Thinking about longevity and avoiding burnout while fighting for Black Lives Matter

Black lives matter - don't quiet down

Environmentalism and racial justice are undeniably linked. We are actively fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement and joining forces to combat the environmental injustices that disproportionately affect Black and Indigenous communities. It's important that we all keep reflecting, speaking out and acting against both blatant and systemic racism.

This last week has been emotional to say the least, and it's easy to become overwhelmed. We are attentively learning from those who have been fighting for BLM and climate justice for decades, and one of our takeaways is finding ways to combat burnout so we can keep the movement strong. We are firm believers that if you take care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to pour your energy and time into fighting for the things you believe in.

It's an important time in history to participate, and it's also an important time to take key moments to rest, reflect and refuel so that we invest in the longevity of our activism, avoiding burnout. We are writing today to encourage you to take care of yourself and watch out for each other so we can keep doing the work before us.

So, in between unlearning, reading the news, sharing resources, donating to causes and exposing yourself to new voices, here’s some ideas for how to rest up when you need it.

1. Reflect and ruminate

Take note of how you feel and what's happening around you. Keeping a journal allows you to record what you're experiencing and analyze your thoughts in a private setting without judgement. It's a useful tool to assess the change that's happening in your circles and reflect on how you can be a better ally. Journaling is an excellent way to stay grounded, and it's also a space to grow, learn, and do the inner work.

A5 recycled paper journals

2. Create what's called a Coping Bank.

Put your health first and create what’s called a Coping Bank - a list of activities and self care measures you can turn to when you need to refuel and rest up. This could be anything from taking a break, eating fresh and nourishing food, doing some breathing exercises (this is a quick one to incorporate into your day), going for a walk, making art, listening to good music, drinking a wellness tonic or tea, reading positive stories, or taking a nap.

Putting together a physical list of things that energize you can be a lifeline when you're feeling tired and run down.

Create a coping bank

3. Stay involved with an organization or cause.

When you're teaming up with others who are passionate about the same things, you'll find more ways to stay involved and be reminded of the reasons we are fighting in the first place. Make sure you're plugged in so that you have the support and energy of those around you to keep creating meaningful change.

We talk a lot about how with a zero waste lifestyle, it doesn't happen overnight; you have to tackle one thing at a time and keep coming back to why you're doing it. Finding a community of like-minded people really helps. The same thing applies to intersectional environmentalism and other forms of activism. Whether you're reading books about antiracism, volunteering with a local organization or spreading awareness about a certain topic, lean on your community, meet new people who look and think differently than you do, and join in talking circles whenever you can, to expand your mindset and thinking. Make sure the places you plug into are centering the voices and experiences of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).

We are all one - artwork by Mia Charro
Artwork by Mia Charro


4. Call a therapist or a trusted friend.

In a time as tumultuous as this, it's important to check in on our friends and their mental health. Most people seem to have an extra dose of understanding and empathy right now. Call a friend, family member or coworker when you need to talk, and remind them they can do the same to you.

We talk a lot as a team and joke that every one should have a therapist (except we're not really joking). It's a nonjudgemental space to talk through what's going on in your life and grow as a person, and it's so impactful. There's no small number of stigmas around mental health, but there are so many amazing practices that are working to break those down and promote mental health.

If you're looking for a therapist, there are some great resources online. One really cool organization for finding help is Therapy for Black Girls and they also host a popular podcast about mental health. Another great starting point is Good Therapy which can match you to a therapist in your area who works specifically with people who share your life experiences. Each counselor has a bio showing what they specialize in, and many offer distance therapy over phone or video chat. Good Therapy also offers counseling specifically for LGBTQIA folx, where they can match you with a therapist who also identifies as LGBTQIA.

4. Choose foods that help you de-stress.

There are specific foods that can help your body get rid of stress hormones, naturally. Power up with these plant foods to help you de-stress and regain your vitality:

Our bodies are amazing!

You can use the Intentionalist search engine to find grocers that are black owned in your area (and add ones you're familiar with to their database), or stop by a nearby farm stand or locally owned co-op to pick up some goodies. 

We also suggest cooking with spices, which warms the body and boosts your immunity. You can make herbal vinegars that are antimicrobial and antiviral to bolster your health as well. We did an Instagram Live with Nyema from Avenue South (one of our vendors) and learned how to make a vinegar from flowers, herbs and spices that's wonderful for your health. You can put on salads, raw veggies, marinades, and all kinds of other dishes. Watch it here on our IGTV.

Herbal vinegar

5. Stay healthy.

If you're attending protests or participating in the rallies in your city, take extra care to keep from getting sick. Wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer, practice social distancing whenever possible, change your clothes as soon as you get home and put them in the wash. Watch out for each other and protect the people around you when dangerous situations arise.

Continue washing your hands frequently. Our immunity vitamins are a great precaution to take if you're going to be around more people outside your home. Make sure you're getting plenty of sleep too, as it's one of the best ways to stay healthy.

Take your vitamins

6. Keep learning.

Learning is a lifelong practice. We have to keep educating ourselves so that our efforts are well spent and well directed, and we have to continue to put voices of people of color at the center of the movement. Remember that, much like zero waste, you don't arrive at being antiracist; it is a lifelong effort.

We loved the recent post by Vanessa Newman on how to manage the overload of a million different resources being shared right now. They illustrated such concrete ways to collect, save, schedule and work through all the texts and books you're adding to your reading list.

Some great books to read about the connection between racism and the environment are listed in a new New York Times article by Somini Sengupta.

There's a fantastic guide called "Antiracism resources for white people" compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein, and it's full of helpful things to learn, read, watch and listen to.

We also really appreciated the guide to Intersectional Environmentalism put together by Diandra Marizet, featuring Leah Thomas.

There's an amazing nonprofit in Seattle called Got Green that you can get involved with in a multitude of ways. They focus on food access, shaping young leaders, and working towards climate justice.

To read more about actions you can take and hear more about what we're doing, check out our Multistep Action Plan to further incorporate antiracism into our work and culture here at Eco Collective.