By Quinn Nystrom, MS, National Diabetes Ambassador at Center for Change

This past month I had the incredible opportunity in participating in my first protest, as well as an annual diabetes advocacy event called Call to Congress in Washington, D.C. I often say to people that being an activist is one of the best things that I’ve ever done for my mental health. When I kept my secrets of living with type 1 diabetes and/or an eating disorder, it was me that was struggling, not anyone else. This is why I love the quote from Brene Brown that says, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy–the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

I think the most difficult part about being an activist is that you’re putting yourself out there in a very public way with your personal story and where you stand on a certain issue…and you certainly can get people who will fight against you on that. My tip to people is have a strong sense of who you are, and why you’re so passionate about an issue. That way, if criticism does come, you take it with a grain of salt, but still stand firm. As for tips for taking care of your mental health, I tell people only tell the parts of your story you’re comfortable with. If it gives you more anxiety, don’t do it. Lastly, you need to make sure that self-care is still an integral part of your life. For me, I knew that because I was in Washington, D.C. for three days advocating on behalf of people with diabetes and then taking part in the March for our Lives event, that I would take two days off for personal time and to unwind. If you burn yourself out, the important work can’t continue.

It’s easy to look around us and think that the problems that our world is facing are so gigantic, seeming nearly impossible to change for the better. We may not even know where to begin. But my advice is just that, just begin. One small step at a time gets us that much closer to creating change.