How can we return to “normal” after a protest like this?

My Writing and Editing class used our lecture time yesterday to discuss how the Rhodes protests against rape culture had affected them so far. Currently, there’s an interdict against protesting and lectures are expected to resume as normal. What the students want to know is how do we get back to normal? Perhaps things will never be normal from here onward, someone suggested. Then how do we do and how do we be in a space that has been turned upside down? How do we go about living our lives with all these raw emotions and unaddressed concerns? Can we actually do something ‘normal’ and separate to the protest movement without feeling guilty or selfish?

For the journalism students, negotiating the space as both a student and a journalist has taken its toll. But then again, this week has been tiring for us all. Tiring for those who tried to break the silence, only to be further silenced. Tiring for those who expected management to do something, only to realise that doing something meant calling the police on us. Tiring for those who wanted to forget their assault ever happened, only to be confronted with conversations about rape. Tiring for those who stood alongside others, offering help where they could while still feeling so helpless in the face of such a huge issue.

Whether you’ve been at every protest meeting, attended some discussions, or just followed the protests from social media, it’s been a tiring week. In a society where we are being hurt, we need to take care of ourselves because now we realise that others won’t. To have the strength to fight for others, you first have to take care of yourself. It’s okay to step back, to take a break from the protest and to remind yourself that you are human, you have feelings and sometimes these feelings can be fucking painful.

I’ve compiled a list of small, everyday things that you can do to take care of yourself. Depending on what you need and what your strength allows, some of these may be doable and some may be too much. That’s okay too. They’re just a suggestion of things that can establish a sense of ‘normalcy’ and routine in a time of hurt and chaos. They’re also things that you are allowed to do for yourself to remind yourself that you’re allowed to enjoy things and treat yourself, even at a time like this where it might seem selfish or unfair to feel happy for a small bit when others are hurting.  Please let me know if any of these are useful, and if there’s any I have left out that you think could be helpful.

  1. Stroke a cat or dog.
  2. Plant a seed or some herbs.
  3. Make a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and drink it without doing anything else at the same time.
  4. Go to a coffee store and have some else make it. Don’t feel guilty for treating yourself.
  5. Read something non-academic, whether it’s a light novel or your favourite magazine.
  6. Make a paper collage of your favourite things.
  7. Buy a bunch of flowers for yourself.
  8. Walk outside in a space you feel safe.
  9. Turn off your electronics. Take a break from social media which can be really triggering right now.
  10. Read poetry.
  11. Have a 3 minute solo dance party.
  12. Paint your nails.
  13. Watch a comedy. Even when you feel like you may not laugh, watch something silly.
  14. Cook a meal.
  15. If you feel up to it, volunteer with a charity. Sometimes doing something for someone else can be empowering and can also take your mind off other things.
  16. Bake or make an easy fridge tart .
  17. Play Tetris (it’s oddly satisfying)
  18. Run
  19. Sit in a quiet sunny spot for few minutes.
  20. Write your thoughts, freehand.
  21. Paint, draw, knit, sew, craft…
  22. Listen to a motivational song.
  23. Colour in.
  24. Take a bubble bath.
  25. Light a scented candle.
  26. Watch the clouds.
  27. Write a letter to your future self. Tell yourself how proud you are of the things you’re going to achieve.
  28. Take a nap. Maybe don’t set an alarm and allow yourself the rest you need.
  29. Make your bed/ do something small that would usually be an everyday chore but will now make you feel like you’ve accomplished something, as small as it may be.
  30. Tell a good friend how much you appreciate them.
  31. Reflect on your best quality/ability and how you’re going to develop that to be the best version of yourself.
  32. Wear your favourite outfit, even if you’re just staying at home.
  33. Put on fluffy warm socks.
  34. Reread your favourite childhood story.
  35. Cuddle with someone you love and trust and feel safe around.
  36. Eat a bar of your favourite chocolate.
  37. Meditate.
  38. Do gentle stretches.
  39. Remind yourself that you are here, you have come this far.
  40. Remember these words, “you are enough”

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