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How to look after your mental health when involved in activism work

Eleanor, 18, explains why it's so important to look after your mental health when involved in activism work, and how she does it.

I am a mental health activist; I focus on advocating for young people’s voices to be heard and for their mental health needs to be met. This can be a demanding role; hearing about other people’s struggles, reading discouraging statistics about mental health and listening to the concerns of young people can take its toll on my mental health, so it is important that I look after my own wellbeing. Here is how I do it.

The importance of boundaries

A vital part of maintaining a healthy relationship between myself and my work is to have a set of boundaries in place. For me, boundaries act as my limits for what tasks I am going to take on when I am advocating for young people’s mental health. If an upcoming project hits a little too close to home then I must decide whether or not I believe I can separate this issue from my own life. If I feel like there is any chance it could have a negative impact on my mental health, then it’s probably for the best that I hand the project over to someone else.

Boundaries also act as my stop-and-go mechanism. Listening to my body’s needs and knowing when to stop and take a break from activism work is vital to my wellbeing - after all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!

You can’t pour from an empty cup!

On the contrary, if I know I am in a place where I can really get stuck in and use my voice to create positive change, then I will use that to drive my work and do all I can to help. Working with young people to better the systems in place for mental health support gives me a sense of accomplishment which further boosts my mental health.

Don't just help others - let them help you!

While using my own voice to advocate for the needs of others makes up a lot of my activism work, I also have to remember to use my voice to advocate for myself.

Reaching out is another way that I look after my mental health - being an activist means that I have regular contact with mental health organisations. I often have to remind myself that when I am struggling, it’s okay to ask for their support! Knowing that I do not need to keep my mental health struggles to myself means that a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders.

Knowing that I do not need to keep my mental health struggles to myself means that a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders.

Self-care is key

Everyone - activists and non-activists - should understand the importance of self-care when it comes to mental health. Self-care allows me to unwind from my work and take care of my own needs. Simple tasks such as taking a long shower, lighting candles and reading a good book, or even taking a social media detox, all act as a method of self-care for me!

There is no set way to look after your mental health, but there will be a method which works for you. It is completely normal and okay to have bad days when doing activism work, but remember that they will not last forever!

It is completely normal and okay to have bad days when doing activism work, but remember that they will not last forever!

The tips I’ve shared here - keeping boundaries and reaching out when I need to, while regularly taking care of myself - help me when completing my activism work. It’s what allows me to make progress in my mental health journey – and remember: progress, not perfection, is key.

 

Author: Eleanor, 18

Where to get support

For more information, tips on looking after yourself, and advice on where to get support, have a look at our find help page.

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