Last week I participated in the organisation of closed-door meetings for 15 Muslim female activists from different parts of Europe, from France and Austria to Germany and Denmark. The objective of the meetings was to train in communications and discuss ways to improve community engagement, creative campaigning, coalition building and documentation. Although the nature of the participants’ work is essentially activism, they are also filmmakers, journalists, mothers, students, lawyers, counsellors, feminists, teachers and so much more.
Most of the activists are founders of not-for-profit organisations, created to tackle Islamophobia, gendered Islamophobia, racism and discrimination and promote human rights. Not only do most of the activists pursue this work alongside their full-time jobs, but many were also the only member of their organisation, often relying on the help of dedicated volunteers!
When asked why they are involved in such activism, nearly all the women in the room responded saying they have no choice but to do this work, because injustice, racism and discrimination is their lived reality.
A section of the last day of the meetings was dedicated to self-care – why? Social justice work is mentally, physically and emotionally draining, exhausting and taxing. It requires commitment, time, patience, knowledge, money and access to resources, the latter of which is already scarce for women of colour, especially Muslim women of colour.
Many writers on Amaliah’s platform are also activists in some shape or form, so here are reminders/suggestions of very necessary tips and things to do for yourself which will not only enhance output but will also carry long-term rewards, inshaAllah.
Additionally, I have deliberately placed emphasis on de-stressing as I strongly believe stress is a modern, silent killer. Whilst stress is an integral part of human survival and adaption, long periods of stress has become a norm in modern society. We only feel productive if we are constantly on the go, immersed in the grind. But we are human beings, not human doings.
Often, we just need to BE.
- Do not let yourself burn out because once you do, it will be hard to come back from it.
- Do not engage in discussions you do not feel comfortable taking part in. Leave a conversation that does more harm than good to your mental wellbeing, this is relevant both offline and especially online.
- Try and understand the person you are speaking to when engaging in discussions online or in person, in an interview, at a meeting, et cetera – what are their positions on certain issues that are important to you? On a scale of 1 to 10, you are at a 10 on the issue. If the other person is at a 4 or 5, you know you can have somewhat of a balanced conversation with them. But if they are at a 1 or 2, it will probably be like talking to a brick wall, whereby they will want to argue, or remain on the defensive and they most likely will not be open-minded. If you can recognise the position of an individual on the scale, inshaAllah you will be better equipped on how to speak to that person and you will be able to tailor your points accordingly. Perhaps you may find that you just don’t want to participate in that forum.
- Celebrate your wins. Don’t despair on ‘losses’ – all success is with Allah and all experiences are teaching you something.
- Do not neglect your daily dhikr – it is the basis of gratitude, Light, guidance, clarity and calm.
- Do not take your health for granted – our health is what enables us to attend lectures and take notes, volunteer, campaign, raise money, protest, create and sign petitions, do interviews and so forth. A simple daily practice (specifically 3 times in the morning and evening) is to say this dua: O Allah, grant my body health,O Allah, grant my hearing health, O Allah, grant my sight health. None has the right to be worshipped except You.
- Deep breathing exercises are so powerful and a little can go a long way. We tend to hold our breath or breathe shallowly, especially in stressful situations. Simply place one hand on your stomach, just below the belly button and inhale deeply through the nostrils, expanding the stomach. Then exhale either through your mouth or nostrils, contracting the stomach. Repeat as you please. Diaphragmatic breathing increases mental focus and relaxation and prevents stagnation.
- Choose a fun brainwork activity, one that is not on a screen. Puzzles are amazing – affordable and de-stressing. Such brainwork games teach patience, creativity and support brain health.
- Take care of your immunity. ‘Stress exposure can increase the likelihood of developing disease, as well as exacerbating pre-existing conditions.’ Unwind with nature’s immune-boosting herbal teas such as echinacea, ginger, chaga and chamomile.
- Acknowledge your privilege. It does not take much to see real images and footage of lives being mistreated and disrespected. The fact that I have written this, and you are reading it suggests we are in a position a privilege, that we have access to knowledge, technology, food, shelter and a bed to sleep in at night. What we strive for with our privilege, our sincerity and intention is what matters.The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “Look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you, for it is more suitable that you should not consider as less the blessing of Allah.”
- Allocate time for yourself every day, whether it is 15 minutes or an hour. Switch off your phone and/or let everyone know that you are uncontactable in this time and use it do something for yourself.
- Take time off social media every now and then. A handful of women from the meetings said they refuse to have a Twitter account!
- Meditate for a few minutes before praying salah. Sitting on your prayer mat, eyes closed, and focusing on breathing deeply and slowly empties your mind of any worries, distress and distractions. It is fool-proof way of ensuring maximum khushu’ in salah.
- Contemplate on your personal development every now and then. Continue with the things that work well, identify what needs improvement and surrender anything that no longer serves you.
Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr Claudia Welch
Circulating cortisol and cognitive and structural brain measures
Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function