This work isn’t pretty or comfortable. It can break you if you let it.

With the recent wave of police brutality against my Black community, I haven’t been sleeping well. My mind races every minute of every day with anxious and action-driven thoughts:

How am I going to fight this?

If I protest, what are the possible consequences for me as a dark-skinned Black woman?

What kind of legal protection do I have?

Did I donate enough?

Have I responded to all of the check-in messages from my friends?

Did I send article links to non-Black friends who want to shut down anti-Blackness?

Did I eat today?

It’s no surprise that I’ve been waking up with headaches each day of the uprising.

I’ve been barely holding on during a pandemic that has disrupted life as we know it. The virus has been killing my community at unrelenting rates, and my own father is recovering from COVID-19.

After the recent inhumane killings of even more unarmed and innocent Black people, after generations of protests against anti-Black domestic terrorism, the world seems open to the possibility that Black lives have value.

What a time to be alive.

Even though I’ve made it my professional and personal mission to fight for the equity and empowerment of Black people and other communities of color, I’m struggling to pace myself and find balance. Though I know I shouldn’t, I constantly ask myself if I’m doing enough.

At the same time, I sometimes have mixed feelings about my work.

Strategic, long-game anti-racism can feel selfish and privileged when I see Black people getting killed every day.

History tells me that attempts at solidarity from self-proclaimed “allies” will be a cycle of their personal disbelief, outrage, empty social media posts, one-time donations to Black organizations, and fragile exhaustion.

Still, I know that uprooting anti-Blackness and other forms of racism requires all of us. I struggle with that as I try to care for my mental health. While I wish I could say that I’m flawlessly succeeding at protecting my energy in this fight, I know I’m not.

In my better moments, I’ve found the following strategies immensely helpful. I offer them to anyone who genuinely wants to dedicate themselves to dismantling racism for the rest of their lives.

Build your strategy

To dismantle anti-Blackness and other forms of racism means that you’re deliberately challenging and unlearning all the problematic messages you have received from films, books, education, and casual conversations with friends, family, and partners.

It means that you’ll be thinking critically about what you’ve come to believe about your own race and the races of others in witnessing who has power in our institutions and who does not.

This work isn’t pretty or comfortable. It can break you if you let it.

Take time to think about your strengths and how they fit into your short- or long-term strategy. Organizers, activists, educators, and philanthropists all have their roles to play. If your strength is financial, automate your donations to organizations that are anti-racist.

If you’re an activist, think about spaces to regularly challenge anti-Black racism, whether on social media, at your job, or at the parent-teacher association. Continue to voice the uncomfortable issues.

Schedule time to recharge

This is probably one of the hardest commitments in anti-racism work, but it’s absolutely necessary.

First, accept that you can’t fight any battle on empty. It’s a disservice to you and to others. It’s also a losing strategy.

You have the right to use your mental health days, sick days, or vacation days to recharge however you see fit. If you need to go on that walk that you’ve been putting off, binge Netflix, cook a delicious meal, or simply grieve, take your time.

Because you likely aren’t accustomed to deliberately caring for yourself in this way, make it a regular practice. Schedule time on your calendar, and try to stick with it as best you can.

Set boundaries

It’s vital for you to be clear on what is and isn’t worth your time and energy as you become more committed to anti-racism. That means practicing saying no to people, causes, and tasks that take time away from anti-racism work.

You can learn to say no and redirect those who want you to unpack their recent discoveries of anti-Black racism and other forms of oppression. You can learn to say no to social media trolls who want to bait you into a losing argument.

You may even have to delete your social media apps altogether, or at least step away from them for prolonged periods of time. It’s OK to take a break.

Call in reinforcements

One of the many consequences of racism is that people of color have been left with the exhausting role of educating white people.

When you add anti-Blackness and colorism to the mix, many Black people are forced into the role of teacher (amidst racial trauma) while white people are insulated from their own research, reflection, and action.

Call in reinforcements! If you know any friends, teammates, or co-workers who call themselves racial allies, ask them to interject the next time you find yourself in the role of spokesperson or educator. Forward them the emails you’ve received for additional resources on anti-racism.

Send your allies invitations to serve on racial equity committees that have burned you out. Explicitly mention why you’re redirecting people.

Remember your wins

Racism is so woven into the fabric of American life that any victory against it, whether it’s getting a law passed, removing Confederate statues, or finally getting your company trained in how to discuss racism, can feel like a drop in the bucket.

In your strategic approach to sustained anti-racism work, make sure to keep track of your wins. No win is too small to highlight, and each one is essential to building your stamina.

Your wins matter, just like all the work you do.

Hold on to your joy

Take a moment to think about the people, places, or experiences that bring you the most joy, no matter the circumstances. It could be a family member or dear friend, dancing, surfing, cooking, or being in nature.

Close your eyes and transport yourself to your most joyful memory of that experience if you’re physically unable to be there. Stay there as long as you need to feel grounded. Allow your joy to refuel you and set you in motion toward continued anti-racism.

It’s easy to get exhausted as we conquer one peak only to find another waiting for us on the other side. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break to recharge and take care of ourselves. It’s the only way we can meet the next obstacle with our full strength and commitment.

Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup, and you do your best work when you’re at your best.

Giving yourself the care you need and deserve is a revolutionary act in itself.

Zahida Sherman is a diversity and inclusion professional who writes about culture, race, gender, and adulthood. She’s a history nerd and rookie surfer. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.