There are a lot of things to love about congresswoman Alexandria-Ocasio. For starters, she’s for the people and puts the people before politics. She’s Puerto Rican, a Bronx-native and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, making her incredibly relatable. But one of Ocasio-Cortez’s best traits is how she’s constantly keeping things real. She’s been open about things happening in Congress. In fact, she even stirred a ton of controversy after she started using Instagram Stories to lift the veil on Congress. A few weeks ago she chose to wear her hair in a braid to honor her Afro-Latina roots. She’s kept it real about how politicians aren’t paid enough and how she couldn’t afford an apartment in D.C. and she’s fought for interns and staffers in Congress to get paid fair wages. Now she’s taking some time off — a week exactly — to dedicate to self-care because her lifestyle has changed drastically since entering politics.
On Monday, the Democratic Socialist took to Twitter to share why she made the crucial decision to put self-care first after weeks of feeling burned out.
“I’m taking a few days to take care of myself before what is sure to be an eventful term,” she tweeted. “For working people, immigrants, & the poor, self-care is political — not because we want it to be, but bc of the inevitable shaming of someone doing a face mask while financially stressed.”
I’m taking a few days to take care of myself before what is sure to be an eventful term.
For working people, immigrants, & the poor, self-care is political – not because we want it to be, but bc of the inevitable shaming of someone doing a face mask while financially stressed./1 https://t.co/EWdWFmPwet
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) December 17, 2018
She also took to Instagram to post in her stories about her self-care learnings and she brought some pretty important points about why it’s so crucial to practice self-care especially being a woman, a person of color, and an activist.
“I often hear about self-care as “wine and Netflix” but I wanted to learn more. Here’s some initial readings from @amnesty international,” she wrote. “Self-care is important for activists because without it we WILL burn out and walk away. Here are signs of burn out. They have self-assessment you can use for yourself.”
Ocasio-Cortez decided to rent a car and drive to upstate New York for some much needed alone time and documented the whole thing while continuing to share about her burn out.
“Confession time: I am so bad at this. Even though our story exploded 5 months ago, I’ve been campaigning nonstop for two years: through multiple jobs, double shifts, morning commutes on the subway, etc.,” she wrote. “I neglected myself in the process — before the campaign, I used to practice yoga 3-4x/week, eat nutritiously, read and write for leisure. As soon as everything kicked up, that all went out the window. I went from doing yoga and making wild rice and salmon dinners to eating fast food for dinner and falling asleep in my jeans and makeup. We live in a culture where that kind of lifestyle is subtly celebrated as “working hard,” but I will be the first to tell you it’s NOT CUTE and makes your life harder on the other end (you wake up worse, energy all over the place, etc.)
Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist- like politics aren’t necessarily what set her apart. It’s her honesty, her transparency, and the fact that her struggles are so similar to the struggles so many of us deal with on a regular basis that makes us love her. I mean how many politicians do you know getting real about self-care and being burnt out? Aside from Ocasio-Cortez, I don’t know any. She also explained her intention behind sharing this with everyone.
“(I keep things raw and honest here with you all since I believe public servants do a disservice to our communities by pretending to be perfect. It makes things harder for others who aspire to run someday if they think they have to be superhuman before they try,” she adds. “No one in Congress is superhuman — I’ve seen it myself. A lot of campaigns are based on telling a “superhuman” story and I respectfully disagree with that tactic, although many people ARE inspiring. You don’t have to be perfect, but you have to be100 % committed.”
There’s been a lot of discussions in recent years around self-care and self-love — especially on Instagram. But what we don’t talk enough about is what self-care looks like for working-class women of color. For brown and black women self-care is vital. It’s part of our survival. We’re socially conditioned and raised to care and put the needs of others like our family, friends, co-workers, and partners before us and because our self-care is often left for last by the time we make that time for ourselves, we’re beyond burnt out. This is why what Ocasio-Cortez said is so important because self-care for WOC is beyond preservation, it is literally a political act.
To be clear, self-care is not just about having a big glass of red wine in your living room like Olivia Pope from Scandal has become infamous for. It’s not about face masks and lavish spa treatments or vacays. It’s also not a one-time thing or occasion. In fact, self-care is only effective when it becomes a daily practice and it can be as simple as putting yourself first, making time for yourself to decompress, resting, exercising, meditating, or practice mindfulness. It’s about taking a deep breath, silencing the noise and chaos around you, closing off distractions, and paying close attention to how your body feels and your mind and inner emotions feel.
Going back to Ocasio-Cortez, the burdens of activism — especially as a WOC — are beyond overwhelming. They can seriously affect us mentally, emotionally, and even physically if we’re not nurturing and caring for our bodies enough. In today’s climate, if you’re not angry, we say it’s because you’re not paying enough attention to what’s really going on in this world — in this country. With that said, the more reason to make and carve out space for ourselves and to take the time to do the things that make us feel relaxed, calm, at peace, energized, and happy. If we’re going to make any kind of difference in this world, it’s important that we preserve our energy and our mental and emotional sanity. Thanks Ocasio-Cortez for reminding us of just that.