If you’re involved in social justice activism and campaigning in any form, you’re probably familiar with the deepseated physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion that can come hand in hand with caring.
This ‘Activist Burnout’ comes in many forms, and it is personal to each and every one of us. You can spot it, however, because it persists over time, happens in more than one situation, it isn’t confined to just when you’re actively campaigning – and when you start to withdraw from the causes you feel so passionately about.
For me, it manifests as a persistent fatigue and listlessness, as if the notion of peacefulness and contentment is perpetually beyond reach. I get disheartened because I am intrinsically immersed in the very systems I wish to challenge, and I become acutely aware that I can never do enough. It’s a constant awareness; with social media playing such a daily role in my life, there’s no escaping the stream reporting on the oppressions and inequalities we see around us. It tires me to the bone.
Of course, motivation, inspiration, and energy ebb and flow naturally over time; that’s totally okay and nothing to be concerned about. However, for those of us involved in advocacy work (often on top of our full time ‘day jobs’) the reality of a culture of selflessness and the tendency to neglect our own wellbeing, combined with constant exposure to highly-emotive issues and conflict, means that we’re at particular risk of letting things come crashing down around us.
- Insomnia, or general difficulty sleeping
- Activism becoming more ‘have to’ than ‘want to’
- Inability to make decisions
- Pervasive feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of focus and passion
- Reduction/increase in appetite
- Temper loss and anger issues
- Physical exhaustion
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the process of dealing with and healing from Activist Burnout will be unique to you. That said, there’s a few simple things you might want to think about doing when considering how to handle your healing process;
- Stick to a bedtime routine which will allow you to get 8 hours sleep
- No screens after 10pm
- Take a long, hot shower or bath
- Do a short meditation (I love the Mindfulness app)
- Join a club or group in your area that has nothing to do with activism
- Listen to music
- Go for a walk
- Eat healthily and regularly
- Go for coffee with a friend
- Ask for help – people in caring positions often forget that they need to lean on people too!
These may sound overly simplistic, but this is your starting point of self care. We have to be selfish. We have to make time for ourselves. Self care is, and I truly believe this, revolutionary.