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Why Choosing an Issue Can Be a Form of Self-Care When You're Politically Active


When I first began working in the corporate sector, a conservative colleague who eventually became a dear friend discovered I was a liberal.

She asked me a question I’d never been asked before and that took me aback. “What’s your issue?”

I was perplexed. I’d never been asked that question. I asked for clarification.

She told me she felt everyone has one or two topics that mean the most to that person above all, the ones that drive his or her votes above all others.

I’ve always considered my issues to be the entire liberal agenda with very few exceptions. There are so very many issues of concern: LGBTQ rights, women’s reproductive rights, marijuana legalization, education, racism, climate change, gun control, immigration, taxes and more. I had never considered I might have some issues I consider “my issues” above all others.

This friend’s question made me realize that while we can stand up for all those issues that are important to our moral and political ideals as a community, we’ll burn out quickly if we attempt to tackle all of them at once. Contacting legislators, writing letters and working for the organizations that target and advance specific a cause, while helping and speaking out for other causes when necessary, can prevent battle fatigue.

I know firsthand. In my experience, the left is being assaulted on all fronts. After the 2016 election, I almost drove myself off the wall trying to fight every single issue of the day. I felt besieged on every single side and thus overwhelmed. I kept spreadsheets of state legislation on all issues, trying to track who I needed to contact and what I needed to do. I called my representatives; I sent postcards on every issue. I felt like I was playing Whack-a-Mole.

Maybe my friend who asked me to narrow down my “issue” had the right idea to prevent exhaustion in this perilous time when the news cycle is bombarding us with frightening news daily.

I certainly know people for whom climate change is their main issue though they certainly care about other problems facing the country. I have close friends for whom LGBTQ issues are their primary focus while they still march and express outrage on other subjects when necessary. I know moms who work tirelessly for gun control, but will call a congressman in a heartbeat if called upon to help save health care.

Not to say we shouldn’t speak out on every injustice, but choosing one or two issues to which we devote much of our energy, into which we become enmeshed in the cause, can help us avoid the despair and burnout that comes with this period in our nation’s history.

Choosing the issues on which to focus when fires are raging in all areas can be difficult. I find myself trying to focus on the areas in which I feel like I can contribute the most, areas which concern my family the most or about which I feel most passionate. However, finding one’s main issues on which to concentrate, instead of frantically trying to single-handedly put out all fires that are attacking, can be a vital step towards self-care.

Follow this journey on Jen Screams Into the Abyss.

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Getty image via Melpomenem