Avoiding Emotional Burnout is an Act of Resistance: Here’s How I do it.

Looking through Facebook posts this morning I felt the need to write an emergency post about how I avoid emotional burnout (not a time management post, but sanity management post). It would not surprise me if the new administration was just pushing through all of this legislation right now to burnout those of us who give a damn and make us sit in our beds drooling in despair. Your first act of resistance is to resist burnout. Maybe this will help some of you continue the hard work ahead:

1. The number one thing I do is work on the root cause of the problems. How can I possibly keep at 100% on environmental justice, racial justice, and economic justice and all of the different issues they include? I work on what I think underlies all of those things. For me it is money in politics, and I would be happy to have you throw any issue at me and I will tell you how money in politics is the root cause. By getting clear on this, I can fight in organizations that work to get money out of politics and know that I am working for all of the causes I care about. After reflection, you may find a different root cause, but I highly recommend getting one, because it is easier to fight with focus.

2. In fighting with focus, I do not just fight the bad, I help to create the good. Because I focus on money in politics, I am on the Fair Elections task force with The People’s Lobby. Here we create and push new legislation that we hope will create a political shift in the narrative that politicians must take money from big donors to win elections. In doing this, I am motivated by a vision for a better future instead of just holding off the apocalypse.

3. Although I spend my time working toward one root cause, I stand in solidarity at every chance I get with other people while they fight for their causes. One of the major problems for activists is that there is a fight between groups for support: funding and members. Ain’t nobody got time for that, right now we must lift each other up and push no activist down.

4. I go to marches. I go to protests. All the time. There are marches all of the time. If you live in Chicago, we have them posted on the events page, if you live elsewhere, I am happy to help you find the resources to find them. The collective mood of the country has shifted so much since Saturday, remember how that felt? Marching in the streets reminds us of our collective power and sanity, we must keep that feeling.

Never forget what solidarity feels like. Never forget your power. Women’s March on Washington (photo credit: Becca Brown).

5. I take refuge in a community of activists. It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am an introvert, in the hours leading up to a meeting and the first few minutes of a meeting, I want to die. But the organizing meetings I go to take away the feelings of helplessness. When I look around and see the diversity of age, race, religion, and purpose in a room full of people who are making a difference, I have the h-word (hope). There are people who have been organizing for decades, there is still so much to learn from them. These reminders that I still don’t know everything are surprisingly comforting. Most of all, being around others who give a damn gives me true joy, and a sense of community which propels me to action.

6. I understand that in some way or another the media I consume needs to manipulate my emotions to survive. This is not evil, but this is true when everything operates via capitalism. They need us to feel so we will click. Our outrage propels their brand and keeps them afloat in trying economic times for any media outlet. This means they must propel our outrage to exist. Knowing this helps me stay sane. I also try to consume media that thoroughly investigates the underlying causes and offers solutions. A close friend just goes straight to the source and listens to C-Span all day, but even I have my limits.

7. I always fight up, in other words “Fight the Power”. This means I work to fight systems instead of my fellow constituents. This makes me less angry and more compassionate. It also leads me to fight things I can change (the system) rather than fight things I have no control over (the chaos of the motivations of millions of random people).

8. I learn about history. I learn about systems of government. I learn that we already lived in dire times of almost certain nuclear war. I learn that we’ve lived in oppressive regimes and that we have often had completely incompetent Presidents. The Untold History of the United States is a great place to start with this. It is comforting to know we have been in terrible times before and we will be again. I also learn about movements, what has worked, and how people unite.

9. I am motivated by my stubbornness. I will not let those in power wear down my spirit no matter what. As soon as they tire us out, they win.

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