Doing safer space work can be exhausting! Here’s a page on some reflection about some ideas to avoid burning out.
While it’s perfectly natural to be upset at the actions of people harming your community, helping each other process those feelings is the best way to be effective at addressing those issues and keeping our community safe.
Do it with friends!
Have a large team
Having a team of 4-5 individuals will help give the ability for anyone to tap out and not engage in some of the work. It also keeps each individual from being the target of the ire of someone you’re talking to.
I find very helpful to know a few other people that do safer space work that I can call and talk about the situations I’m in. They have an outside perspective and help me look at situations with a cool head!
Monitor your state
As soon as you face a situation, pay some attention to how you’re feeling and how everybody else is feeling. These are the things I look out for in myself and in others:
- What does my body feel like? Do I feel tension, pain, or negative sensations?
- What does my friend’s body look like? Are they fidgeting? Sitting in positions that look uncomfortable?
- Are we spending too much time speculating about worst case scenarios? That’s usually an indicator that anxiety has taken over.
- Pace of the conversation/emails. High speed conversation, while sometimes necessary, can also be an indication that people are feeling upset.
Take care of your friends and yourself
If you or your team are feeling upset, there are many ways you can address the situation.
- Notice and validate. If you do notice those feelings coming up in yourself or in others, naming the feelings that are coming up, and acknowledging they’re normal, is a great first step. “Hey, it looks like we’re all pretty upset with the situation. Let’s take a moment to recognize how terrible this is and how normal it is to be upset about it”.
- Tap out! Not everyone needs to be involved in everything. Disengaging from a situation that is particularly upsetting to you, or if you are dealing with other life circumstances that need your attention, is important not only for your own personal well-being, but for the sake of your team. Tapping out is allowed! You can also offer people a way out if they seem overwhelmed!
- Encourage and support each other. Thank people for their work every email, and for their contribution. Praise them for the hard work they’re doing. All of those things are great ways to remind people they’re doing good work, and might alleviate some tension.
- Take a break. Go get ice cream, go dance and take no responsibility, have a nice cuddle puddle. Do those things with your friends and don’t talk about the situation. Just unplug for a bit!
- Get outside support. The most upsetting cases are also the ones that often go beyond our domain of competence. Get help from your local domestic violence support groups, from sexual assault survivor groups, from the police (when appropriate), from the friends of the person concerned, etc.
These situations are complex and nuanced. Don’t be discouraged if you feel like your answer isn’t perfect, or something didn’t go the way you wanted. If you allow yourself time for self-care, you’ll come into the work you’re doing with more enthusiasm and clarity than if you wear yourself down!