A common question I've had and heard from many young activists is "how can we commit ourselves to this kind of work without completely burning out?" Emotional, physical and mental stress are definitely elements of being an activist. And it can be easy for us, especially those of us who have some privilege, to just "take off the activist hat" and walk away. But that's not good.
Let's use the comments section here to share some tips and strategies for avoiding burnout. A few of my own:
1. It is a dangerous thing to define yourself through one passion, interest or characteristic. Some people are completely defined by their relationships, some by their favorite sports team, some by a political view or philosophy, and some by an activist cause. I'm not saying that we shouldn't commit to the issues we are passionate about. But we must not let them devour every part of ourselves. We are all more complex than any single characteristic can show. Have a hobby. Have a friend. Have a sense of humor. Being able to turn your mind to other things once in a while sometimes means you never have to turn your mind away forever.
2. Synergy. For some people, the stress of being an activist is compounded by the stress of having a job, a social life and other responsibilities. Find ways to create overlaps. One example is to find a job that let's you work on the issues you care about. Easier said than done, obviously, but still something to keep in mind. If you can find a way to get paid to do something important, that's a win-win.
3. It's about community. Remember that you're never alone. If you are indeed alone, you're probably doing it wrong. Strong movements are built not on brilliant individuals, but on the way that individuals-- brilliant or otherwise-- play off one another and bring their strengths to bear in the larger group. Talk to each other. Set up a support group, or something as simple as a weekly happy hour or whatever.
4. Do not lose sight of the greater goal. It's very easy to get bogged down in logistics and details and drama and these are the things that usually cause burnout. Remember what you're fighting for.
What else? What other strategies are there to avoid burning out?
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