5 Ways Not To Burn Yourself Out On Activism During The Trump Era

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how to survive trump

The grim, gratifying silver lining to our current political climate is that culturally, we’re experiencing a rise in authentic conversation. Previously, those of us who spoke loudly and often about issues regarding sexism, racism, homophobia, prejudice, and other concerns of social justice were seen as the fringe radicals in society.

But now nearly everyone is engaged in the same passionate conversation, regardless of vocation, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Our taste and tolerance for the superficial are finally, blessedly, at a low. The underground has been normalized and the authentic welcomed as popular culture.

However, the volume of the daily atrocities, and the attention invested in discussing them and working to change them, can become quickly overwhelming and even painful. Such is the danger of the conscious; if ignorance is bliss, you and I are afforded none. We are susceptible to being debilitated by the very purpose, goals, mission, and causes we serve.

For those of us working for social change, it is imperative we take care of ourselves while we serve people and causes beyond us. There is nothing noble, admirable, or useful to being an exhausted martyr — we cease being effective, we become ourselves an obstacle to our goals, and it becomes impossible to be an agent of good.

We all fall along a spectrum of how deeply we are working to counter the unjust. But regardless, we are all necessary for the collective plight. We are all aware, engaged, and affected. Here are the five ways we can practice mindfulness, learn how to survive Trump, and ensure we protect and replenish our energy, capability, and effectiveness as we work to achieve a better world.

1. Be mindful of the thoughts you spend time on.

Thoughts are visitors we invite into our minds. Each thought is a reaction to stimuli in our external environment, in the form of conversations, ingested media, text messages, passing encounters. Your mind is sacred ground — without ownership over it, very little can get done, and peace is nearly possible.

While we do not get to curate the realities of the external world, the barrage of news, or our social media, we do decide the parameters of our reactions. We decide the size of each reaction, each thought. We decide how long each thought is allowed to stay, how much space it is given, how much power it will have.

Decide which thoughts are allowed to leave lasting resonance. Decide which ones are temporal. Own your thoughts; don’t let them to own you. Hone this skill for mental curating so that it builds muscle, so that your mind is your ally and not an obstacle.

2. Be mindful of the personalities and characters you allow into your world.

There is a misconception that to be an activist or to express one’s passion for social justice, you must froth at the mouth with rage. Yet nowhere does it say that bilious vengeance or melancholia are necessary for action and engagement in social justice. In fact, rancorous emotions are counterproductive.

While anger, fear or sorrow towards the world’s many injustices are deeply understandable, they become useful only if we shape them into focused, determined, intelligent action. Anger, fear, or sorrow without form, allowed to fester and spread, are incredibly corrosive for both the owner and the observer of the emotions.

We are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. Your inner voice acts as one of those five. The others we choose and invite. Curate your circle as mindfully as you curate your thoughts. Do this particularly if you are trying to be of service in the world. You’re only as effective as you are healthy.

3. Be mindful of your personal habits and pastimes.

There is no better time than the present to take an honest look at how you organize your day. If the current climate can teach us anything, it’s that our choices determine our outcomes. Take this moment in history as the perfect opportunity to raise your standards of how you shape your life.

With our new rise in intolerance towards the superficial, careless, unjust, and ignorant, what habits are you ready to release? What habits and pastimes have proven themselves to being depleting or wasteful in the past, obstacles you previously rationalized or excused but are now inspired to relinquish?

Perhaps you have a habit of speaking poorly about yourself to yourself. Perhaps you’re prone to comparing yourself to others on social media. Or, perhaps you anesthetize reality by judging others, binge eating, reckless shopping, ranting, or gossiping. All these habits and pastimes will only deplete your spirit, body, and mind, in general, and particularly now more than ever.

Replace self-defeating habits with ones that enhance your mental, emotional, creative, and physical health, peace, strength, joy, and fulfillment. Fold into your life acts of service, time for self-reflection, creativity, physical fitness, and time spent with loved ones. Embrace this cultural turning point as an invitation for one in your own life.

4. Be mindful of how you invest your skills, energy, and income.

Your unique talents are valuable. As is your presence and participation in any professional setting. Furthermore, the way you invest your income holds significant weight. Direct your energy, skills, and money into areas that are deserving of your investment. Be mindful of what companies, products, media, books, and personalities you give your attention and patronage.

As employees, employers, and consumers, we have immense power. Are you supporting, working, or paying for role models and valuable missions or are you amplifying, enabling, or funding businesses and figures that are exploitive? Companies and individuals will supply only what we demand through our attention and funding. Be mindful that you are working and paying for the health and not the harm of the planet.

5. Be mindful of the media you ingest.

It is crucial to be aware of key news in our country and larger world. It is necessary, as empathic human beings, to be aware of painful realities. However, be wary about being indulgent with pain. Let injustices inform and charge you into positive action.

But absorbing and dwelling on reality’s cruelties creates suffering, which only impairs your chances of being proactive in the present climate. Be mindful about how you invest your attention. Be careful about giving your time to storylines, characters, and messages that are debilitating, disempowering, depressing, objectifying, racist, sexist, xenophobic, or petty.

Now is the time to release exploitive material, violence, and stereotypes from your DVR feed. Be aware as well that in this flurry of consciousness raising, there is an enormous risk of cultural appropriation, sensationalism, and fetishizing of the marginalized. Be savvy about which media outlets you’re supporting. Make sure their intentions, actions, and material have integrity.

To counter and manage the daily frustration of how to survive Trump, replenish your spirit with evidence of good in the world. Bolster yourself with books, movies, TV, news, and articles that center on inspiring, insightful, intelligent, progressive characters, storylines, topics, and messages.

Recognize that these stories and characters are part of the larger human narrative. Take direction from these wise messengers who spearheaded private and public revolutions, service, innovation, and progress. Realize that you too are capable of precisely that.

Ultimately, the above five practices are worth consideration at all times, regardless of political and social eras. We seekers, activists, artists, doers and agents of change are uniquely passionate human beings.

We feel, think, aspire, and act with hunger, depth, and urgency. It is vital that to support our goals and sustain our longevity, we nourish ourselves as we fight. As you gain strength in any one of the five practices, it will, in turn, support the other four — mindfulness becomes easier the more ways and more consistently you practice.

May you be as committed to yourself as you are to others. May you be well to be good.


Reema Zaman is an author, speaker, actress, and life-coach from Bangladesh. She is the author of the memoir I Am Yours. Her work has been published in Shape, Nailed, Full Grown People, The Huffington Post, and YourTango. She is the creator of Dear Reema, where she responds to readers' letters about healing sexual assault, anorexia, divorce, trauma from relationships and childhood, and gaining self-ownership. Reema is also the creator of You Are the Voice, a talk on healing and rising from rape and other adversities, that she performs at various colleges and other venues. For more, go to