Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice


An uncomfortable question activists ask when we step back to examine our lives is:

“Will burnout destroy me as an effective,
productive advocate?

How can I change the world when I’m too tired to change my socks?”

In times of dangerous uncertainty, as Brenè Brown says, “vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” We face messy, contradictory intersections where we must regain our footing and somehow take care of ourselves in the midst of struggling for a better world.

We must speak out, take action, make a difference—yet can we remain passionate about a cause without being consumed by it? What habits can we cultivate to feel compassion for ourselves as well as others? Why does constructive willingness to self-nurture evoke such discomfort?

Now the distinctive voice of social change activist Naomi Ortiz offers powerful, thoughtful, transformative insight into self-care. She weaves together personal experiences in class, race and disability advocacy into informative advice on dealing with the risks of burnout. She brings wisdom drawn from her deep connection to the Sonoran Desert to guide us to live more wholehearted lives. The power of belonging is a catalyst that resonates throughout her stories. She offers her techniques with candor, helpfull tips tested through big and small struggles, as tactics for those who would affect the world. 

Find out how to order at Reclamation Press 

What people are saying about
Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice

“Burnout amongst my community is not only real but truly a detriment for the work. [Sustaining Spirit] is a guide book for activists and leaders in social justice movements. It’s a Workbook to use in practicing living well daily; her questions are journal prompts AND therapy [for] the soul.” -Director, Erin Blanding, Global Program Innovation, WE and Co-Founder and Senior Fellow, Borderlands Restoration Leadership Institute 

“Ortiz provides a guide on understanding one’s self and location within a larger universe, practical steps on how to engage in self-care every day, how to hold space for ourselves, our communities, and for the people no longer with us, and how to survive in a world of pain, conflict, and uncertainty.” Alice Wong, Founder, Disability Visibility Project™

“Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice, resonated deeply with me, setting the tone for a poetic and layered journey where the reader is guided to reflect on identity, purpose, and self-care to create personal and social change in a rapidly changing world. Incorporating poetry and narrative from her own experiences as an activist along with interviews from other activists, Ortiz covers a wide range of themes, including how trauma is held in the body, the generational impact of colonization, ableism (oppression of people who are perceived to have cognitive, emotional, and/or physical disabilities), the power of intuition and ancestral wisdom, and how to be aware of our needs and our value. Every page of this spiritual book is a gift, full of poignant stories, poetic metaphors, insightful questions, and practical suggestions to sustain ourselves as activists over the long-term.” Lisa Hoffman, Social Justice Activist

“…[In this] beautifully crafted and exquisitely written book, Naomi Ortiz has given a great gift to those of us whose passionate devotion to social justice activism can too often lead to bodily and spiritual exhaustion. She ends each chapter with finely honed reflection questions that invite us to explore how we can incorporate sustaining self-care into our work on behalf of the communities we love.” -Melanie Morrison, Allies for Change

“Self-care and activism has become a widely discussed subject in activist circles, yet in practice has been often been difficult to implement. With this book, Ortiz has made it both accessible, and most important, possible. She reminds us that we are part of the flow of nature, and helps infuse the spirit in each of us back into our activism. It’s a must-read for those of us doing this work, and a critical reminder that we must care for ourselves too so we can be there for the long term. Adela Nieves, Traditional Health Practitioner, Taino (Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean)”