I can’t reiterate how important self-care is for people working hard, particularly activists who often feel that there is always work to be done, and prioritize struggles for justice over their physical and emotional health. Continuing on, here are three more ways you can prevent activist burnout:
3. Learn to Say ‘No’: I’ll defer to a lovely excerpt from Angry Black-White Girl’s post on self-care and burnout, where she reminds her readers to say learn to say no sometimes:
“I think we activists need to a.) stop treating activism like it’s a competition, b.) trust each other to do the work and live our politics in our own ways, which fit the amount of resources (time and money) we have instead of expecting each other to bend over backwards to go to every vigil and meeting because otherwise how will we ever be effective at creating change in the world? We need to create an activist culture where we actually support each other in setting boundaries and sticking to them and instead of just talking about it.”
4. Disconnect (at least part of the time): This is an especially hard one for me. As a blogger and internet addict, I constantly check my feed reader, email, and newspapers online. While it allows me to take in a lot of information about issues ranging from childcare to healthcare, racial justice activism to LGBT activism, it makes me feel like I can never take a break from the news. While it’s important to educate yourself about what’s going on in your local and global community, don’t forget that news – and acts of injustice (and justice) – will never stop. Disconnect yourself, even for a couple of hours, everyday. If it’s 1 in the morning, don’t feel like you need to reply to that work email right away. When you sit and ask yourself the question, “Do I really need to do this right now?,” you’ll be surprised how many times the answer may actually be “No.” Watch a movie! Go to a park. Read a book (remember those odd smelling paper things?) and remember to…
5. Find (and use!) Support: When I was in college and involved in a lot of student activism, I found that my work and my social life blended together. People I loved and wanted to be with did similar work that I did, which was great. But sometimes we’d get together for dinner and talk about work. We’d take a coffee break and vent about work. Having a space to vent and learn from others’ experiences is very critical because it makes us feel less alone in struggles that often feel daunting. But a wonderful support system can also allow you to have fun and be silly. Family and friends can be wonderful because they may see you moving towards burnout even if you can’t.
Communicate with each other, affirm one another, and remind yourself that activism and justice are, among many things, also about love and compassion. Combined with rest and a little time to yourself, you’ll be a better activist for taking care of yourself along with your community.