Collective care and self-care
Supporting members can be hard and exhausting work. If you want to be there for them, you have to take care of yourself. The union also needs to be responsible for the collective care of stewards or officers supporting members with mental illness. Practices and supports need to be in place to make sure everyone can do their work as stewards and local officers and still have balance and health in their activist lives. Individual self-care is also important and is different for everyone, but there are some basics that contribute to an overall sense of well-being.
Collective care strategies:
- Make sure your chief steward or someone on the executive is aware you are assisting a member with a mental illness—ask them to check in with you from time to time and take time to talk to them regularly if it would be helpful.
- If you need more help supporting a member with a mental illness, ask for it from your local.
- Make sure you are spending a reasonable amount of time with this member. If you feel like they are asking for more time than you can give or the calls/visits are too long, then set some limits and let your chief steward or someone on the executive know that you’ve done this and may need more support from them.
- If you need more training on these issues, ask the local to send you and others for training.
- Periodically, the local or the union can review the numbers of mental health issues the local or union is facing and assess whether more training, support, or other strategies are needed to address these issues in the workplace for members.
- Eat well. Treats are great, but try to generally eat healthy meals and snacks.
- Get regular exercise. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as riding a bike or going for walks.
- Develop healthy sleep habits. Running on too little sleep eventually catches up to you—and having your sleep regularly disrupted can wear you down.
- Spend time on activities you enjoy. We often think we don’t have time to do something just for fun, but these kinds of activities are important.
- Allow yourself some time to unwind and to nourish your contemplative side: take a walk, visit a museum, go look at the sunset.
- Connect with other people in your life. Make time for friends and family.
When it comes to self-care, small repeated everyday activities can make a big difference and help you avoid burning out physically or emotionally.