July 24, 2019

Making Mental Wellness More Than a Trend

By Jill Dodel, OAESV Resource & Communications Intern

Self-care. A word that has recently become popularized and used in everything from advertisements to book titles. However, to those who work to serve communities and their needs, self-care is imperative to both you and your communities’ health and happiness.


Self-care is not just a bubble bath with rose petals and scented candles but any activity or experience that allows you to re-center your focus. When doing, specifically, anti-violence and anti-oppression work, we need to make this time for realignment a priority. Make the time and space for yourself and your needs — you deserve it.

Benefits of engaging in self-care:
· helps to avoid burn out
· refreshes mental and physical state
· detoxes potentially intrusive thoughts about work
· creates space to focus on your work

As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is natural to feel exhausted after weeks or months of working to help others without taking time for yourself. Recognizing the necessity of taking a step back could be life changing, for yourself and your passion!

At OAESV, we’ve decided to use July to take a special focus on self-care and its importance. Read from a few of our staff members on what they do to refresh and the effect it has had on their lives!

Melissa, Resource and Communications Coordinator:

“I have found that the best self-care for myself is engaging in class-based fitness, particularly Pilates and barre. I struggle with traditional meditation, especially when my mind is overwhelmed with worry and intrusive thoughts relating to work. I also enjoy the freedom from thought offered from a directed class setting, where I am not in charge of the direction or pace of my workout. I leave feeling re-energized and sometimes am able to solve a problem I had been working through more easily after having had a time to remove myself from it mentally. Self-care is critical to being able to do this work effectively and for long periods of time. Burn-out does not have to be inevitable, and we should seek to find ways to care for and support ourselves in the same way that we care for the survivors we serve.”

Olivia, Training and TA Coordinator for Inclusion & Equity:

“I practice self-care by resting as resistance. In the work that we do, it is easy to push ourselves and not hold space for self-sustainability. adrienne marie brown writes in her book Pleasure Activism that we need to ‘stop equating suffering with a part of how we do our justice work.’ Oftentimes, with this work, we associate productivity with anguish, and it is so important to recognize that rest and happiness is a part of active resistance. By setting boundaries and practicing rest as a part of my self-care routine, I have found more peace in my work and less burnout. I don’t feel like I have to solve every problem because I recognize that change takes time. If we hold urgency and stress at the center of our work, not only will survivors continue to suffer, but we will as well.”

Taylr, Director of Communications:

“I practice self-care by listening to my body and my mind. I try to do this in a preventative way, but sometimes I recognize symptoms of being beyond my boundaries after it’s already happened. I go hiking, watch my favorite shows, play with my animals, take walks (almost daily), and listen to all different genres of music, among other things. I can feel a sense of calm in myself after practicing self-care, and I’m more productive in reaching my goals. I also notice that I’m less irritable and (probably) more fun to be around when I take care of myself. Without self-care, we risk continuing to harm ourselves. Additionally, we risk hurting others, including those we’ve committed to serving, such as survivors. We really cannot do our work without first taking care of ourselves. In anti-violence work particularly, the secondary trauma can really creep up on you. It happens without us even noticing, and that’s why it’s important to do that preventative self-care as well as taking pause when we feel the negative symptoms of stress.”

Megan, Director of Training & Advocacy:

“For me, the notion of self-care is both about activities and a mindset. So yes, I DO things that are intentionally relaxing or make me feel good, but I also find that it is necessary for me to constantly check in with myself to ensure that I am maintaining a positive perspective on my work and my outlook. As far as self-care activities, I try to do things every day that are important to me — starting the day with some ‘me time’ that includes yoga, stretching, walking, or meditating; a text or phone call to my mom at least once a day; spending time cuddling with my young children before they go to bed; and intentionally connecting in deep discussions with my partner about important issues (not just about laundry or household tasks!). When I am intentional about maintaining a positive outlook, it is easier and more natural for me to think the best of others. I believe that it’s healthy to feel the emotions that accompany the horrific, violent situations we are exposed to, but I try not to wallow in sadness by balancing it with exposure to inspiring stories of resilience, perseverance and overcoming obstacles. I strongly believe that self-care is an important priority and responsibility for us individually, and also institutionally. There are many practices an organization can, and should, implement (with varying degrees of cost) to support their workers, but ultimately no one can ‘do’ self-care for you — it is something that we each must figure out for ourselves.”

So often we put ourselves on the back burner with the best intentions — we want to get our work done; we want to see change; and we don’t want to stop until we get there. It is important to know that we will get there, and your wellbeing matters in the process. Take the time to rest, heal, and detox. Mental health and wellness is a priority and not just a trend. Let’s treat ourselves to prioritizing our needs.