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40 Ways to Be a Responsible Citizen While Protecting Your Mental Health

Lately I've been getting a lot of questions from clients about what to do given the "heaviness" surrounding the current state of the world. I often joke about how much therapy school did not prepare me for times like this. (I imagine most of us deeply cringed while watching last week's presential debate.)

During sessions I occasionally share ideas about actions steps towards being a more responsible citizen. I aim to focus on what's within one's immediate control to empower people during times that feel so out of control. However, I also want people to protect their overall health when committing to any action, no matter how small.

I want to preface this list of ideas with the reminder that you by no means HAVE to do these things. If these recommendations are beyond your time, means, finances, or mental/physical limits, you are enough. If these things are simply things that you don’t want to do, and choose not to do: you are still enough. You owe it to yourself to take care of you first and foremost.

Here is a comprehensive list of ways to be a responsible citizen, both locally and globally:

Political Engagement

  1. Vote Regularly: Participate in local, state, and national elections. If you are not yet registered to vote, I gently urge you to do so soon. Check out I also strongly recommend signing petitions on important measures between elections.

  2. Stay Informed: Follow reputable news sources to stay updated on current events. I like AP News and NPR. However, for those that need a quick read and trigger warnings, I like

  3. Engage in Dialogue: Discuss political issues respectfully with friends, family, and colleagues. Connecting with others can help us to remain informed, support others, and feel less alone. If conversations become disrespectful, simply pause and redirect. If the conversation turns toxic, establish boundaries* and disengage if needed.

  4. Contact Representatives: Write to or call your local and national representatives about issues that matter to you. The ACLU has tips on how to write to your representatives.

  5. Attend Town Hall Meetings: Get involved in local government discussions and decisions. I would recommend Googling when and where your local ones are. For those on the spectrum, here is a lovely resource on what to expect at a town hall meeting from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Community Involvement

  1. Volunteer: Give your time to local charities, food banks, shelters, and community projects. You can try, Google, or even local Facebook groups.

  2. Support Local Businesses: Shop at local stores and support community entrepreneurs. My personal favorite way to do this is by shopping at my local farmers/artisans market.

  3. Join Community Groups: Participate in neighborhood associations, local clubs, or advocacy groups. Again, Google can help. Local libraries are also great sources of information.

  4. Organize or Participate in Clean-Ups: Help keep your local environment clean and green. And please don't be a litterbug!

  5. Donate: Contribute to causes that matter to you, whether it's through money, clothes, food, or other resources. Organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, make it so easy now to make monthly donations.

Social Responsibility

  1. Practice Inclusivity: Promote and support diversity and inclusion in your community. I feel like this could be its own separate blog post as there are many strategies to go about this at work and in one's community. Here is a great article on specific strategies to implement in the workplace.

  2. Educate Yourself and Others: Learn about social justice issues and share knowledge with others. As a therapist, I can say that this is a lifelong journey for everybody. Aim to practice cultural humility across all life areas.

  3. Advocate for Change: Support policies and initiatives that promote social equity and justice.

  4. Mentor and Support: Offer guidance and support to those who may benefit from your experience and knowledge. You can offer this in your workplace, education setting, or even on LinkedIn.

  5. Participate in Civic Activities: Engage in local civic activities such as attending public hearings, joining advisory boards, or participating in community planning initiatives to help shape the policies and development of your community.

Environmental Stewardship

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Follow the three Rs to minimize waste.

  2. Conserve Energy: Use energy-efficient appliances and turn off lights and electronics when not in use.

  3. Use Sustainable Products: Choose eco-friendly products and reduce single-use plastics. Check out Ethical Consumer if you need help researching companies to shop from.

  4. Plant Trees or Gardens: Contribute to the environment by planting trees or starting a garden.

  5. Support Conservation Efforts: Donate to or volunteer with environmental organizations.

Global Awareness

  1. Support International Causes: Donate to global humanitarian and environmental organizations.

  2. Educate Yourself on Global Issues: Understand the complexities of global conflicts and crises.

  3. Advocate for Human Rights: Support organizations and movements that protect human rights worldwide.

  4. Promote Fair Trade: Purchase products that are ethically sourced and support fair labor practices. Again, Ethical Consumer can help here.

  5. Travel Responsibly: Respect local cultures and environments when traveling.

Personal Development

  1. Continuous Learning: Take courses, attend workshops, and read books to broaden your knowledge.

  2. Practice Empathy: Understand and share the feelings of others, fostering a compassionate community.

  3. Develop Critical Thinking: Analyze information critically to make informed decisions.

  4. Cultivate Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques to maintain mental health.

  5. Lead by Example: Model responsible behavior in your personal and professional life.

Digital Citizenship

  1. Use Social Media Responsibly: Share accurate information and engage in positive discourse. Only share from sources that you know are trustworthy; triple check if necessary!

  2. Protect Your Privacy: Be mindful of the information you share online. Practice healthy boundaries* here to ensure your safety and the safety of others.

  3. Support Digital Literacy: Help others understand and navigate the digital world responsibly.

  4. Advocate for Digital Rights: Support policies that protect online privacy and security.

  5. Be a Positive Influence: Use your online presence to promote kindness, understanding, and constructive conversations. Even if you disagree, everyone deserves a chance at fairness.

Health and Wellness

  1. Prioritize Self-Care: Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Check out my blog post if you need tips and strategies for personalizing your self-care routine.

  2. Support Public Health Initiatives: Follow public health guidelines and participate in community health programs.

  3. Promote Healthy Lifestyles: Encourage healthy eating, exercise, and mental health awareness.

  4. Access and Share Resources: Provide information on local health services and support groups. Share information via social media, directly with loved ones, or in the workplace.

  5. Foster a Supportive Environment: Create spaces where people feel safe and supported to share their concerns. Start or participate in support groups or create safe spaces at work. Always conduct yourself kindly, fairly, and respectfully.

No matter how big or small the actions that you take, you can absolutely make a difference in your immediate community and beyond. Feel free to share this list with your own clients or anyone that could use a boost of empowerment during challenging times.

*A book recommendation I often share with my clients on setting and practicing healthy boundaries is Nedra Glover Tawwab's Set Boundaries, Find Peace.

Feel free to share any additional ideas on being a responsible citizen while protecting your mental health!

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