It's Okay to Take A Break: Why Exhausted Activism Is Counterproductive

Exhausted activism is almost like running a marathon on an empty stomach

Exhausted activism is almost like running a marathon on an empty stomach.

Although activism is an integral part of social change, it can be strenuous and encumbering to consistently read about numerous global issues and act on them, especially in the middle of a stressful pandemic. Furthermore, social constructs such as sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and racism seem to be never-ending battles that introduce new causes of concern daily. Social issues will eternally continue to affront us, but activists may be unable to keep up with all of them.

When streams of appalling, triggering and heartbreaking news stories gush onto our news feeds, the process of reading about them can become unnaturally taxing. Forceful engagement with activism and current affairs leads to extreme activist fatigue. When activists feel too consumed, their passion for advocating about a particular problem begins dying out. Unfortunately, drained advocacy makes activists feel guilty every so often, and this guilt inevitably pushes them to become performative activists for causes they don’t particularly believe in. Not only does performative activism make an insignificant impact, but it also burns an individual out. Nonetheless, there are a few practices you could maintain to continue to deftly fight for what you believe in while sustaining your enthusiasm to learn and speak out about different subjects without burning yourself out.

Firstly, make sure that you’re placing your focus on the concerns you are most vehement about. If an activist attempts to conquer and solve every controversy introduced to them, they’ll end up being excessively burdened and overwhelmed. When you’re genuinely passionate about a certain matter, the urge to cultivate your mind about that issue naturally comes to you. On the other hand, pressuring yourself into advocating against all of humankind’s malpractices in copious fields can make your activism completely unoriginal, especially when you lack education on certain topics. Dispassionate activism ultimately impedes progress. Typically, an individual could choose to read about issues they don’t regularly look into, however, they don’t necessarily have to divert all their attention towards it if they feel a lack of association with it. If a social problem doesn’t speak to you at a deeper level, it may not be the dispute you want to fight. If you’re just beginning your advocacy journey, make sure you explore the different types and fields of activism and foster your mind with a brief of each topic. Then, gradually conduct some detailed research about each field. Over time, you’ll find your true calling, and you’ll be able to faithfully form your own beliefs and opinions about these topics. Prioritize what’s most important to you, and only try to explore different concepts when you feel motivated or empowered.

Moreover, make sure to take breaks regularly! Taking a brief break from reading about distressing issues is not a sign of privilege or ignorance. Knowing when to take a short breather is an essential part of successful, unswerving activism. There are numerous practices you could try out during short resting periods between your unstinting advocacy that will only boost you when you’re back on your game! For strained activists, journaling and diary writing can be a cathartic habit to maintain. It helps release anxiety, and develops self-esteem and respect. 

Try reaffirming yourself by showing gratitude and love towards yourself or others. Try to jot down pointers under categories like, “Qualities that make me a strong person”, “What makes me boldly unique”, “What would I like to unlearn”, or “What am I most grateful for”. No matter what method you use to calm yourself, make sure that you use the resting period as a buffer to rejuvenate your mind, reinstate your confidence, and reflect upon pleasurable things in life regardless of how big or small they are to you!

If you’re a habitual news-reader that wants to stay in the circuit, that’s alright too! Instead of entirely holding off on reading the news, try to focus on positive headlines that discuss the progress activists and change-makers have made, or the good that already exists on Earth. Very often, we’re so tightly swathed by all that’s wrong with the world that we forget to acknowledge our progress. If you take some time off to remind yourself of how far Gen-Z and activists have come, you may be more fueled and motivated to advocate and learn about issues. This could potentially rekindle your internal activist spark! When we look at the brighter side, we’re encouraged to continue our avid fights. 

Unfortunately, many advocates forget to prioritize their personal well-being when fighting for others’ well-being. Although it is critical to help people whenever possible, make sure you’re helping yourself out first, and taking care of your mental health. With an anxious, tensed or depressed mindset, activism can inadvertently become a challengingly demanding aspect of your life. To cleanse your mind of all unnecessary negative or hyper thoughts, attempt meditation and familiarize yourself with the concept. Gradually, make meditation a part of your routine! Headspace, Oak, and Smiling Mind are a few meditation apps you could check out!

Regularity and consistent commitment are simply products of work, passion, and rest. While you cannot obliviously defy issues our world must push through, you are allowed to choose issues that you are most zealous about, so that you can conduct deep research and fight for a cause you care for regardless of what peers pressurize you into selecting. Connect with issues that actually matter to you, not issues that the world forces you to connect with. Activism is chiefly based on your appetite to learn about something. Taking short breaks, keeping up with both negative and positive world events, and choosing to learn about what concerns you most equates to the perfect recipe for efficient, effective, and successful activism. 

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