Updated: Jul 2
Prioritizing Your Wellbeing and Managing Chronic Stress in the Face of Injustice
In recent months, the United States has seen a surge in anti-trans bills being proposed and voted on in several states. These laws focus on limiting access to gender-affirming health care for transgender folks, as well as preventing trans people from participating in activities like sports and using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Proponents of these bills argue that they are necessary to protect “public safety”, while we know that they are an attempt to invalidate trans identities and deny gender diverse folks access to their fundamental (inalienable) rights.
The potential ramifications of these bills becoming law are immense - especially for trans youth. Studies have found that gender-affirming medical treatments can drastically reduce depression, anxiety, and suicide rates among younger transgender individuals. Trans folks and other empathetic humans have logically been overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and distress in response to these developments.
I was recently asked how I stay motivated to keep going when it feels as though so many (esp. in positions of power) want to destroy us. This episode is an addendum to my initial jaded / tired person response.
This episode I discuss
🌈Managing chronic stress triggered by our social environment
🌈Validating and controlling the toll the current political situation can take on our health
🌈Turning to the body for information to reduce stress and increase or joy during tough times
Episode edited and produced by Unapologetic Amplified
Originally posted at https://daliakinsey.substack.com/p/how-to-handle-stressful-news-cycles#details
This transcript was generated with the help of AI.
Have you ever wondered why almost all the health and wellness information you see out there is so white, cis able-bodied and het? I know I have. And as a queer black registered dietitian, I gotta tell you, I'm not into it. I believe health and happiness should be accessible to everyone. That is precisely why I wrote Decolonizing Wellness: A QTBIPOC-Centered Guide to Escape the Diet Trap, Heal Your Self-Image, and Achieve Body Liberation and why I host Body Liberation for All.
The road to health and happiness has a couple of extra steps for chronically stressed people, like queer folks and folks of color. But don't worry, my guests and I have got you covered. If you're ready to live the most fierce, liberated, and joyful version of your life, you are in the right place.
Body Liberation for All Theme
They might try to put you in a box, tell them that you don't accept when the world is tripping out tell them that you love yourself. Hey, Hey, smile on them. Live your life just like you like it
It’s your party negativity is not invited. For my queer folks, for my trans, people of color, let your voice be heard. Look in the mirror and say that it's time to put me first. You were born to win. Head up high with confidence. This show is for everyone. So, I thank you for tuning in. Let's go.
I received a really great question recently and it resonated because that's one that in the past I'd asked myself as well. Someone asked what motivates me to keep going, even when our political environment seems opposed against our fundamental wellbeing.
My initial answer, in hindsight sounds a little salty. Even though that wasn't my intention. But that feeling, that knowing that you live in a nation, or you live in a social environment where the power structures really are set up to undermine your wellbeing - destroy you, shorten your lifespan. That is not a new experience for Black Americans. It's certainly not a new experience for indigenous people.
So when recently the attacks on trans folks have intensified. And the political undermining of trans wellbeing has been intensifying. It is a familiar feeling. And so my response sounds like that of a tired person. And this could be part of middle age. Feeling that you can relate more to folks who have lived with systemic oppression for years and years during periods of real intensity like the civil rights movement. You can understand why the older folks would say things like ‘nothing's changed, but the weather.’
This is a pattern. This failure to allow room for everyone's humanity. In the U.S. this is a pattern. And it is exhausting. Sometimes you just feel numb to it. But everyone's reaction is valid. And depending on how long you've been having these feelings and how you as an individual process that type of chronic distress over time, you know, how you initially responded to it may change. So when we are interacting with people who are really being hit with the reality of how intense injustice is for the first time. It is so extremely stressful when you start noticing and you have these continual reminders that your wellbeing is not guaranteed and there are not as many systems in place to protect you as people living shoulder to shoulder with you that have celebrated or affirmed identities in the area of the world that you're living in.
It's real. These reactions are valid. So I wanted to take a second pass at my answer and give a more comprehensive answer for how I manage and how I've seen other people manage with really stressful new cycles or really stressful political developments. And go beyond my initial answer, which sounded a little old and give a more comprehensive answer for people who are at different stages of having this experience.
Looking back at my answer part of it does still hold true for me. And that is that I find comfort in knowing that we can't be erased. And that we belong here as much as anyone else belongs here. We don't need permission to exist. We do not need permission to take up space. But the fact remains that when the political environment is saying that you're not valid or you don't exist. You are more vulnerable to other people acting against you in violent ways. And that is unnerving and it only makes sense that your body will respond to it. And that this would elevate your baseline stress levels.
One of the most powerful things I recommend, and I use myself is teaching your body the difference between a present moment, physical danger and stress related to thoughts of what could happen.
If you are sitting alone in your room, watching the news listening to how other people are systematically creating structures that will make your existence, more difficult, more dangerous.
As you ruminate on that, as you take that in, it can become impossible for your body to make the distinction between real and present danger in that room, where you were sitting alone and all of the potential dangers you may face later.
Part of us may wonder, if I don't keep my head on a swivel, if I don't stay on high alert -will I be more vulnerable?
The truth is when the danger is present, you will know.
And you will be able to navigate that situation to the best of your ability in the moment. You don't have to stay on high alert, 24/7. Staying on high alert burns you out, runs you down, and robs you of joy that you could be experiencing in the present tense.
It can feel unclear how you teach your body the difference but there are specific things you can do physically to bring yourself into the present moment.
You can also just focus on noticing – Where you're holding the tension in your body, what fear feels like in your body? And how you can make yourself feel safer in the moment?
Realizing that you need breaks from that feeling of fear and stress - searching for ways to give yourself that break.
Watching your body and paying attention to your body will make it easier for you to notice times when that tension lifts or that physical experience of fear lifts. For a lot of us that's going to be in the presence of our friends, our chosen family, and the presence of other people who share similar identities that are being undermined and attacked.
For some of us that'll be when we're completely alone - when we will feel it easier to let go of that tension or fear, because we don't feel like we have to be on high alert. Look for any area where you experienced those same sensations. That you could potentially opt out of.
Could you use more breaks from social media? Can you strategically manage the time you spend engaging with political content?
I stay tapped in to when it's time to take action. Follow groups, follow activists. Sometimes for me, the best thing is to be on their mailing list. So when there is a call to action, I can take action. But I do not constantly get these pings (like I would on social media) about more bad news in state after state, after state. Because your experience of empathy for people who share your identities could also feel like stress and tension in your body.
And one of the most upsetting things about systemic oppression to me, it isn't even just these horrific displays of violence that people are sometimes subjected to. It's the way your every day, every minute of your life can be taken from you. If you want to reclaim that and experienced life as you want to. We can't give all of our energy to keeping up with the ways that people are attacking us. Not 24/7.
If there isn't an action to be taken. The question is - Do you need this information right now? How is this information making you feel?
Do you need to expend energy, trying to convince everyone that you exist and that your existence is valid and you deserve a space in the social setting in which you were born?
For me, that's exhausting. I recently had a really nourishing meditation retreat experience.
Something that came up for me. During the retreat is to lean into the energy that I get from focusing on the love that I have for people with whom I feel aligned. And releasing the need to convince or convert the people who are not aligned.
For me, it feels like a weight is lifted when I released the idea of trying to convince the oppressors that they are on the wrong path. That they've chosen a caustic, unloving, harmful path. It feels more energizing, more joyful, more nourishing -for me to focus on uplifting people who've been made to feel that they don't belong, and doing what I can to nurture them and draw closer to them.
It isn’t that I don't believe that activism on both fronts is necessary. But it doesn't light me up. And so, I'm just not going to do it. I've sacrificed enough minutes of my lifetime trying to convince oppressors that they are on the wrong path, trying to explain to people how they've done harm, trying to explain the nuance of my experience as a Black person, a non-binary person, a queer person. And I don't want to do it anymore. And so, I'm not going to.
This come up as part of my practice of connecting to my body and listening to my body. The level of boredom that I experienced these days when somebody asked me and inclusion 101 level question -it's just exhausting. And that's not the work that I'm here to do.
When you try and evaluate, well, what are you here to do? You can check your body for the answer. What is energizing you? Maybe you love explaining things to people that had been spoken about ad nauseum since the 1950s. That's not my jam, but if that's what you want to do, it gives you energy, and it doesn't make you feel tired or frustrated or angry, then wonderful.
But if you find that while you're doing good work and advocating for others, you are losing joy and I mean, hemorrhaging joy.
It's one thing to experience occasional bouts of frustration in your activism because you take two steps forward and you feel like the pushback is so strong you question -Are we really making progress?
You'll know the difference between burnout because the work is sucking the life out of you and a temporary frustration.
Another thing I recommend is leaning hard into self-care when you are hit with stressful new cycles and stressful political changes that are negatively impacting us.
This could mean taking more time for yourself, time off work if you can. This could mean more meditation, more stretching, more joyful movement, more journaling - or it could mean laying in bed all day on a Saturday watching cartoons or lighthearted things that make you giggle.
Your body needs breaks.
So look for ways to give your body that break.
In summary my answer to the question of how I manage when it feels like the political environment is determined to act against my wellbeing is
1) I identify my stress triggers and I looked for triggers that I can opt out of being exposed to.
2) I connect with my chosen family and people that affirm me so that I can exist in a space where we don't necessarily need to discuss what's happening because we're all experiencing it together and holding space for how that's taking a toll on our mental or physical wellbeing - knowing that if I do feel like I want to process out loud, they'll be able to listen and understand. And it won't turn into an emotionally draining experience where I'm having to do the educating for other people to even know what the issue is.
3) I take extensive breaks from social media, and I strategically manage the time that I spend engaging with political content online.
4) I practice self-care. And for me over the years, that looks like a lot of therapy, lots of meditation and when I need extra support in the past, it has also looked like prescriptions because the goal sometimes is just survival. At some times in your life, you're at a point of thriving. It can be an up and down.
Healing is not linear. And our experience of wellbeing typically isn't linear either. And that is okay.
5) I stay engaged. I advocate for positive changes for my community. When there's an action for me to take, I take it. Sometimes that means writing legislators. Sometimes that means making monetary donations to people who are deep in the work and know how best to leverage resources.
I really hope you're being gentle with yourself during this stressful period.
I remind myself and I encourage everyone else to remember too, that the only constant in life is change. And no matter how dark things are looking in some parts of the country right now, this will also change.
We cannot all be erased.
It is difficult. It is stressful when people try to erase us. But we are entitled to be here and we are entitled to be visible, and comfortable and safe in the environments we were born into.
Eventually things will get better. Because when one of us or two of us is too tired or too heartbroken to take another step, someone else will pick up the mantle. And the growth will just keep on going.
Sending you all my love. Hoping you find some rest and some peace after listening to this. And if you have any questions, please feel free to email them to me or message me at daliakinsey.com. There are also really helpful embodiment exercises in the book (Decolonizing Wellness). That you may find beneficial. So if you already have the book, I encourage you to go back and revisit some of those sections so that you can find peace in your body regardless of what's going on in the world around us.
Until next time.