2020’s been a long year. Between wildfires, near-economic collapse while a world-wide pandemic provides a terrifying backdrop, and a close presidential election, there’s been plenty of reason to curl into a ball and hyperventilate. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Plenty of people across the country and around the world have reported feeling like they have reeled from one moment to the next this year. The closing of the 2020 presidential election feels like a bookend to this whirlwind, which begs the question, what’s next? How do we move forward individually and collectively as communities? Below are a list of concrete steps to take while moving on from 2020.
The first step to moving forward is as simple, or difficult, as breathing. Finding your breath can be a challenge, especially while enduring mental health concerns. According to NAMI, 1 in 6 adolescents and 1 in 5 adults may experience a mental health concern at least once in their lifetime. Diagnoses such as depression and anxiety can make finding your breath an elusive task. Because of this, it’s important to be mindful of breathing and engaging in activities that make it easier to do so. If long walks or a leisurely jog is your thing, step outside and enjoy the fresh air. There are also plenty of indoor activities, such as video games, TV, and knitting. Whatever offers a moment of leisure. Take this time to center yourself and conserve your energy.
Identify & Anticipate Your Needs
Looking forward, figure out what your needs are. Maybe the election didn’t provide much relief. Maybe you’ve extended yourself throughout the year with working extra jobs to make ends meet, campaigning, protesting, or surviving during what countless corporate emails have assured us are, “unprecedented times.” In these instances, turning inward for a bit can help you recharge. A quick weekend getaway can offer a nice, affordable break.
Trying a new adventure or hobby can switch up the monotony of working from home. Volunteering to support people in prisons or people experiencing houselessness can provide genuine support to others and genuine person-to-person connection. Unplug from social media and don’t hesitate to say no to any meetings or gatherings that aren’t necessary. Reports indicate that Covid-19 numbers are spiking across the country again. Protect your space.
Identify a Cause
When you’re ready, identify a cause important to you. Whether it’s police brutality, restorative justice, income inequality, community building, ending food deserts or food swamps, houselessness, covid-19 relief, or supporting legislation, it’s important to focus on a concern that’s important to you and dedicate time to provide advocacy work for this cause. Plug into local communities via social media platforms, community resource centers that can likely be found via search engines, or perhaps even word of mouth through networking with neighbors.
Develop an Action Plan
Once you have a cause in mind, develop a plan to support this cause. Often, there are other, more experienced people who have been advancing the cause. Collaborating with experienced advocates as well as less experienced people who are also supporting the cause may help you create an action plan of your own to figure out what you as an individual person can do to help. This may include making signs, creating informational resources such as pamphlets or infographics, or organizing fundraisers. To create local actionable change may require attending city council meetings to learn what concerns councilpersons are or are not prioritizing.
Networking is so essential that it bears repeating. There is strength in community. Moving forward as a community on small and large levels depends on our ability to network successfully with each other. Collaboration, however, is not inherently free of systemic oppressive systems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and ableism. Two or more individuals who are successfully networking openly recognize these systems and work toward equity and equality. It is imperative that the voices of people who are marginalized and underrepresented within these oppressive systems are heard.
Unfortunately, in a society that comfortably marginalizes groups, individuals within these marginalized groups are statistically more likely to be victimized in a crime, especially if the individual identifies or is identified with multiple, or intersecting, marginalized groups. For example, in addition to the general probability of being victimized in one’s lifetime, a person who identifies or is identified as a migrant, Muslim, and a queer woman of color with a disability, has an increased chance of being victimized for being identified as a migrant, Muslim, LGBTQ+, a woman, or for having a disability. All of these intersecting identities are marginalized within the context of a society that upholds white, patriarchal, heterosexual, non-disabled, Christian identities wrapped around the concept of U.S.-born citizenship.
Around the country, fringe extremist groups are growing in popularity both online and in real life, as groups such as self-proclaimed white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, take their networking from chatrooms to the streets. Police officers are also arresting citizens, oftentimes without reading rights. During the summer, citizens in multiple locales reported that officers without identifying badges were driving toward protesters in non-police marked cars and snatching people off of the streets. Safety is of the utmost importance, particularly when exercising first amendment rights to protest. Your voice deserves to be heard, and it is important to maintain your safety. If you’re protesting, don’t go alone. Use the buddy system, and bring someone with you. Record the phone number of bail funds in case you’re arrested. Phones are inaccessible when arrested, which means you may have to write it on your body. Firearm sales are also increasing in the U.S., especially among people of color. In return, the prices of firearms are increasing. Learn the regulations in your locale and how to safely handle guns before purchasing.
Self-Care & Be Kind
Last, but most important, is to take care of yourself. Self-care is the foundation to getting anything done. This looks like eating consistently, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep, moving your body around, socializing within the context of your comfort level, and making time for leisurely activities. Sometimes all of these needs aren’t met at once, and that’s okay. The key is to listen to your own cues and leave no need unattended. Kindness is an extension of self-care. Performing kind acts can boost one’s own morale and sense of belonging. This means that showing others kindness, in a way, is self-care.