This blog was inspired by a conversation I had with fellow ECBC babe, Jen, whilst we were marching around Manchester on the Global Climate Strike on 21st September. The march was great- filled with love, compassion and a real, vibrate-the-air desire for change. However, it was easy to see how overwhelming an event like this could be for someone dealing with any level of anxiety. Crowds of thousands of people. Lots of noise and bustle. The potential for things to happen that you don’t expect.
Often feeling unsure can hold us back from things that we want to do. There are many small steps we can take to help to mitigate these feelings of stress or worry both before and during a protest, instead focusing on the frustration we have about the issue we are protesting for and allowing that to propel us forward. However, protesting on the streets is not the only form of activism, or even the most important. There are lots of equally influential and effective ways to raise your voice and demand change that you can do from your home or within your social circle.
Whatever your fighting for, anxiety shouldn’t hold you back.
“There are only two reactions to climate change: resignation or resistance. We can submit to death, or we can use the prospect of death to emphasize life.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
Going to an Organised Protest
1. Be prepared
Knowing what is going to happen can help to remove the uncertainty and mentally prepare yourself. You should be able to find details of locations and timings for different parts of the events online before the day, which will help you plan your transport in and out. Also, just as a general point, make sure you take a bottle of water, clothing suitable for the weather and maybe a snack.
2. Stay where you feel safe
If you’re still feeling a bit nervous about the crowd size or want to assess the vibe, maybe start off observing from a little distance or go early before the crowd has built up. You could even break up the day and go to the sections you are most interested in or feel comfortable with. For example, you might not want to march through the streets, but you’d like to stand at the side and listen to the speakers. You might also find that once you have experienced a small part of it, you feel more relaxed and comfortable with getting involved in other parts.
3. Go with people you trust
Going with friends, family or colleagues who respect and will respond to your needs can be a useful support system, allowing you to be as involved or quiet as you need. If you don’t know these people, you might be able to find some like minded people online and go along with them.
4. Get involved
Join in with the chants or nod and clap along to inspirational speakers, take lots of photos to share on social, collect stickers and leaflets from organisations- actively engaging with what is going on around you will help you feel more involved and fired-up, helping to distract you from any creeping anxious thoughts.
5. Keep checking in with yourself
Note how you are feeling and access your limits throughout the day. There will inevitably be times you feel more anxious. Try to let this feeling come and go. It is just your body’s way of checking you are safe. Take evidence from what is around you and remind yourself why you are there supporting whatever cause in the first place. But, if the feeling doesn’t subside, don’t be ashamed if you need to walk away for a bit, go home, or to another safe place.
Other ways to get involved
1. Show support online
Social media has its downsides, but it is a great place to meet likeminded people and organisations, and find little ways to support them, from sharing their message to spreading the word about their events. This leads nicely on to…
2. Get creative
You don’t have to take to the streets to get your voice heard. Getting involved in creative projects, making signs, badges or leaflets for friends going to protests, helping to come up with slogans, putting together a video or writing a blog post about the issue are all valid ways to promote the cause.
Donating money or needed supplies to organisations you align with is a great way to support them. However, it doesn’t have to be monetary. Offering your time can be just as important and there are lots of different levels to doing this. Organisations and charities might need people to lend their talents and skills or are just looking for people to come and do some admin. Get in touch and see where you can lend a hand! Obviously not everyone one will be able to do this, but if you have the resources, it’s a great way to spend your time and volunteering can also be beneficial to our wellbeing. [LINK]
4. Write letters
Writing to MPs or large businesses and asking them to support environmental issues in their policies and actions can be hugely influential. Some organisations and charities also set up templates where you can fill in your details to help you find the right local MP or council person and give you an outline of what to include in your email to them.
5. Sign petitions and vote
Obviously, I am not here to tell you who to vote for but taking the issues you care about to the voting booth is one of the strongest ways you enact change. You can also add your name to focused, official government petitions; anything over 10,000 signatures will get a response or potentially debated in Parliament.
*Recognise your contribution is valid in whatever form it takes
Giving a shit about anything takes energy. Doing something about it takes even more. It is so easy to just sit back, chalk it up as someone else’s problem and do nothing. But even by doing something as simple as reading this blog or thinking about what role you can play is a huge step forward. Take pride in any action you take to make change happen!
And, no matter how you are helping to support the causes that matter to you, don’t forget to take care of yourself first and foremost. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Thank-you for joining me for our Eco-October campaign, I hope it was helpful and reminds you that perfection is not the answer to this problem, caring enough to make a change is.