July 25 2016

In this online space, we’ve talked about community trauma, building community resilience, the need for trauma-informed care, and how trauma impacts the formerly incarcerated. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the trauma that can be endured by those who dedicate themselves toward fighting racism, sexism, violence, transphobia, xenophobia, and other injustices.

Burn-out is a familiar term among those working in social justice movements. Long hours, prioritizing a campaign or movement above one’s own needs, absorbing the trauma of witnessing or collecting accounts of daily injustices — these all take a toll on those working in the trenches to make the world a better place. Taking in the seemingly unrelenting string of bad news in recent weeks is overwhelming in itself, but for advocates who work on these issues everyday, the toll they take can be especially acute.


As a public health foundation dedicated to promoting fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians, we would be remiss if we did not spend a moment to focus on the importance of good mental and physical health among those we partner with to advance health and justice for all.

As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Similarly, health and justice for all can never be achieved if those fighting for it do not practice self-care.

There are a number of helpful online resources that speak to the importance of self-care, what it is, and how to ensure you get it. In short, self-care refers to a range of actions you take to tend to your mental, physical and emotional well-being.  Getting sleep, exercise, and good nutrition are obvious examples of self-care, but overcoming the guilt that prevents many from seeking self-care is equally important.

A recent blogpost by Joi Foley at the Rockwood Leadership Institute provides a helpful list of various self-care resources, from a seriously important blogpost on how exposure to racism — if left unaddressed — can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, to this handy list on Upworthy of “10 things worth trying during times of stress, trauma, or crisis” which is of course accompanied by cute animal GIFs.

Please, find some time to read these resources and act upon them — especially our young advocates who are leading the charge for health equity in California. As Quita Tinsley stated in her own thoughtfully written blogpost on self-care from the perspective of a social justice organizer, “Self-care doesn’t start at exhaustion. It’s a practice to avoid it.”

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