How To Avoid Burnout While Working in the Progressive Space

If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, you’re not alone. We’re with you.


Those of us who work in nonprofit and progressive spaces were already juggling pandemic stress, fundraising uncertainty, and election chaos, and now we’re coping with the psychological strain of watching a failed coup by Trump supporters.


If a normal year can lead to burnout, what does that spell for our collective mental health as we begin 2021?


As professionals in the campaign and advocacy space, we have experienced high-stress moments throughout our careers. Finding viable, creative solutions to protect yourself and your staff from burnout is crucial in these times. If you want to look after your organization’s mission, you have to first look after yourself. Here’s what we’ve found works:


Prioritize building a supportive workplace environment

Make sure that your organization is fostering a positive environment where you, your colleagues, and your supporters feel cared for and heard. While not everyone has the power to enact organization-wide change, fostering supportive working relationships with colleagues and partners is a solid step. Anyone on your team who feels overwhelmed should feel like they have safe and empathetic peers to turn to and lean on.


Our company policy is that if you need to step away from any project or stressful content area (for reasons related to the work or not), you can “wave a flag” by contacting one team member. If the work is on deadline, your team member will work to make sure the work still gets done or an accommodation is made.


Lean on outside supports systems

Maintain connections with family, friends, and non-work communities. This can be especially challenging when physical distancing is a necessity, but if you keep regular check-ins going, you’ll be better equipped to deal with stress and stay motivated when things are hard.


Schedule times to unplug

By unplug, we mean really unplug. When can you schedule a block of time for no email checking, no social media, and no Slack? While this isn’t always feasible during a busy time, setting a schedule to be truly “unplugged” can allow you actual time off to recharge. While many of us are working from home, setting clear boundaries around your work hours and when to step away can do wonders for your health and on-the-clock productivity.


Get fresh air

Safe social distancing plus time spent in nature is an ideal way to regroup. It’s proven that nature is good for your mental health. Even if you can’t escape to the wilderness, a walk around the block can do just as much good. Try scheduling a midday or morning “break” outdoors to rest between working.


Keep track of what you’ve accomplished

Remember those fights you never thought you’d win? Remember the campaigns that were successful and the positive change you’ve made in the world?


You might not! As worker-activists, it often seems we’re wired to hop immediately from a win onto the next level of the battle. To avoid burnout, however, acknowledging how far you’ve come as an advocate, or taking note of how far a movement you’re passionate about has come can put things into perspective.


Break down goals into achievable steps

The bigger picture is well, big. Aiming for a huge goal all at once can quickly move from overwhelming to paralyzing. Instead of looking at the end goal, break down your tasks into tiny steps that can be accomplished each day and week.


No one can write “achieve world peace” on their to-do list and expect to not become immobilized by how large of a task it is! Through writing out the steps it will take to achieve your goals — one small, specific, and actionable step at a time — you’ll feel empowered and more organized. Take that, burnout.



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