Fitness

Self-Care After Protesting: How You Can Relax and Recharge

If you plan on attending another protest, the preventive game is also important on the nutrition front. If you’re able to, prep a slow-cooker before you go to the protest so that something hearty is waiting for you when you get back. And if you can, bring a water bottle and portable snacks—nut butter or granola bars, which you can eat while holding the wrapper so you’re not touching your mouth or your food—can help keep your energy more constant, Majumdar says.

Eating and drinking will require you to remove your mask, though, so make sure you’re able to step away from the crowd to do so safely, she says. If you can’t, you might end up waiting till you’re home to eat and drink. You should also bring a bottle of hand sanitizer to clean your hands beforehand, too.

Engage in intentional movement.

You might just want to flop on the couch when you return home—and that’s totally fine. But if you find yourself tired, yet buzzing with energy or nerves still, guiding your body through some gentle movement can help you calm and center yourself, says Mancha.

“The powerful thing about intentional movement, essentially when you are committing to stretching or going through yoga poses, is that you are setting the intention of coming back to yourself,” she says. Yoga is especially helpful because you’re also focusing on your breath, which can ease the fight-or-flight response that arises when you’re in a stressful situation.

Try these three moves—you can do them separately, or in a flow, says Mancha. Start with child’s pose: Kneel on a yoga mat, knees hip-width apart and your feet together behind you. Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, lay your torso over your thighs. Lengthening your neck and spine, rest your forehead on the ground with your arms extended in front of you. Hold for at least one minute.

Then you can get into cat-cow. Start on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over knees, and inhale slowly. On the exhale, round your spin and drop your head toward the floor (cat posture). Inhale as you lift your head, chest, and tailbone toward the ceiling while arching your back (cow pose). Continue for at least one minute, aiming to get in at least 10 really good, deep breaths, Mancha says.

The last stretch is legs on the wall. Lie on your back with your bottom against a wall, and extend your legs straight up on the wall—you should be at a 90-degree angle. Stay there for 5 to 10 minutes. “It’s a restorative and passive stretch,” says Mancha. “I recommend it to all of my students who have insomnia.”

Prep for bed.

Rest is very important to help guard against exhaustion or simply feeling peaked the next day, especially if you’re planning on attending multiple protests, says Dr. Winter.

Post-protest adrenaline, anxiety, or even trauma can make it tough to sleep, even if your body is exhausted. Because sleep is so important to staying healthy, it’s a good idea to have some strategies in place to help you get a good night’s rest.

There are few things you can do to set yourself up for a better sleep. First, give yourself permission to disengage from social media, which can rile you up, especially when scrolling through the responses of people trivializing (or flat-out speaking against) your cause. Giving yourself a phone-free night can create a more peaceful, sleep-promoting environment, Dr. Winter says.

You also might want to give your normal bedtime a pass, too. If you get home late in the evening and are still feeling wired, forcing yourself to lie down on schedule can leave you tossing and turning.

“When sleep doesn’t happen right away, you can get really frustrated, and suddenly it becomes not the protest that is keeping you up, but the frustration of the inability to sleep after the protest that does,” he says.

As long as you get up relatively close to your normal wake-up time, any disruption to your sleep schedule should be minimal and short-lived, he says. If you normally have no trouble sleeping, you can take a 30-minute to an hour nap the next day if you’re still feeling zonked.

It definitely can be difficult to stick to your regular wellness routines during stressful times like this, but it’s important to try to devote some time and attention to your self-care after protesting—both to promote your well-being and sustain your activism.

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