The Wednesday Weigh-In: Self-care Edition

self-careIt has been, to put it lightly, a rough news week. It has been, to put it beyond lightly, a rough news summer. As we roll into fall, the load doesn’t seem likely to lighten. In her column this week at On Being, Feministing Editor Emeritus Courtney Martin asks how consumers of the news who care deeply about what’s going on in the world, especially when we see our own experiences in the headlines, are to balance our desire to know, and our desire to help, with our need to stay emotionally balanced.

… how does one process all the heartbreaking news? I’m not talking about the much-discussed decision whether to watch the brutal violence done to James Foley and Steven Sotloff. In some ways, that choice is easier because it’s acute. You do or you don’t; you suffer the psychic consequences.

I’m talking about the chronic, contemporary pain of being an informed person. You wake up, reach for the phone next to your bed, start scrolling through Facebook and — just like that — you are immersed in the eternal stream of rubble, corruption, and death that is the daily news cycle.

The psychic consequences are real. I can tell you that they’re real for us at Feministing, and we know they’re real for our readers. James Baldwin famously wrote that to be Black in America “and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” The same is true of being a feminist. Rage, frustration, heartbreak, despair, disgust, more rage, more heartbreak. It comes with the territory (I’m really selling this whole feminism thing, aren’t I?). Gloria Steinem put it a little more glibly when she said, “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” It will piss you off, and it will, in weeks like this, leave you feeling heavy with pain and, if you’re anything like me, a deep and frightening doubt that things will ever get better. That’s what I felt as I watched the coverage of Ray Rice and Janay Rice Palmer this week. 

I wasn’t aware of the concept of self-care until I became a feminist blogger. This might be because I wasn’t aware of the need for self-care until I became a feminist blogger. But that need is real. It feels especially real this week, and this summer. It wasn’t immediately clear to me that self-care wasn’t self-indulgent, or selfish — aren’t we supposed to give everything we have to a cause we care about? — but I came around. These days, my definition of self-care is borrowed from Jamila Bey, who quotes Audre Lorde in calling it “political warfare.” She says, “It’s about maintaining the machine of me so I that I am in peak physical condition.” Physical, and psychological, and emotional. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s that simple. You can’t respond to the terrible, horrible, no good,  clusterfuck-y headlines in the news — and the very real, very intransigent systems they represent — if you’re a miserable, exhausted mess.

This is not to say we can’t be powered by heartbreak and rage and pain — some of my best writing happens when I feel those things — but we can’t be productive if we’re overpowered by them. As Zerlina writes, “By prioritizing mind, body, and spirit, each individual piece of the larger movement is stronger. And because many come into their activism as a result of trauma or myriad challenging life experiences, self-care allows them to heal.”

So, in the middle of this news week, this horrible news week at the end of this horrible news summer, let’s pool our self-care resources. Tell us what you do to clear your head and heal your heart, so you can keep on fighting. I’ll go first, if you like.

I keep a journal. I write letters to friends. I drink whisky. I take days off from the gym. I go extra hard at the gym. I call a friend and say, “I’m having a bad day.” I call no one, and sit on my couch by myself and read or watch episodes of a show that I’ve already seen a dozen times each. I remind myself of why I do what I do, and how much more miserable I’d be if I couldn’t do it.

I listen to this song, over and over again:

What do you do you for self-care, Feministing readers? How do you maintain the machine of you?

Avatar ImageChloe Angyal came out of the womb opinionated.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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