Celebrating the Vision: Self-Care in Times of Turmoil

01/31/2017 02:15 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2018

Has it really been little more than a week since we took to the streets, positivity and pink pussy hats powering peaceful protests the world over?

It's been a week designed to weary, and I know many friends are feeling sadness and anger and everything in between.

Outrage, however, is not a sustainable state of being, not for the sane. Negative emotions, no matter how justifiable, take their toll. They weaken our ability to be of use in difficult times.

Loren Swift, author of the forthcoming book From Me to We: Waking the Heart of Humanity, agrees.

"The greatest toll on our well-being can come from a sense of overwhelm and helplessness to be as effective as we'd like to be," she says.

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I reached out to her and to others - activists and self-care experts - for some guidance on maintaining balance while working toward the kind of world we'd like to see.

Julianna Ricci, Amazon bestselling author of The Power of Practice, offered this powerful thought for those of us who feel guilty taking the time for self-care while our world is suffering:

Imagine we are each a well. Every day we give buckets of water to those around us: our families, our jobs, our communities. And if we're honest, most of us were already running on fumes - our wells were pretty near empty. And now we are asking ourselves to give even more. If we are to do this, we must decide to replenish our water supply. We do that by making the time for things that fill us up.

And here I issue an important warning. You will likely come up against a block that looks akin to this: "don't be so selfish!" It will hurt, and you will want to turn away. But hear this: without filling your well, you have nothing left to give. And we - the collective we - can't afford to lose you. We need every single one of us to move past the "selfish" block, to prioritize filling our own wells, and to keep moving forward. Filling our well is, in this light, the most self-less thing you can do.

It's a lesson Rachel Thompson, author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, knows all too well. As a survivor of sexual abuse and rape and an activist on behalf of others, she's learned that in order to be of service, she has to set boundaries and treat herself with care.

Never has this been more crucial than in this era of grab-em-by-the-pussy politics.

"It's important as an activist and advocate to remember that I'm survivor also, and while I'm rarely triggered, I'm not immune," Rachel explains.

A couple of the boundaries she's set can be especially helpful in the age of social media and constant contact.

"Block trolls immediately," she advises, "and walk away from frustrating conversations online - come back to it if you feel it's important; if it's some random person, let it go. Move on."

Indeed. The online vortex can be all-consuming, and click-bait headlines are rarely positive.

It can be difficult to maintain focus on all the progress we have made toward a kinder, more inclusive world, or the greater goals at stake. But keeping our eyes on that prize is key.

Otherwise, what on earth are we fighting for?

And as Loren Swift wisely counseled me:

"Spend energy not so much on fighting what is not working as celebrating the vision and beauty of what we are working towards. We do not know what the outcomes of our actions and intentions will be. We only know what we can do and how much we can love right now."

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