Written by Guest Blogger Karen Walker, Peer Education Intern
Why is it important to take care of yourself, as a peer educator and activist?
What are some ways that you can take care of yourself?
A Peer Educator’s primary role is to educate others, but one must still be mindful of oneself in that process. Teaching others how to make healthier, informed choices and to practice harm reduction in those choices is far different from applying those concepts to one’s own decision making and everyday life. The foundation of one’s personal wellness is self awareness. The ability to accept and assess one’s emotions, analyze the many factors that influence them, and apply problem solving skills is necessary to maintain one’s wellness. While gathering this self knowledge can be a tough task, it is crucial in order to maintain the energy and enthusiasm required to be an effective educator and activist.Familiar to all activists is the exposure to experiences that impact one in profoundly moving ways. From stories that inspire to those that devastate, holding space for those who have suffered greatly can be an enormous task. In order to find balance in the midst of these experiences, one must remember to be empathetic without allowing one’s own emotional health to be compromised. Undeniably, reformers are fighting an uphill battle; this fact serves to exemplify the need to take care of oneself in order to keep moving forward. Activists and Peer Educators alike must not forget that in order to do their best work, they must take care of themselves first.Paying attention to one’s body, mind, and spirit while examining the internal and external influences on each will lay the framework for building, maintaining, and balancing one’s wellness. Activities most basic to our survival, like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, eating right, and looking out for one’s safety in relationships and our environment, can tremendously protect one’s well-being and reduce stress. Emotional well-being is less tangible but requires as much diligence. Rather than acting on emotions immediately, allowing time for oneself to assess and resolve emotions will build emotional strength and lead to more mature decision making. Identifying toxic thought patterns and consciously making an effort to redirect or cease them can do wonders for one’s mindset. Allowing oneself to feel emotional while being able to seek comfort can also help to heal one’s emotional spirit. While suggestions like these are simple, applying them to one’s own life is complex. Considering every influence and stressor on one’s life can be overwhelming, but prioritizing the most prominent stressors and creating solutions is an excellent first step to shift to a new or healthier lifestyle. Even the smallest changes can help one build confidence and make great strides toward achieving one’s personal goals. Self awareness is the first step in creating change in one’s life. If signs start to show that one’s physical or emotional wellness are declining, visiting a doctor or therapist can help identify what one’s stressors are and what solutions are possible. While continuously exerting effort to educate others, Peer Educators must not forget that success in their role depends on their own personal wellness and growth outside of that role. You can get 15 points for responding to the Reflection Questions from this Training Curriculum module.Check out ssdp.org/justsayknow for more information on peer education!Interested in earning CAT points and getting involved?