to be in relation with the natural world. It clears so many things away and helps me envision a world where we can connect and be in balance. I also do some small meditative and reflective exercises that remind me to think less, and get in tune with my body and true self.
“I find that when I do nothing and put everything on a pause to go for a small drive, sit outside, or talk to a loved one about their day really puts me in a renew/reset stage.”
At the moment when I face hardships that lead to frustration, I can easily lose my composure and almost a part of me. Two things that have helped me overcome these hard times are revisiting my life purpose when I also feel like giving up. It connects me back to letting go and starting over when I am cool, calm, and composed. Having a purpose is important because it helps align me holistically in the work I do and my everyday life.
Secondly, practicing empathy. Putting myself in other's shoes even when I feel hurt or not heard to create a healthy relationship with people or the situation I am put in. I find that when I do nothing and put everything on a pause to go for a small drive, sit outside, or talk to a loved one about their day really puts me in a renew/reset stage. I enjoy driving the most as it helps me to process my thoughts with music in the background. Regardless I will keep pushing and moving forward and I will pause if I need to because maybe whatever obstacle that I am going through is not that important at the moment and can hold off. I believe the universe has its own way of working around all of us!
“Pausing to analyze your feelings and checking in with what you are feeling at that moment can be a good way to stay true to your authenticity, your core, compassion and love while facing frustration.”
In the face of frustration, it can be difficult to maintain your authenticity, your core, compassion, and love. In order for me to stay true to all of these things while facing frustration, I like to be aware of everything that my body is feeling and listen to what it is that my body needs from me at that exact moment. Frustration can cause a lot of emotions: stress, sadness, anxiety, confusion, anger, and more. Depending on what emotion frustration is triggering and my body is experiencing, I act accordingly. For example, if my frustration is leading to anxious thoughts and feelings then I will pause and take deep breaths and calm myself down by talking positively to myself and doing some affirmations.
Feelings of frustration can be very overwhelming and often cause us to feel like we don't have control of anything. Pausing to analyze your feelings and checking in with what you are feeling at that moment can be a good way to stay true to your authenticity, your core, compassion and love while facing frustration.
There are times when you don't have an option but to be in a stressful and oppressive environment. These environments can be very detrimental to one's mental health if self-preservation isn't practiced intentionally. It wasn't too long ago when I finally was able to get out of a stressful and oppressive environment that was causing nothing but negative emotions and feelings. In order to renew myself, I had to intentionally put myself in a space that was completely opposite to the one I had gotten out of. I intentionally placed myself in a space where I felt loved, valued, heard, and listened to. I also believe a big part of renewing myself was reflecting on the things that felt while I was in that stressful and oppressive environment and setting boundaries to protect myself and my mental health.
“I might take a walk or go on a short trip on my own. This allows my mind to wander, reflect, and it lets my brain naturally dissect whatever problems could be bothering me.”
When I am frustrated and exhausted, I throw myself into healthy isolation. This means I need time alone and during this time I am usually doing hands-on activities like decorating my room, cooking, drawing or any other creative tasks. I might take a walk or go on a short trip on my own. This allows my mind to wander, reflect, and it lets my brain naturally dissect whatever problems could be bothering me.
Lately, I have made it my mission to bullet journal weekly as a form of self-healing and self-preservation. I like bullet journaling because I am not someone who can eloquently express her feelings in words. Bullet journaling lets me express myself visually. I can draw my feelings, my progress, my shortcomings, and draw the events happening in my life. Doing so helps me release all of the jumbled up thoughts in my head and it gives me a platform to creatively express my emotions. I am working on making this a daily habit for myself!
“I surround myself with people who share the same values and passion I have for my work and my life."
I surround myself with people who share the same values and passion I have for my work and my life. I strive to take a balanced view of the situation and respond to it rather than react to it. If for some reason I start to feel myself getting defensive, I put it aside and focus on what is being said. Oftentimes, I will start to feel defensive because something has struck a cord of truth or it is a personal attack. I believe love is the most powerful emotion in the universe. I approach my work and my life from a center of love and humility. There is always someone else who is smarter, more capable, more creative or innovative, so I try not to take myself so seriously.
I renew through prayer, reading, meditating/thinking, singing, listening to music, breaking bread with family and friends, getting out into nature, gardening, cooking, and accessing intellectual stimulation.
“I think always being unapologetic about who I am has helped me thrive in environments where I wasn’t welcomed or represented throughout my entire life.”
As an immigrant woman of color, it is important for me to maintain my authenticity in whatever space I find myself to be. Sometimes self-doubt and self-consciousness creep in and I try my best to remind myself of why I began my journey in the first place. I also remind myself of the power of representation and how important my presence in these spaces is, even if they were not designed for people that look like me. I think always being unapologetic about who I am has helped me thrive in environments where I wasn't welcomed or represented throughout my entire life. Not giving in to peer pressure or societal pressure about who I am supposed to be has helped me maintain my confidence and trust in myself. Nobody knows me better than me, so why would I allow anyone else to define me?