How to avoid activist burnout

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Advice for taking care of yourself – even while you’re trying to change the world

You may have heard of activist burnout, which occurs when the work of a social justice campaigner begins to negatively affect their health. This can also be connected to compassion fatigue, a feeling experienced by people who frequently witness pain or suffering, resulting in emotional trauma.

As vegans we are susceptible to these types of mental strain, whether we take on too much outreach work or find ourselves spending too long watching disturbing documentaries. But if this rings true for you, don’t worry – there are steps you can take to do your best for animals and care for yourself at the same time.

Find a community

A symptom of compassion fatigue can be a sense of isolation – the feeling that you alone care. This can be particularly easy in the vegan community, as we are (for now) very much in the minority.

Focus on the fact that there are millions of people all around the world who feel exactly as you do. If you don’t know any vegans in your area, it’s always worth finding out if there is a local group. If you can’t find anything, why not create your own? We can provide help and support along the way.

It can also be a great support to speak to other vegans online. There are forums, groups and pages for every subject you can think of. Speaking to like-minded people will help to remind you that you most certainly are not alone – you are an important part of a growing movement for global change.

Take a break

It is too easy to put yourself second, and this is something which should be avoided. Make some time to do things you love, purely for your own enjoyment. This will give you the much-needed chance to recharge.

You can also make the choice to unfollow animal rights accounts on social media that tend to use graphic imagery. As someone who is already aware of the violence of animal product industries, you do not need to continue to subject yourself to viewing it.

Similarly, if you often find yourself locked into discussions with unsympathetic non-vegans, it is good to learn how to recognise when a conversation is only serving to upset you, and to shut it down.

Celebrate small achievements

Whether your homemade chocolate cake goes down well with friends, or your colleague gives you the opportunity to dispel some myths about vegan nutrition, these are all little wins that can add up to a big difference. You’re probably already having a positive effect on the choices of those around you – even if they don’t admit it.

In the face of such huge challenges, we need to remember to celebrate every marker of success, and luckily these are coming in thick and fast. Our movement progresses a little further every day, and if you’re on the lookout for evidence you won’t be disappointed.

Spend time with animals

After going vegan, many people find that they experience a feeling of much greater connection to other animals. It can be incredibly therapeutic to spend some time with an animal friend, especially in situations where you don’t feel like explaining yourself to another person.

Farm animal sanctuaries often have open days where you can pay a visit to well-cared-for ex-farm animals who are able to live in comfort and security. As well as helping to support the sanctuary, this is a tangible way to recognise the positive effect you are having on the lives of other animals, and serves as a powerful and positive reminder why we choose veganism.

Sometimes an individual can feel like it is up to them to change the whole world. Faced with those odds, it’s no wonder that people take on too much, emotionally or physically. Remember, your empathy doesn’t make you weak – it is our movement’s strength. Focus on making whatever positive change you can, while keeping your own health a priority. This will enable you to keep campaigning – in whatever form that takes for you – in a healthy, sustainable way.

We asked you to share your thoughts on this topic on social media:

Lead by example, no need to push. I let people ask, this way they desire to be vegan.

Fred

Take time for yourself. You do not need to be at every protest/vigil/outreach event

Plumes

When you become vegan you experience the spectrum of the grieving process. You need support.

Barbara

If lots of hard core activism is overly done, it can really create a burn out effect. We are in this together, activism is never solo and all is accepted and celebrated.

Abby

Concentrate on those who are willing to change and leave the rest, attacking them won't help.

Helen

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