Rest Is Not The Enemy Of Change

2/4/21

By: Hina Haider

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There is no universal, objective standard for social justice; the concept is complex enough to define, let alone measure. Last year was a year of turmoil, and as we reflect on the progress we have made, there still seems to be a never-ending exposure to negative news. Months and months of facing the reality of inequality and racism, yet we are nowhere near done. And that’s okay, as you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The deeper concern that activists have come across is how to deal with social justice burnout and activism fatigue. Dealing with burnout, whether it’s due to the toll of activism or being a student in the pandemic, can be difficult. February 4th is Time to Talk day, dedicated to starting conversations about mental health. Mental health stigma is a widespread issue and in these tumultuous times, it’s important to recognize your limits and take care of yourself. 

Activism fatigue can be described as when the ‘“fire of enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to the cause has burned out, leaving behind the smoldering embers of exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness.” Activists often struggle with the slowness of change. The feelings of powerlessness can be detrimental, leading to people losing spirit in the work they were previously passionate about and disengage. It can seem like once you start making a change towards one issue, more arise. Burnout can also be caused by 24-hour news, constantly being faced with the detail of local and global disasters. The enormity of the obligation to make a change can be paralyzing and take a toll on your mental health. 

Activism burnout can be seen in many social movements, but an issue that is not largely discussed in the effects of activism on mental and emotional health. Often, activists make personal connections with the issue they are fighting against if they aren’t individually affected. There is an inherent difficulty when you are looking into issues and injustices. With online activism, it feels like an uphill battle with no end in sight. New issues arise constantly and it’s impossible to keep up. This often leads to activists feeling discouraged and exhausted. Internalizing these sufferings leads to a sense of fatigue that infiltrates every part of your life. It’s important to realize that you can’t make a difference without taking care of yourself first. It’s okay to disconnect from social media if you feel overwhelmed. Taking a break doesn’t mean you aren’t devoted to a cause. Rest is not the enemy of change. 

The sentiment that focusing on yourself during times of stress and feeling overwhelmed can be said for students. Student burnout during the pandemic is an issue that many are starting to touch on. Symptoms for burnout can be little to no motivation, insomnia, exhaustion, and amplified anxiety. A study by the National Library of Medicine published found that around “71 percent of students were experiencing increased levels of anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.” Dealing with burnout can be difficult, but it all starts with knowing yourself and your limits. Starting conversations about mental health is the first. Taking time to evaluate your stressors and finding ways to tackle them can be beneficial. Time to Change is an initiative designed to end the stigma around mental health, and also the founder of Time to Talk Day. On their website, you can find resources on mental health.