Activism Fatigue is Real but We Can Fight It Together

Bringing positive change to our communities is a noble goal but can be overwhelming. Don’t give up! You are not alone.

In this article, we explore how activists find the encouragement, wisdom, and hope to not stand idly by.

When I was in sixth grade, some of the boys in my class started scratching swastikas into the desks.  We had a long-term substitute at the time, Mrs. A, and even after 30 years of teaching, I am impressed by the wisdom of her response. Realizing the boys were acting in ignorance, she canceled all lessons the following day and taught us about the Holocaust.  During this lesson, the phrase “Don’t stand idly by” lodged in my brain and became a guiding principle in my life.  It’s why I marched with the United Farmworkers, joined the Alliance for Survival to stop the arms race, and today write letters to my representatives, attend BLM rallies, and go to every women’s march.  My children have a “My First Protest” page in their baby books.  

I am not virtual signaling here.  I am confessing.  

The last five years have so worn me down that I have almost given up.  Almost.  Because I know I cannot stand idly by, no matter the fatigue of seeing our country divided so deeply and our democratic institutions threatened in the service of politicians’ egos.   

I am not alone.  

We’ve worked hard to make a difference.  We’ve gone to protests, donated, written postcards, contacted our representatives and senators, had heated discussions, engaged in workshops, changed our habits, gotten out the vote…but now, we find ourselves wondering if any of it mattered and echoing the sentiments of Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles–I’m so tired!  We’ve done all this work for change during a pandemic, which has disrupted many of our support systems and community connections.  Activism fatigue is real, and we need to help each other when it hits.

I think the first step is to acknowledge that don’t-stand-idly-by-fatigue is real.  I hope this blog will provide us with a place to admit our fatigue, get support, and offer our own solutions.  

In search of my own answers, I happened upon an article in that asked 11 women activists how they handle their activism fatigue.  It’s a great article, and I encourage you to read it, but here are a few ideas that stood out for me.

Find support. Real support.  As Becca Tieder, cofounder or Sexversations and founder of One Student states:  “You need a crew with whom you can drop your armor and say, ‘This is hard.’” When we give advice, are dismissive, or get a little preachy with someone struggling, we make things worse.  It can cause people to burn out and drop out altogether.  If instead we listen and empathize, we can be the soul-balm that can help someone keep going.  Let us embrace our friends and co-activists when they are vulnerable and let them know that we are there for them, that it’s okay for them to take a breather, that self-care is not only okay but essential.  Who can you count on for support?   How do you give support to others?                                                             

Take care of yourself.                                                                                                                Carmen Perez, director of Gathering for Justice, shared:  “To stay energized and engaged, I drink a lot of water, I practice gratitude by listing three things I’m grateful for in the morning, I work out and eat healthy, watch comedies, send myself positive affirmations, and surround myself with people I love and admire. And when I’m feeling discouraged, I pray—a lot and for everybody.”  Personally, I go to meditation, therapy, and no phones or news after 8 pm.  Also, journaling gives me a place to dump all those negative thoughts as well as to remember the good moments with gratitude.  Lucy McBath, a stricter gun laws advocate, adds:  “I remember that this movement is going to go on whether I take a little break right now or not. You have to give yourself a chance to breathe, to do the things you used to do before you took up this cause. It’s important to have a balance. We have to give ourselves permission to say, “Today I don’t have to be an activist.”  How do you take care of yourself?

Remember the power of one.                                                                                               One person can make a difference.  We know the stories of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Jane Goodall, Cesar Chavez, Gretta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and others who changed or are changing the world today.  But we don’t have to be famous to make a difference.  In fact, these change-makers were just ordinary people who saw something wrong and decided they could not stand idly by.  They took a first step and then another.  Doors opened.  People joined them.  They created movements.  We can be inspired by their stories. We can find ordinary people in our own cities who are making positive change happen.  Maybe we cannot dedicate our whole lives, but we can do what we can. Baby steps matter. Right now, I write postcards for voting, go to local protests, and donate.  I’m coming out of a period of fatigue,  and I’m taking things one action at a time.

Are you experiencing activism fatigue and need someone to listen?  Share your story here in the comments.  How do you take care of yourself?  What keeps you going?  Let’s support and inspire each other as we work to make the world a better place.

Helping Others In Need

Life can be pretty chaotic at times and especially during the school season. Helping others in need can seem like an overwhelming task to add to the already long to-do list. Do you know there are various ways to help others? I will tell you it is easier than you think.

Typically people think there are two ways to help others in need. The first involves the death or loss of another person or pet. The second involves homelessness due to any number of circumstances. These are incredible ways to help others who need assistance or comfort. Let’s dive into a few other ways we can deliver and engage in helping others.

Volunteer Your Time

Time is precious and can feel elusive when our schedules fill up. It is one of the things that can be manipulated with a little effort. Carving out even one hour to volunteer can make a huge impact on someone's life. Time equals connection. Being present and connecting with others is at a core level what the majority needs. Here are a few examples of places you can volunteer:

Community Center - Often with various ways you can chip in. Such as working with kids and teens, local special events that need help setting up, fundraisers, and holiday events.

Senior Facility - Elderly folks regularly need help getting around or to Dr. appointments. They also enjoy just having someone to listen to the stories they have to tell and the life lessons that come along with them.

VFW - Short for Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Veterans Affairs is a great way to help others that have given so much to all of us. Recreation, Transportation, Personal assistance, and Companionship just scratch the surface of volunteer opportunities.

ME TOO - The Me Too movement helps survivors of sexual violence to heal. Volunteer opportunities are available globally.

LGBTQIA+ - Organizations like HRC (Human Rights Campaign), PFLAG (Parents Friends & Family of Lesbians and Gays), GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) are great options. Do a quick search to see what is available in your local community.

This is just the tip of the iceberg to get you started thinking about the infinite ways you can help others in need. A quick search of the interwebs can lead you in every niche group's direction for you to help those in your community that need you. Volunteering your time, even if it is only one or two hours a week, can make a big impact on someone’s life.

Let’s Get Physical

It is safe to say a lot of us need to get physical. Working remotely has become the new norm and that leads to more sitting and less activity. The hardest part of getting back into the routine of moving our bodies is getting started. I don’t know about you but I have several of those friends who are absolute health nuts. They work out every single day, always post healthy recipes on social media, and find all the things to throw together for that smoothie or juice to drool over.

Insert the people that need help getting on that physical train and staying on course long enough to see some results to be motivated to make it a lifelong habit. Maybe this is your zone of genius. If it is, I am sure you know some friends or family that have mentioned how hard it is for them and how much they want to change that.

Be mindful and very intentional with the language you use when approaching someone about getting healthier and getting back to moving our bodies. Helping people in this area will always be something that is needed.

It can be as simple as sharing a workout tip you saw on Instagram from that good-looking trainer you follow. Maybe you discovered a new pre-workout supplement that you know your squad would like as much as you do. Did you find a new Bootcamp group while walking laps at the park? Help someone get as motivated as you are to get physical.

Inspire Others

Who doesn’t want to feel inspired? I know a lot of people that are finding ways to get re-inspired to keep doing what they love or are good at, myself included. Others are still trying to figure out what their area of expertise is or where their passions lie.

Helping people in need can also come in the form of inspiration. When you get inspired you get motivated, and when you get motivated it leads you to take inspired action. Action creates change and change leads to expansion. That my friends are where growth happens. Growth changes everything.

Inspiring others is not only easy but it feels really good when you see someone else succeed. The cool thing is inspiration comes from literally any and everywhere. The new personal development book you are reading stirs your soul. A social media influencer you found via multiple other accounts that post real talk conversation lives daily. Perhaps you just connected with a mentor or sponsor and their story resonates on a deep level personally and you are feeling inspired to share more of your own story.

I hope that maybe this inspires you in some way to reach out and help someone who needs it. There are so many possibilities with minimal expense to you as the helper and infinite impacts to the person receiving your help. There is no right or wrong way to help others in need. It is something you can fit into your schedule, no matter how hectic or full the calendar gets. Doing it virtually works too and brings even more opportunities for you to choose what you feel called to.

Start with a small task if you need to because even the little things can bring on big differences for people in need. Help is always needed if you slow down long enough to look and truly see those in and around your life. Even taking stock of the communities and groups you engage with online. How can you help others in need?

Youtopia Social