Activism and political engagement have a grave impact on not only our mental health but our physical, spiritual, and emotional health—our entire well-being. This occurs for a variety of reasons, but I can say as a womxn of color fighting against racist heteropatriarchy day in and day out, it takes a major toll because I am seeking to dismantle systems that were intentionally created for the purpose of keeping me, and all those who look like me, powerless, obedient, poor, sick, and silent. The more you engage in this work, the more you uncover about the ways in which all of the systems we exist within are oppressive and cause harm. To all of us, albeit in different ways. It can feel hopeless and utterly overwhelming (on a good day). For marginalized folks who also encounter relentless vitriol from people who disagree with our humanity, and have for centuries, it undoubtedly takes a toll. As James Baldwin said ‘to be [Black] in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.’
No matter who you are, I believe at the heart of it all is deep grief. Whenever we engage in advocating to change the status quo we are met with internal and external resistance. We feel a deep and conflicting feelings comprised of sadness, anger, shame, guilt, hope, and/or hopelessness, and many of us are ill-equipped to tolerate, let alone accept and address, the full spectrum of our human emotions because it is socially unacceptable, and we never received the tools to do so.
Activism is often an assault on the soul, which is why caring for ourselves is absolutely necessary. I am always working on my well-being because it is really hard to overcome social programming to constantly DO instead of BE, especially as a Black woman. But, I cannot pour from an empty cup. I cannot show up for others if I am not showing up for myself, so Soul-care, as I like to call it, is one of the most integral components of my work (and the basis for spiritual activism). I practice boundary-setting, meditate, and move my body regularly, usually through yoga (at home as I find most studios around the world are white-washed and appropriative), and I return to my breath as much as possible. It’s an ongoing struggle to prioritize my peace but one I am committed to.
—Rachel Ricketts, racial justice activist, healer, and former lawyer