Martyrdom? That’s SO 16th Century

There is no arguing that activism is essential work.

 

Activism can turn an ordinary person into a hero. It is the main outlet for teenagers who are not old enough to vote to impact their country’s political environment. Activism can include marching the streets of your city during a protest, organizing events, and posting about a cause on social media. But as rewarding as it may be, activism is actually arduous work. It can often take a toll on the activist’s mental health, no matter how positive their message may be. With the rise of social media and how quickly new information spreads to mass audiences every second of the day, we as a society are constantly bombarded by bad news. And, understandably, this daily flood of information can be overwhelming, especially to activists. 

 

Those advocating for a cause and seeing no progress or even worse news in the media often fall victim to activist burnout. While this is a normal occurrence, it can be damaging to one’s mental health if ignored. That is why we have compiled a list of tips for teen activists suffering from the dreaded burnout:

Hey Alma
  • Recognize the symptoms of burnout. 

Suffering from periodic stress during activism is normal because you are fighting for something you care about, but burnout is different. Burnout is a constant state of stress, a situation in which you may feel exhausted both physically and emotionally. You may struggle with feelings of cynicism and hopelessness due to a lack of progress.

  • Disconnect from social media.

The idea of not being in-the-know can definitely be daunting, but sometimes it is necessary to mentally and physically disconnect from social media to improve. A constant flood of bad news will not help you; and to be able to fight for what is right, you need to be in a good mental state so that your own activism does not take a serious toll on you. Be confident that the fight is not stopping in your absence. Once you get back online, you can continue where you left off.

  • Practice mindfulness.

We may think it is silly to quietly sit and close our eyes to detach from our problems for a few minutes, but meditation actually works. More and more research is being done on the subject by credible universities – including Harvard – and a 2014 literature review on 3,515 participants found that mindfulness meditation shows moderate evidence of improving anxiety and depression. But if you still are not convinced, you can practice simple mindfulness exercises such as taking a walk, breathing deeply, observing nature, or even just listening to relaxing music.

  • Do what you love.

Okay, you might say, “I love activism, though!” But do you march for fun, or do you march because an unjust occurrence drives you to do so? In these times, hobbies are your best friends. Draw, learn an instrument, sing, act, dance—whatever makes you happy. Speaking of friends, you could also spend more time with them. Organize a video call to celebrate small victories with your friends or hang out. It may not seem like it, but joy can help drive you to fight for what you believe in.

  • Exercise. 

It may not seem fun at the start, but exercise calms the mind and body. Exercise forces us to live in the moment instead of focusing on the past or present. Odds are you are not thinking about anything other than your workout when you are doing push-ups. Plus, according to research and health websites such as WebMD, exercising not only releases endorphins – which relieve stress and improve sleep – but it also improves your overall health and energy levels.

  • Know when to take a break.

Recognize that you cannot change the world on your own, and that is not a bad thing. Activism is a collaborative effort; the responsibility does not fall solely on you. You can take a break if you need it; that does not make you or your cause any less worthy.

 

You are doing good work, and fighting so passionately for a cause you believe in is a very admirable quality. You contribute to a change in this world greater than yourself; but remember, you are not alone. You need to take care of yourself to keep doing good.