Why Feminism and Self Care Should Go Hand-in-Hand

Photo Vivian Chen

Welcome to Well+Good’s (Re)New Year—a five-week expert-led program that’s all about helping you have your best year yet. For Week Three, we’ve brought on Meena Harris—lawyer, tech policy adviser, feminist, and founder of I'm an Entrepreneur, Bitch. (Leadership runs in the family—her aunt is Kamala Harris, the just-elected US Senator from California.) Throughout the week, she'll be sharing her tips for feeling empowered, taking action, and getting ahead—at work and in life.

After the devastating outcome of the presidential election, I was left with a feeling of grief, despair, and exhaustion. I wanted to take action and do something that would help, but I didn't know how—or where—to start.

Then, I came across Anne Moellering—an executive coach and host of several women's leadership workshops—who talks about the importance of building a "rejuvenation practice," especially when in a high-pressure environment. According to Moellering, “Without a dedicated self-care practice, the world's best leaders can't sustain the good they do in the world." And I think she would agree that this idea extends beyond world leaders.

So, after the election, I did the following things: hugged my mother, spent a weekend at a wellness spa getting massages every day, shared a home-cooked meal with family and friends (thank you, Thanksgiving, you came right on time), and huddled with some of my best girlfriends to grieve—and discuss what to do next.

Self care has become such a buzzword, but feminists really do need to take a holistic approach to organizing. Whatever cause you're fighting for—whether equal pay or reproductive rights—it's hard work. And, because it turns out that fighting the patriarchy is exhausting, women are tired and stressed.

Whenever I'm embarking on some feminist activism, we should all Audre Lorde's words: "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

Here are Meena Harris' 5 tips for creating activist-fueling self-care rituals—and let us know how you're recharging during Well+Good's (Re)New Year program using #iamwellandgood.

Photo: Stocksy/Alto Images

1. Corral your community

When it comes to creating real change, it really does take a village. I miss the days of huddling up in the Harvard Law library to study with my girlfriends. If we weren’t collaborating in groups, we were always working side-by-side—and I now realize what a loss it is to enter the working world, where that’s not a common practice.

If your job provides such flexibility, take a day or even just a morning to work from a coffee shop with others (or look into coworking spaces). Also, remember to keep quality, uninterrupted time on your schedule with your family and friends—nothing refuels me more than recuperating with loved ones.

Photo: Stocksy/Lyuba Burakova

2. Practice random acts of self-indulgence (AKA treat yo' self)

It's important to remember to stay on top of all of the everyday healthy stress-management practices—from sleep to exercise. But sometimes you just need a glass of wine or a massage. Don’t guilt yourself about indulging within reasonable limits—you deserve it. Okay, now get back to work.

Photo: Jennifer Cardenas Riggs

3. Seek out creative inspiration

Seek out words that inspire you to take action and make them seen throughout your day—you never know when you'll need that extra push of motivation.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for example, reminds us to embrace the power of anger: "Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change."

As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve never been good at keeping a journal, so in lieu of that, I often write down inspiring quotes as I find them—the process can be very therapeutic and affirming.

Photo: Vivian Chen

4. Cultivate confidence daily

Find your own way of cultivating confidence and a sense of self, and figure out how to affirm it daily. It may mean looking at yourself in the mirror and saying something as simple as, "I am kind," but if that doesn't click, perhaps there’s some other gesture or action that resonates with you.

For my part, I've started collecting and wearing statement tees designed by women that contain feminist messages. Wearing these regularly serves as both a daily affirmation for me, as well as a proclamation and reminder to others that women matter (you’re welcome, sidewalk misogynists).

Photo: Cindy Trinh, Activists of New York, activistnyc.tumblr.com

5. Mobilize

Once you put yourself and your self care first, you're ready to turn your ideas into action—see you at the Women’s March!

Missed Day 3? Find out why—and how—you should find a inspirational professional mentor.

The (Re)New Year series is not a “New Year, New You” program. (We think you’re pretty great as is!) Instead, we tapped the biggest and best influencers across the wellness space to help kick off the New Year in the best possible way. Between heart-racing workouts, DIY beauty recipes, and killer confidence advice, get ready to have your happiest and healthiest year yet.

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