The Wellbeing topic in the Commons Social Change Library includes a wide range of materials including articles, videos and podcasts. These highlights from the collection include ones that focus on personal strategies (‘self-care’) as well as organisational, collective and movement strategies (inclusive of ‘community-care’).
In the rush to address social injustice, environmental destruction, and a myriad of other pressing issues, our own health and wellbeing can be left on the backburner. We hope engaging with the strategies explored in these resources will help you stay healthy and well while working to change the world.
To access each resource click on the heading. For much more see Wellbeing on the Commons.
Activist wisdom has been gathered from a survey of nearly 200 people about how to sustain ourselves as activists. This is a great list of practical techniques and quotes from those who have been there.
The survey found a diversity of approaches to sustaining ourselves as activists, including: saying no or limiting involvement; getting good exercise, sleep, and nutrition; time in nature; valuing group dynamics; maintaining non-activist relationships; limiting social media and more. – Helen Cox
These videos introduce skills to work through common challenges around self-care: limited time; feeling guilty; and not actually working to nourish or support ourselves.
The art of self-care involves getting to know yourself, making yourself familiar with what your needs may be at any particular moment… Self care can be something that doesn’t have to compete with our daily demands, that isn’t another chore or pressure and is not something we feel we ‘should’ be doing. It is a fundamental approach to living. – Bronwyn Gresham
A useful model for understanding activist burnout and how to avoid it from the Transitions Towns movement. Includes a downloadable worksheet with prompts for reflection.
There are two characteristics needed for burnout, and they apply across all levels of scale, from individual through group, to planetary burnout or health. The first requirement is a culture where a naturally self balancing system is heading out of balance. The second requirement for a system to reach burnout is that signals of distress or deterioration are ignored. – Sophy Banks
Community organisers (and other change agents) have some excellent tools that can maximise the likelihood of making healthy goals a reality. This article will tune up your organising smarts as well as your health and wellbeing.
This quote from Rabbi Hillel is popular amongst organisers: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Be for yourself as well as the collective! Apply the smarts you’ve gained from activism and organising to your own life. – Holly Hammond
Overwhelming events happen and depending on our degree of privilege, daily stressors can be constant. It’s incredibly beneficial to spend time cultivating resources which support your health, embodiment, connectedness and feelings of goodness.
Our vitality, essence and wholeness can get buried under life’s stresses, habits, overwhelm and adaptation. There is potency, resilience and health always available often covered by unconscious beliefs and somatic strategies of survival. – Sage Hayes
This guide covers how trauma works; potential signs and symptoms that may indicate trauma; what you can do for yourself; how to support a friend; what you can do as a group; prevention; and issues related to Maori activism and police violence.
If we wish to transform our world for the better, and do the difficult work that entails, we need to talk about how we both prepare ourselves for, and support each other through our responses to stress and trauma, whether it be from police brutality, another institutional force, or from conflict within our own communities. – Roots of Change Collective
In the face of the climate crisis it’s a natural response to experience anxiety, grief and many other feelings. This collection of resources focuses on the emotional and psychological impact of climate change and coping strategies.
Your body, mind and spirit, just like those around you, has basic needs in this climate crisis. Needs for a sense of safety, to be soothed, calmed, and be anchored. Needs to feel motivated, capable, participatory, and productive. Needs for connection and togetherness. Keep learning about your mind, growing beneficial resources, and see how this can inform your engagement with climate change. – Psychology for a Safe Climate
We tend to talk about activist burnout as an individualised experience – but Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan, a framework for understanding social movements, factors in perception of failure, providing insights and hope for navigating the downs in movement life.
There can be periods of intense activity, when new members rush to join the cause and movement energy swells. But these extraordinary times are often followed by long, fallow stretches when activists’ numbers dwindle. During these lulls, those who have tasted the euphoria of a peak moment feel discouraged and pessimistic. The ups and downs of social movements can be hard to take. – Mark and Paul Engler
Nonprofit organisations can be prone to encouraging overwork, simply because they know their employees are emotionally invested. Alexandra Lamb analyses Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman’s argument that nonprofits should transform their workplace culture to have more productive and happier workers.
When self care initiatives are treated as extras instead of being built right into the fabric of your organization’s processes and policies for worker well-being they are nothing more than a band-aid, barely disguising the chronic stress and dysfunction eroding you organizations ability to meet its mission… Authentic self-care needs to be embedded into organizational culture to prevent staff members from pitting their own needs against the organisation’s mission. – Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman
Tips for sustaining ourselves and our movements in the face of challenging times. Includes seven behaviors that we could incorporate into our groups so we can keep taking powerful and strategic actions. Originally written after Trump came to power these tips have ongoing relevance.
How do we develop campaigns that regain the initiative? We start by defying the times inside of ourselves. We stop behaviors that feed the hype, like using greater and greater levels of urgency as the means to provoke people into action. And we encourage responsible behaviors that fuel long-term movement resistance. – Daniel Hunter
For many more resources on this topic see Wellbeing on the Commons.