Alyssa Keegan is a whole-person coach and certified peer counselor at Fresh Path NY who specializes in alternative lifestyles and non-monogamous relationships. Keegan, who is queer and nonbinary themself, works with many LGBTQ+ clients. News is Out asked Keegan to share their thoughts on self-care, in particular for those who are working or volunteering in LGBTQ+ activism. With so much anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric recently, decompressing can be challenging, especially when the fight doesn’t end at the end of the work day.
What is self-care?
Self-care can mean different things to different people. For Keegan, it’s about balance.
“I used to give away all of me in service of others’ needs because I thought it meant I was showing love,” Keegan says. “But I wouldn’t give that care to myself, so was always drained. I have learned I need to give myself at least equal to, if not more time for self-care.”
What are some of the ways you can take some of your time back?
“The consistent ways I do this include a habit of quiet morning meditation and coffee before anyone is awake so I have alone time before things get busy,” says Keegan. “I have also learned to release a little of my perfectionism, which has given me much more room for self-compassion.”
Dealing with burnout
When dealing with negativity and overwhelming amounts of work, burnout can sneak up on people. In an environment where an individual is constantly facing adversity, the symptoms of burnout may not be obvious until it’s too late. We asked Keegan to share some of the signs of burnout. They are:
- Trouble thinking or overthinking/catastrophizing/storytelling/hypervigilance
- Nervous system dysregulation, like you’re just trying to survive the day
- Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
- Sleeping too much (10 hrs or more)
- Coping mechanisms to avoid discomfort like abusing food/alcohol/substances, doom scrolling/excessive screen time, overindulging in retail “therapy” and so on.
Taking stock of these signs and how they are affecting your day-to-day can help with mental and physical health in the long run.
Do I really need self-care?
There’s a vulnerability in being able to recognize that one needs to engage in self-care. For some, that vulnerability can feel like a weakness. However, asking for help or taking time for oneself is a sign of strength. Self-care can also be a long-term coping skill.
“Maybe self-care seems indulgent in the short term and managing without it is possible for a time,” says Keegan. “But in the long term, the effects of lack of self-care can cause innumerable mental health issues and physical pain from stress/anxiety/depression. Self-care is a long-game benefit, so be nice to your future self and carve out time to be generous now. You’ll thank yourself later.”
The self in community
It can be difficult to escape negativity and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment when it’s in the news, on social media and in our daily lives. That can compound symptoms of burnout, so self-care is of utmost importance. Keegan suggests starting close to home.
“I would say tend to you and your circle first and foremost. Nourish yourself and those you love. It’s not selfish, it’s strategy,” says Keegan. “There are a lot of battles left to fight and if we are not strong and well cared for, our cup will not be full enough to manage the battles ahead.”
Keegan, an LGBTQ+ advocate, finds immersing themself in queer spaces can be a form of self-care. Being surrounded by other LGBTQ+ people helps Keegan feel less alone.
“I also meditate on my identity and reinforce that even if I experience microaggressions in the form of invalidation or prejudice, I know who I am and I am good. I know this, I practice this, I share this with others. Self-worth is self-care.”