Staying Politically Active When You Are Exhausted From…2020

The year of 2020 is winding down to a close and it’s been a roller coaster ride. Between coping with a global pandemic, reaching a tipping point in the Black Lives Matter movement, national protests, and in its final months witnessing America’s most contentious election in history, it has been a tough time for everyone. While trying to process the events of this year, many people have kicked their social and political activity into high-gear because as much as we may want 2020 to end, the challenges we face as a country will not just evaporate into thin air when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. At this point, it is understandable to feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained. So how do we keep the momentum going? Here are a few suggestions on how to stay politically active when you are exhausted from 2020:

1. Narrow Down Your Scope and Prioritize

We are living in one of the most informed (and paradoxically misinformed) periods in history. We literally have access to countless libraries of information at our fingertips. We have the ability to learn of events as they are happening domestically and across oceans. While all of this information is useful and connects us as a global society, it can become all consuming, leading to compassion fatigue or even burn out. It is important to stay informed and admirable to care about world events, but it’s not a reasonable expectation to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. No one has the emotional bandwidth to emotionally invest in everything, there is just not enough time in a single lifetime and as humans we are not equipped for it.

An effective way to keep engaged is to narrow down the causes you care about and focus on a few key issues. Pick one or two subject matters that you feel strongly about and devote your time and energy to those areas. Just because you aren’t tangibly rallying behind every cause doesn’t mean you don’t care. While we have the power to make a difference, no one expects you to be Wonder Woman. Prioritizing one or two issues doesn’t make you careless or lazy; it makes you effective.

2. Have An Accountability Partner

Accountability partners are not just for the gym. Get yourself an activist accountability partner. Find a friend or family member who is interested in the same social issues as you, or even someone who just wants to be more politically engaged. Even if you are passionate about different causes, together you can set tangible goals such as hours volunteered, emails sent to elected officials, or fundraising targets. In doing so, you can support each other in your social initiatives, be buddies when attending different events, and also have someone to lean on when times get tough.

3. Do A Good Deed

Systematic racism and climate change are crucial issues, but the fight for equality and the planet are massive undertakings. Progress will happen, but it will take a considerable amount of time. There will be points where you feel as though none of the work is making a difference. It’s important to consider that small acts of kindness make a difference, too. Next time a stranger approaches you for a couple dollars, consider being generous or offering to buy them a meal if you have the means. Hold the door open, send Postmates to a friend who is having a tough day, or volunteer at an animal shelter. There are countless ways to do good in the world, and regardless of how small the act is, the impact will always be significant. Also, research shows that random acts of kindness are good for your mood and overall health. So when you are feeling defeated, being kind will not only brighten the day for those around you, but it will also lift your spirits up.

4. Take A Break

Sometimes the best option is to just stop and take a break. Being politically engaged isn’t a singular event, it is ongoing and requires patience, resilience, stamina, and maybe more importantly, time off. It is admirable to be civically engaged, but never at the expense of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Don’t feel guilty for stepping away when you need to. You need to put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others. When you are feeling genuinely exhausted, turn off your news notifications, take a break from social media, do a face mask, and watch your favorite trash reality show. The world will continue to turn and our societal problems will still be there when you are ready to tackle them again. In the meantime, remember that self-care is a form of activism, too.

Call to Action

  1. Select one or two issues to focus on.
  2. Ask a friend to be an accountability partner.
  3. Download apps to make you a better citizen, I made a list to make things easier.
  4. Feeling too busy to take on activism the way you want? Read Emily Powers’ article about tips for the busy activist.
  5. Check in with yourself. Ask yourself if you are feeling emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed, or burnt out.
  6. Take a break and step back until you feel ready to engage again.

-Jessica Couloute, Content Creator

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