I don’t talk about activism much in this space. I try to reserve this space for mostly talking about delicious food and practical lifestyle hacks, their benefits, and how to get those benefits for your health goals, mostly around hormonal conditions. During the pandemic I’ve also talked a lot about managing stress and preventing burnout, but what about activist burnout?
Like so many I’ve been angry and heartbroken with the state of the world, at a loss for words most days with the sheer breadth of harrowing information to absorb. And while my anxiety inhibits me from physically leaping into the fray, recognizing also the inherent privilege afforded me in being able to even choose not to, I’ve been doing as much as I can from behind a screen; reading, learning, listening, signing, donating, signal-boosting.
I do feel it’s important to remember that these boiling point issues are so very vast and any resolutions will require the shoulders of many to bear their weight.
Trying to do everything, support every cause at all times, sacrificing all your time and energy and well-being because it’s still not enough, is a quick path to activist burnout. There are so many people and organizations, petitions and fundraisers and protests, rulings and appeals and so much more to which to lend your support and aim your outrage, and you want to give everything you can to each one.
You may also find yourself pressured or guilted into doing more and more within your group of peers, that you must perform specific duties toward the cause; or else you might be told outright you’re not doing enough, that what your activism looks like is incorrect, that you’ll be labeled as “not a real activist” (this may also translate to “not vegan enough”, “not humanitarian enough”, etc.).
You’re still only one person, with one set of shoulders.
And as fraught and urgent as these issues are, fortunately, like so many struggles before, there are so many other compassionate people putting their shoulders into it.
As a Dungeons & Dragons nerd I also find it helpful to think of all the energy – physical, mental, emotional – you spend in a day like spell slots, or your capacity for casting spells. You can only expend so many spells in a day before your capacity (or spell slots) is depleted, and they’re only restored after a long rest. Everyone’s number of spell slots is different, but they’re all finite and need to recharge eventually. (This is very similar to Spoon Theory.)
So to whoever needs to see this:
If you need to put down your burden, or take a long rest to recharge your spell slots, it’s okay. We all need rest and refreshment. We need care and gentleness. We need to nourish ourselves with food and self-love.
Your activism is not diminished for needing to rest your shoulders and recharge your spell slots today. Allocate some time to get that rest physically and emotionally, however that looks to you. Log off Twitter. Get on the yoga mat. Bake cookies. Sleep.
Tomorrow you can re-check your stats, prep your spells for the day, and roll back into the movement.