Self-care for Empowered Activist Empathy

“You do not have to carry it all by yourself. We carry it together; the universe will take care of it”

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”
Audre Lourde

“My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves”

“What good is a revolution anyway if it isn’t joyful?”
Jonathan Talat Phillips

Dear activist empath,

you know who you are. You are the one who feels so deeply, often confuse others’ feelings with your own. You see suffering and you cannot simply walk away. It calls on you to act and you do as an activist, charting for change and justice but often at your own perile. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and sometimes your glorious body hurts as a result.

If you manage to walk away, you still take suffering with you. But it is not yours and in the midst of it all you become secondary to your very own life; forgetting you came here to live and to be happy too.

It is time to break free from martyrdom and victimhood.
We chose this path and the path chose us. It is our calling to be change-makers.
But we can do this differently.
We can walk in this path more mindfully without destroying our very selves.


For nearly 20 years  I have been working head on for human rights and social justice (about my work)–giving of my life and in the process I have forgotten about myself and my own right to live, love and be happy just because I am here—just because I am human.

The world is our school and everyone and everything in our lives are teachers. Right now life is firmly instructing me to pause and learn the lesson of “empowered empathy.”

Only when we care for ourselves can we truly be empowered activists, acting from an abundant well of love and hope to strengthen all of our communities. 

Hence I am in the process of compiling a list of how to care for ourselves as activist empaths in the multiple ways we act and care in this world.

There is more to learn and write but this is what I have to share at present…

  1. Compassion starts at home; compassion starts within.

“Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. -“

We have overflowing compassion for others but what about ourselves?

We cannot be compassionate towards others if we cannot give this to ourselves otherwise what we give is shallow and ends up draining our own well.

What does this look like?

“To cultivate genuine compassion we need to take responsibility for our own care and have concern for everyone’s suffering, including our own”
Dalai Lama

Self-compassion is attending to our own wounds—knowing them, accepting them and loving them.
It involves treating ourselves with love and seeing all of our challenges, pains and joys as part of a multi-faceted and complex human experience.

We cannot just be compassionate towards those who we align ourselves politically with but to ourselves and everyone who we share this glorious planet with as well.

The human experience is a continuum of beauty, bliss and pain. From millionaire in a penthouse suite to the street vendor in the tropics-all souls walking in this planet experience pain, grief and the complexity of human emotions. Let’s not discriminate with our compassion but allow our hearts to burst open with it for ourselves, for our inner light and darkness.

  1. Feeding ourselves with our own passion.

Our compassion is fed and expressed by infectious passion for the causes close to our hearts. And we must, just must take a bit of this passion for ourselves. Let us feed ourselves, our spirits with our own passion.

What does this mean?
Let our passion fuel us to care for ourselves.
Let us advocate for our own dreams and life with the same passion we advocate for others.

  1. Setting boundaries for self-preservation 

This may be one of the most difficult for empaths who are porous beings who take on the emotions of others BUT it is one of the most urgent and pressing of lessons. This lesson is all about self-preservation so we do not destroy ourselves. We have to say “NO” when it is in order. We cannot commit when we are overwhelmed. We cannot spread our precious energy too thin. It will not be worth it when our bodies are completely paralyzed and lose our health as a result. The world needs us all and saying “NO” is a way to ensure we stay strong and keep on keeping on.

Sometimes saying “NO” is a way to assure we do not take anyone’s power away. If we are always doing for others than we create dependency and not fostering empowerment and agency within our communities. We have to work as part of a collective with each doing our part. We can say no to being the only ones acting and hence the only ones taking the fall. We can say yes to do our part within a collective where everyone has a part. But sometimes a loving and firm NO is in absolute order. Trust your instincts, use your compassion for yourself and others when asserting your boundaries.

The second part of the NO is being able to walk away without guilt.
Ask yourself, were you mindful and discerning? Were you taking care of yourself? Were you able to delegate? Were you able to offer some suggestions?  Did you take a step back because saying YES would have dishonoured you, your time and the very people/person who asked if you could not deliver from a position of strength?

We did not sign up to solve the world’s problems. This is ego speaking and assuming we are that grandiose. Be humble, be careful, care for yourself to continue to do your part and be here in wellness in mind and body and for crying out loud utter and write that NO!!!

  1. The BODY; listen to it, move it, nourish and rest it!!!test

How many times has your body spoken and you ignored all that it had to say?

Our bodies carry knowledge and wisdom. Our bodies as empaths are often vessels for unprocessed emotions from others and of ourselves. It is instructive to listen, to heed its calls for rest, movement and nourishment.

As activists we run around all over the place without rest and then rush home to work on our computers while the world is asleep. We push and push while our bodies beg for our attention.

I used to fantasize about the invention of a human charger that would enable us to go without and with less sleep. Imagine–charging your phone and yourself from the same outlet!

We need to remember the basics, primordial and the obvious, we are not machines. Our glorious bodies need care, rest and pleasure. When we sleep we cleanse all of our organs from our skin to our brains. We heal unprocessed emotions. We travel and meet other souls in the dream world. We are given messages that only our subconscious can process. We repair and multiply cells that keep us alive. We are human and need to sleep.

Attend to the body, go for long walks in nature. But leave your cellphone behind. Let yourself be taken by the wonder of the present moment. Feel yourself at home, in the body.

Do some yoga. Find the right practice for you. You do not have to be an acrobat from Cirque du Soleil to get its multiple benefits for mind, body and spirit. Explore Zumba, BIODANZA, Kizomba and  Salsa and so much more.
Go dancing, whatever, just dance, in your bedroom—-just MOVE!

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”–Rosa Luxemburg

Take long epsom salt baths with rose petals. Lavish yourself in honey in the shower and let your pours absorb it all before you turn the water on your body. And wow this is all sensual sugar for the body; it works wonders!! (Make sure you are not allergic first 😉 )

  1. Nourish your spirit.

Meditate, pray, journal, ask for guidance.

Get a deck of oracle cards and ask for answers if you cannot hear your spiritual team. They are always there but we are often too busy or attached to ego and outcomes to listen in the ways they speak to us.

Religious, spiritual or not, life always responds, maybe not the way our egos want but in the precise way that we need and will finally listen like I had to this time …

One Response to "Self-care for Empowered Activist Empathy"

  • Excellent effort to complied resources and ideas on self-care. This is such a big issue for people working very hard to bring about social change, however, I feel it a pandemic in many other work settings. We live in a society pushing for ‘high performing’ environments, multi-tasking, instant responses and box-in results – I think all of this is making us far more ineffective and unhealthy in a holistic sense.

    1 Jessica Farias said this (July 21, 2015 at 10:38 pm)

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