Activist Burnout: Not this political season

Who would have thought that at 47 years old, I’d become a political activist? Yet here I am, marching, protesting, visiting my state legislators at the Capitol and my federal legislators at their local offices, calling politicians, writing politicians, attending activist meetings, and getting my activist game on. Full court press and balls to the wall, y’all.

Who would have thought that at 47 years old, I’d become a political activist? Yet here I am full court press and balls to the wall, y’all.

From the Women’s March, January 2017.

With all this energy and anger (because, let’s face it, I am really angry about a lot of what’s happening in the country right now), comes the real potential for burn out. Yes, there are days when I feel invincible, excited, and like I’m making a difference. And then there are days that I just want to weep for democracy (immigrants, public school students, women, children in foster care, those needing health care, those in lower income level brackets who are paying more taxes than those in higher income level brackets, those living in poverty, the Earth, science, LGBTQ people, and the list goes on and on almost ad infinitum). There are days I want to punch someone in the face. There are days when I want things to go back to how they used to be.

Can you see a mental breakdown coming?

Well, thankfully, it’s not. But only because I am taking care of myself. And, in the spirit of self-preservation, I recently went to a talk given by social activist and Presbyterian pastor Jim Rigby. He said three things that resonated with me about how to maintain hope when you’re an activist. Here they are.

Recognize that you’re in this for the long haul. The reality is that we may not see the fruits of our labor in this lifetime. We’re working for issues that are decades in the making and they won’t be solved in a single four-year presidential term. So, we have to remember that what we’re doing is for the benefit of future generations.

Stay focused on what you want to achieve. It’s easy to get distracted by what you fear and then to be reactive. But, it’s imperative, if you’re going to effect any change at all, that you keep your eyes on the prize, that you work steadfastly for what you know to be right and for the benefit of all people, that you remain anchored in your principles.

When you start to feel frantic or run down, stop and go to your temple. Do not allow yourself to develop compassion fatigue, to be broken by the enormity of what you’re up against. Whatever your temple is – nature, family, meditation, running, church, reading – go there and go there regularly. Nourish your soul so you can do the work that needs to be done, so you can continue fighting the good fight.

I have a fourth piece of advice to add to Pastor Rigby’s list, and that’s not to linger on social media for long periods of time. Oh my goddess, y’all, Facebook can suck me into a vortex that is both maddening and soul crushing. I’m trying (not very successfully I admit) to spend only a little time in the morning and a little time in the evening and then steer clear of social media for the bulk of the day. Otherwise, I get too worked up and emotionally exhausted. And, I can’t do that.

So, I will continue marching, protesting, paying visits to legislators, and attending lobby days and activist meetings. Full court press and balls to the wall, because I’m in this for the long haul, and my eyes remain on the prize.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

4 thoughts on “Activist Burnout: Not this political season

  1. Elizabeth Pittman

    I haven’t done all that much except stand with the Muslims.. I spend my “free” time participating in the raising of 2 mixed race children with my purpose being that they become thoughtful, compassionate, generous, good citizens. My dear sister has agreed to make me a purple and pink pussy winter hat, and It just dawned on me I can sew pink kitty ears on my summer hat. That will be fun! I’m also contributing to more 501.c.3 outfits whose agendas match mine. I’ll see what I can do in NC beginning next week.
    If you haven’t read it yet, focus your eyes on HILLBILLY ELEGY. You’ll understand some of the folks who voted for Trump. I truly hope he will give them what they need.


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