Social injustice is an ongoing epidemic in this country. Recent events in the US have seen a massive spotlight being thrown on issues such as racial discrimination, gender inequality, and LGBTQ rights. While these issues are certainly not new, the sense of validation that comes with more minority voices being heard is definitely refreshing. Here are some tips to help you thrive as the world slowly opens its eyes to what’s been going on for decades.
1. Take a break from social media
Social media over the years has turned into something very powerful. Millions of people rallying behind a cause could mean justice for one person, a destroyed career for another, or the potential collapse of a powerful business. Depending on your perspective, the power of social media could be seen as a superhero or a monster. Either way, constantly consuming content from sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat can cause you to become overwhelmed. The social issues currently making the headlines are heavy enough without you having to pile on the opinions and comments of millions of people. At a point, it only turns into this never-ending battle with keyboard warriors and triggering posts, which helps absolutely no one.
2. Stay connected to those you love
When you are on the receiving end of any form of discrimination, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of unhealthy and nonproductive responses and behaviors. This is especially true when you find yourself alone. So, try to reach out to your family and friends for support, or if you find that they cannot empathize with your reality, connect with safe groups that do. Currently, the coronavirus pandemic has made it even more difficult to feel connected, but there are easy fixes that offer the next best thing. People across the globe are getting creative about staying connected using video calling apps such a Zoom, FaceTime, and Whatsapp Video Call. A strong support system goes a long way to help you stay grounded and understood. Don’t share only your pain but also your triumphs and joys. This will help you build a sense of community with your people that can be a source of strength for you when you need it the most.
3. Educate yourself
Sometimes, people tend to react to issues in a certain way because they feel like that is how they are expected to react. This kind of mob mentality is rarely productive and can cause you to say or do things that you later come to regret. To protect yourself from such thinking, you’ll need to educate yourself on the realities on the ground. Whether you choose to find out more about the gender pay gap or about how Hispanics suffer more injuries at work is up to you. But before you throw yourself behind a cause, make sure you have your facts straight and know what it is you’re supporting.
4. Have uncomfortable conversations
Whether it’s with a tone-deaf co-worker or with your clueless best friend, sometimes you need to trudge all the way through uncomfortable conversations in order to find some clarity. Try to stay respectful as you speak your truth and avoid inflammatory language. It can be difficult to do this when you are passionate about the topics under discussion or when the issues you talk about have a personal impact. So, try as much as you can to avoid situations that are likely to lead to counterproductive heated arguments, and rather embrace open discussions with a level-headed approach. Calmly discussing diverse points of view can help to cultivate compassion and empathy between people from different backgrounds and create safer spaces where different people can thrive together.
5. Pay attention to your physical and mental wellness
Whether you are constantly on the go at rallies or protests, or just struggling to figure out how to cope with feelings of injustice, it is important to understand that taking care of your body and your mind should always be a priority. Try to maintain a balanced diet, get enough rest, and avoid or minimize your use of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. Develop healthy ways to cope with stress, such as meditation, engaging hobbies, and working out. Don’t be afraid to connect with a mental health professional to help you come up with the best strategies for coping emotionally with the current social climate. Taking time each day to focus on self-care will keep you in the best state of mind to be a good ally or advocate of a cause you believe in.
6. Know what resources are available to you
Find out who you can reach out to for support because sometimes family and friends just won’t cut it. Look out for advocacy groups, peer support services, or helplines that are relevant to what you are going through. Also, try not to limit yourself. You might be surprised to find helpful resources at your local wellness center, your school, church, mosque, community center, or even your family doctor. It can be challenging to ask for help, and it can take a lot of strength to get yourself to do so. But facing discrimination in isolation is an even more bleak prospect, which is less likely to get you anywhere.
7. Get involved
Sometimes the magnitude of everything going on can make you feel helpless, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several ways to get involved with a movement that helps to lift up the underdogs in society. You can contribute through protesting, donating to a worthy cause, raising awareness, writing to lawmakers, or speaking out when you witness any form of discrimination. Even a simple conversation with your family and friends is a step towards progress.
8. Be careful what battles you choose
There are numerous social injustices to fight for, and there may be many causes that you believe in. But nobody is superhuman. Try to focus on those that you can consistently contribute your efforts to so that you can really make an impact. Otherwise, you risk spreading yourself too thin and getting too overwhelmed to make much of a difference.
9. Get to work close to home
You don’t need to travel to the state capital in order to make a difference. Fighting for justice in your own community is just as effective, if not even more so. Look up local activist groups and organizers and find out how you can contribute to a cause you care about. Become part of a community that will help you to educate yourself better, and that will hold you accountable. You’ll be better equipped to tackle issues in your own backyard than in someone else’s.
10. Don’t be part of the problem
It can be tempting to spread information that seems to support your point of view even when you’re not sure about the source. When you share unverified material, you risk spreading false information and propagating unnecessary chaos and confusion. Be critical when you visit social media and be honest about correcting yourself when you realize you’ve shared false information. Better yet, take the time to verify that the information comes from a credible source before you share it yourself. If someone you know shares something that you know is not accurate, have a polite and open conversation about it to urge them to take it down.
11. Recognize your triggers
Do some self-reflection and try to recognize the things that cause you to stress out or react in an unhealthy or nonproductive way. It may be obvious things like the news, social media, or a particular person, or it may be something more subtle that you’ll need to dig deeper to discover. When you recognize what triggers negativity in your life, you are better prepared to avoid these triggers or build your resilience against them. Just by pinpointing them, you have the potential to gain more control over your emotions about these stressors and work towards building healthier coping strategies against them.
12. Know that your feelings are valid
You are allowed to feel angry, hurt, confused, disappointed, or any other emotion in response to being discriminated against or from discovering the injustices that other people face. It’s OK if you need a moment to take a step back and gain some more balance in your thoughts and feelings. It’s ok to take some time to yourself and unwind, watch a fun TV show, laugh at jokes and enjoy time with your loved ones. Your whole life does not need to become one big misery parade to prove that you’re loyal to a cause.
This year so much has happened to make the world feel like an incredibly hostile place – from the coronavirus pandemic to political rivalries and issues about race. It can be easy to lose yourself in all the uncertainty and not know where next to turn. Place yourself in the best position to navigate through all the chaos by paying attention to your well being as you fight for a better world for all.