Keeping your Activist Heart Happy: A Series – part 1

It can be overwhelming, as an activist, just trying to maintain the courage, the energy, the passion to continue the “good trouble”, the good fight.

We’re living with political polarization, 24/7 news cycles, active shooter drills, a global pandemic, and in West Virginia, a legislature that seems more and more conservatively minded. So much that we are fighting for is being blocked. This stress can be overwhelming.

To help, I’d like to share with you some healing tools that have been shared with me, as a way to help us all towards a more Resilient Activism.

For our first one, I’d like to recommend Brene’ Brown’s podcast Dare To Lead, which has been just wonderful. It’s also a book, by the way – more on that later after I’ve finished reading it. You can find Dare To Lead on Spotify. In fact, just about any of her podcasts are just wonderful.

Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and host of the podcast, The Happiness Lab. (Photo cropped from original at - Courtesy Pushkin Industries)

Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University and host of the podcast, The Happiness Lab. (Original image cropped from – Courtesy Pushkin Industries)

Specifically, I’d also like to direct you to an interview of Dr. Laurie Santos, professor of psychology and Head of Silliman Residential College at Yale University, and the host of the popular podcast, The Happiness Lab. It was released November 29th, 2021.

Dr. Santos teaches the most popular course at Yale in the last 300 years, Psychology and The Good Life. The whole course is about evidence based strategies people can use to feel better.

Science shows us that we can change. There are strategies to navigate our negative emotions, find ways to “get in” more positive emotions and social connections to our lives. What is “the right work” we can do to foster more healthy emotions? What can we use to fill our “leaky happiness tire?”

The weird thing is that our minds “lie” to us, through old coping mechanisms and fight-or-flight reactions that are often less than healthy. The biggest intuition “lie” is that more money will make you happy. But, in reality, you get more “bang” for your effort “buck” with growing more social connections and sleeping more. 

Self-compassion and grace are the biggest gifts we can give ourselves during “the big awkward”, the re-socializing of 2022. And, when it comes to working with a team, the biggest gift we can give each other is creating a positive environment that fosters everyone’s creativity,  empowerment, and honest sharing when it comes to how things could be better.

One of the most powerful gifts we can give ourselves is hearing our thoughts and emotions, but recognizing them as just part of the process. Negative, stressful thoughts are just part of the design features of survival, part of a protective instinct. It serves a purpose. But, we can choose to observe, accept, and react differently. Say “Thank You” to anger, to shame, be grateful to strong reactions and their effort to keep us safe, learn from these teachers, and then say “it’s ok, I can handle this”, see them as the outdated coping mechanisms that they are, and then choose a more productive, healthy direction. 

“Befriending the dragon” is a whole other level of grace. 

Prioritizing self-care becomes a powerful example to the rest of your team, and empowers them to do so also. Toxic productivity is not productive. Give each other permission to do things differently, in a more healthful way.

Lastly, here is a big one: Time is a resource that is precious. Overpacking our calendar, feeling like we have a time deficit, is as stressful as becoming unemployed. The good news is that we have some control over this. Leaving room in your calendar, saying “no” to even really cool things we could be doing, is a big part of self-care. We need space to think, create, do nothing, sleep, rest, heal, and then to come back at it all refreshed. 

Let me know what you think about this recommendation, and feel free to share other resources and tools that work for you, so that we can all stay in “good trouble”. 

Eve Marcum-Atkinson is Communications Coordinator for WV Citizen Action and can be reached at

PS: Here is an awesome song about Resilience. Sometimes I play it on repeat to lift my heart. 

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