5 Ways to Prevent Activist Burnout: Part I

The last month has been crazy for me. My freelance work has me with my eyes glued to a screen for 50 hours or more a week. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be employed but creating balance in my life has been a struggle. I’m working, blogging, and have recently joined the Young Women’s Leadership Council in  order to become more involved as a reproductive justice advocate.

I feel myself getting burnt out.

Then I check Facebook and Gmail statuses of all the young people of color I know who are teachers and organizers and bloggers and they are burnt out as well. With those individuals in mind, I wonder about how young people of color can find the balance between staying invested in the work we do everyday, while making sure we take care of ourselves. Activist work, when we are personally affected by the issues at hand, can suck us dry of our energy and well being. Does avoiding burnout mean avoiding work that aims for racial and social justice?
I don’t think it has to.
Since we can’t all go to the spa and take relaxing vacations to help us recover from the day-to-day, I’ve put together 5 of the most basic ways to avoid burnout without avoiding the issues you care about.

1. Sleep well. I might be starting off with the hardest one. Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult based on where you’re living, how you’re living, and what you’re living with in your life. You may finally get yourself onto a bed but it’s important to allow your brain to unwind a little, lest you end up having dreams about worst-case-work-scenarios. Take care of your body before you rest (brush your teeth!) and avoid looking at work related things right before you go to bed. There are going to be times where you work long hours and burn the midnight oil – but make sure you don’t let those times be every night! The very last thing you do before sleeping should help you to relax – a bath? Caffeine-free tea? A quiet conversation? And of course, aim to go to bed on the earlier end of the night.

2. Find creative outlets. I firmly believe that young people of color must find a way to document their stories.  Whether it be painting, writing, blogging, singing, performing – we need creative outlets to allow us to reflect on the work we are doing and where we are in our lives but also to find time to do something outside of our work. Even a few minutes to jot down the things we’re mulling over can help us make the things that seem overwhelming more manageable – a kind of meditation, if you will.

I don’t want to burn you out with too long a post so I’ll continue my list of ways to avoid activist burnout on Wednesday. Until then, rest up and brush the dust off that old journal you’ve got as a gift but never opened! And remember that taking care of others and being able to do important work relies on taking care of ourselves.


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