Maintain Your Activism Without Losing Your Mind
Last week, I talked about a variety of resources to help you figure out what, exactly, to do to resist the Trump administration’s odious policies. Many of us are passionate about choosing our “battle stations” – the causes we will fight to protect – and spending all of our energy on them.
But all of that fighting is exhausting. Activist burnout is a common problem…and we’re only a couple of weeks into the battle. So I’ve put together a little guide on maintaining your sanity and energy while you’re out there defending your chosen piece of American values.
The Crazy We’re Resisting
First, let’s take a look at what we’re up against, courtesy of this video by Keith Olbermann:
This video illustrates the sheer chaotic nature of the administration – and the importance of point number one:
Choose Your Battles Carefully
Most of us have a lot of causes we hold dear, from women’s rights to LGBTQ rights to church-state separation and more. And sometimes it feels like every one of those causes is being attacked, all at the same time, which makes it hard to focus your energy. This chaos can start to make you feel like you’re coming apart at the seams.
Breathe. Take a step back. Regroup and reorganize. Recognize that you’re one person, and you can’t fight every single battle. Pick a couple of your most important hot-button issues, and find ways to divide your attention between them without becoming exhausted.
If you try to stand up for everything, you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t be as effective. By taking time to prioritize the causes you’re most passionate about, you’ll be better able to direct your energy.
Recognize the Signs of Burnout
I have anxiety disorder. Because of that, I am keenly aware of how the stress of activism affects a person, both physically and mentally. You can start feeling isolated or irritable, and building anxiety can lead to fatigue, insomnia, and even physical pain or illness.
Be mindful of these signs of burnout, and take time for self care before your stress turns into an all-out breakdown. Which leads me to:
Develop a Self Care Plan
It may seem kind of obvious that you need to take time do do something enjoyable now and then, but when you’re caught up in activism (or even just caught up in the latest anxiety-inducing news on your Facebook wall) it’s easy to forget.
That’s why you need to plan for self care now, before you get past the point of breakdown. Create a routine that balances your activism efforts with hobbies, relaxation routines, spending time with friends and family, and anything else that helps you center yourself.
You also need to take a break now and then – and don’t beat yourself up for doing so. Passion for a cause can make us feel guilty anytime we’re not actively fighting for that cause. But by not allowing yourself to take time off, you’re pushing yourself more quickly toward the point of burnout.
Only you can decide what kind of break you need – whether you just need to stop and breathe now and then, or take a full vacation from activism.
Being passionate and resisting the erosion of the things we hold dear is admirable. But if you don’t take time to focus on your own needs, your energy and enthusiasm will fade.
Take care of yourself, and you’ll be better able to take care of others.