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At the time of writing this, we are 11 days away from the one-year mark of the beginning of COVID-19 flipping our lives upside-down. By the time you read this, the anniversary may already be here. March 13th will forever be marked in our minds as a doom’s day, followed by a year of chaos. Every single person has had to face hardship and loss in the face of COVID-19; not to mention the US also faced a year of social and political instability. Recognizing the full extent of how you personally have been affected is the first step– it’s okay to be selfish about this, in fact, your mental health probably depends on it. 

What are you feeling?

Identify your emotions and physical reactions. Not just in this moment, but consistently over the past year. Are you feeling;

  • Anxiety,

  • Guilt,

  • Isolation,

  • Irritability,

  • Sadness,

  • Pessimism,

  • Anger,

  • Numbness,

  • Fatigue/Insomnia,

  • Disappointment,

  • Lack of motivation,

  • Or sickness/physical pain?

It’s likely that you are feeling a combination of multiple or all of the emotions listed above. If so, you are experiencing burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout was first coined in 1974 by Herbert J. Freudenberger, a German American psychologist, who defined burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration; a person suffers from burnout.” People who engage in social justice work or are very in tune to current events may be more susceptible to burnout – specifically referred to as ‘activist burnout’.

What is Activist Burnout?

Activist burnout refers to burnout associated with trying to navigate injustices, social and political, while also trying to cope with the everyday struggles of life. When suddenly it becomes difficult to sustain the energy and passion needed to mobilize to action.

So, How Do We Cope with This?

The hardest part was identifying what you are feeling. Coping involves identifying behaviors and activities that work for you and that allow you to step back and manage your feelings. This could include going for a walk/hike, listening to music, learning something new, joining a club, meeting with friends or your community, etc. This will always be specific to you and your individual needs. Also, be prepared for what once helped you cope to possibly no longer work. As your situation and needs evolve, so will your coping methods.

A huge part of coping involves finding community. Not just people to work with, but people who will understand your feelings and be able to support you. Burnout can be very isolating; it leaves one feeling misunderstood and alone. Forming connections will keep the emotions from taking over.

And sometimes you just need a break. So often we value human worth on achievements and work, not on who we are and what we are about – but I can promise you that is the farthest thing from reality. Prioritize your health, recognize how you grow and shift, and move forward when you are ready.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” – Audre Lorde

Madison Turunen is a student of the Class of 2023 at Pace University, on the New York City campus. She is double majoring in History and Peace & Justice Studies with minors in Women & Gender Studies and Politics. Someday she hopes to go into human rights advocacy. She is a huge activist and environmentalist, with a lean towards gender equality and peace-building. As a part of Her Campus, she has published articles on lifestyle, entertainment, wellness, and news.
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