If you, like me, have been feeling a little down from the constant onslaught of frankly overwhelming news recently, here are some small actions you can take that really do make a difference.
Think Global, Act Local
The internet gives us access to the entire world, which means that we are now constantly aware of the fact that there are problems everywhere, seemingly all of the time. Systemic change is desperately needed across the board, and while it’s absolutely not on any one individual to make those changes, it’s important to remember that there are ways for individuals to make a very real and tangible impact close to home.
Take a look around your community and see what kind of support you can offer to those around you. Consider volunteering at or donating to a food bank, gathering some friends and cleaning up some garbage at a local park, or even dropping off some food to a friend who’s had a hard day.
While it can sometimes feel like you have to have a particular skill set to make a difference, that is absolutely not true. We are all members of our community, and our actions matter. No matter what your specialty or interests, there is a role for you.
Support individuals directly
Donating to organizations is always helpful, but even more impactful is giving money directly to individuals you want to support. If you want to see more art made by BIPOC folks, for example, pay your favourite creators directly! They likely have a Patreon, Ko-Fi, or even just a PayPal tip jar.
Supporting small businesses is another great way to help people. There’s a meme that I often see circulating around social media that reads: “When You Buy From A Small Business An Actual Person Does A Little Happy Dance”. It’s actually much more than that. A purchase from a small business can help someone afford groceries, rent, medication, and more, and supports them in continuing to do what they love. And that’s a very real impact.
There is always, always more to learn.
Radical in progress has free study guides and summaries available for many major important social justice books. Maybe pick one and discuss with friends. An Aisle team member is reading Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown with friends this summer, each sharing a favourite essay with the group.
Remember also that learning doesn’t need to be limited to books or films. Learning a new skill, like bystander intervention, community organizing or even joining a skill sharing group can be different ways to learn and grow your understanding.
Talk to your representatives
We’ve seen they can make big changes when feeling pressure (see: COVID-19 & vaccinations) so let’s keep amping up that pressure. You can call them, email them, or even send a hand-written letter. If you’re not sure what to say, there are plenty of scripts available online, or you can try hosting a letter-writing session with friends where you all tackle writing a paragraph about a specific issue you care about.
Treat yourself with gentle kindness
Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. You need to look after yourself.
Try downloading an app like #SelfCare, which is a soothing app that has little mini-games to help with anxiety and grounding, or Prompted Journal, which is a free journaling app that provides a prompt a day for reflection with a gentle and minimalist design.
Remember that there is a difference between staying informed and doom-scrolling. I’m certainly not in a position to judge anyone for their social media usage, but it’s helpful to check in with yourself and maybe disconnect and go do something else if you’re finding that you’re just feeling anxious. Setting boundaries around your devices and social media can definitely help with this.
Don’t forget the basics either - sleep, food, and taking any necessary medications. Also, go drink a big glass of water right now. You’re probably dehydrated.
It is hard these days to not give in to despair. I’m pretty sure we all feel it. However, it is vitally important to not give up. We all deserve a better world, and while getting there is an impossible task for just one individual, with millions or billions of individuals working towards that goal, it is possible.
As Mariame Kaba, author of We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice says: “It’s work to be hopeful. It’s not like a fuzzy feeling. Like, you have to actually put in energy, time, and you have to be clear-eyed, and you have to hold fast to having a vision. It’s a hard thing to maintain. But it matters to have it, to believe that it’s possible, to change the world.”