Self-Preservation as Resistance: Tips for Practicing Self-Care and Social Justice

by Krislyn Domingue "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare....

by Krislyn Domingue

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." —Audre Lorde

Social justice work and organizing comes with many responsibilities. And after the news of the non-indictment of both Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, countless Black women across the United States have taken up it upon themselves to lead, engage in, and support various consciousness-raising activities. However, we must be conscious that even in the midst of our organizing, we also have a responsibility to engage in restorative self-care. We cannot offer anything to the movement, if we are drained and burnt out.

Below you will find a few tips to aid you in your efforts to maintain, restore, and operate from a place of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.


We must always be mindful that our bodies are our temples and they deserve to be treated as such, even when actively fighting the many forces forged against them!
  • Adequate sleep. Sleep is required downtime, no matter how you may try to get around it. Adequate sleep is beneficial on many levels—from determining to how well your metabolism is functioning, to mood regulation. You should aim for 8-10 hours nightly and no less than six. 
  • Exercise. Beyond the fact that exercise is great for staying in shape, it is also an excellent stress reliever. Set aside 30 minutes a day to for physical activity—whether it’s walking, running, dance classes, or going to the gym. 
  • Eating. Food is the energy your body needs to do what it does. Food is the energy you need to do what you do! Learn about all of the components of a balanced diet here
  • Hygiene. It’s important to keep our bodies clean and taken care of. Steamy showers, scalp massages, minty toothpaste, Vagisil, and Dove body washes are actually at the top of my list of favorite things. Find the joy in cleaning your body. Pamper yourself!


No, you’re not going crazy. This is real life. Yes, we really do live in a sexist, racist, homophobic, patriarchal society—and that’s just the icing on the cake. But you should still find ways to take care of your mental health.
  • Mindfully disengage. Read a book. Put your records on. Watch your favorite throwback ‘90’s movie. Take up that painting class you’ve been putting off. Think about how magical you are. Allow yourself the space to take a mental vacay, even if only for 5 minutes. You deserve it.
  • Notice the small things. Social justice work can be heavy—and it seldomly produces readily available, tangible rewards. Therefore, make it a challenge to notice the small things that excite you and bring you joy in life. 
  • Remember why you do what you do. Think of your inspirations. Think of the happy moments. Think of the strong women and the defining experiences that led you to where you are and the woman that you are. 
  • Make lists. I like to make lists of what I like to call, “the happy things.” Lists are a great way to organize your thoughts. 
  • Write letters. These can be letters to yourself or to others, to real people or fictional people. You can send them, save them for yourself, or throw them away when you’re finished. Letters can be great in terms of getting closure or expressing things you can’t say out loud otherwise. 


As many social justice issues are deeply connected to our lived experiences, emotions often run high. For the sake of your well being, they need to be released and expressed!
  • Scream, cry, yell when you need to. Outside. Inside. Into your pillow. With friends or allies. Alone. Wherever and however you find suitable to release your frustrations. Sometimes, the simple act of expressing raw emotions is therapeutic.
  • Seek support. Surround yourself with women (and men) who can help sustain you when you’re running low on positivity. You are of service to no one if you are constantly running on empty. Recognize when you’re low so that you don’t burn yourself out, and so you can have your support system build you back up. 
  • Go day-by-day. Sundiata didn’t build the Mali Empire in one day. Set realistic, attainable daily goals that keep you on track and prevent overwhelming negativity.
  • Laugh. After all, what’s a life without laughter? Realize that social justice work doesn’t require you to wallow in somberness all day, everyday. And sometimes, humor offers a way to further process the issues and efforts. 


If you’re here, then your spirit has obviously answered, “yes” to the practice of social justice. But how do you keep her whole and not in pieces?
  • Find your peace. What gives you peace? Where do you find your calm? Find it, claim it, and never let it go. Return to it whenever you need some spiritual replenishing.
  • Pray. Whether you’re praying to the God in the sky or the God inside you or the God who happens to be both places at the same time, it’s just important that you verbalize not only your wants, but also the things you’re grateful for. Speak it into existence.
  • Commune with yourself. Find your center. Love her and nurture her. Protect her. Tell her both what she wants to hear and then tell her what she needs to hear. Touch her. Listen to her. Believe in her. 

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it is meant to offer some entry points into how you can protect, care for, and love yourself in the midst of building and organizing.

We’d love to hear of your favorite methods of self-care. Share them with us in the comments!

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Krislyn Domingue is a sophomore Sociology & Anthropology and Comparative Women’s Studies double major at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She enjoys reading, writing and sipping Chai Tea. Email her. Tweet her @krislynsd.

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