Burnout is the end result of chronic stress. It is a syndrome characterized by feelings of irritation, lack of motivation, and emotional disturbances.
There are 5 stages of Burnout:
Activists carry out tasks that are often difficult to plan and organize. Most activities are voluntary and the majority of activists do not get paid with a salary for their work, so an "immediate reward" is not received.
Once again, activists often form part of minority groups which are targeted by the general population and people who disagree with the groups agendas. This makes planning and attending more difficult and challenging, contributing to further stress.
Unfortunately many people are not aware of the highly stressful environment activists work in, thus the empathy is usually lacking. Activists tend to have low levels of support, sometimes even from friends or family who criticize what they do or deem it as a waste of time.
A lot of activists experience doubts regularly, asking whether the energy they are investing will ever yield realistic change. This is seen clearly in for example climate change activists. Although such activists do very good work and work very hard, unfortunately, very little is being done in the world to actually combat climate change. This may result in poor satisfaction levels in such activists, and this further puts them at risk of burnout.
Activists are also constantly under pressure to make a real change. For example, if a new unfavorable change is made in the locality, such as the introduction of a new shopping mall in a previously green area, activists will be pressured to combat this in a short time. They must organize effective protests and suggest different proposals and make an impact. This can be very stressful and especially if the plan goes ahead anyway, it is very frustrating for activists.
Most people are not actively aware that they are experiencing burnout. This is because the process of burnout happens slowly and so it is difficult to be self aware about it. Most persons start feeling that something is wrong once their life becomes severely impacted. For example, they start fighting with their family or friends often, they start failing in school, they start sleeping a lot or always feeling tired, or when everything starts to irritate them. Ideally, burnout should be recognized or prevented BEFORE reaching such a state.
To recognize burnout, we need to first of all know what it means and what are its symptoms, thats what this handbook is about! Secondly, it is important not to dismiss the symptoms of stress from the beginning they are felt. We need to acknowledge stress not deny or ignore it to continue with our daily routine. Avoidance of stressful feelings will further put the person at risk of burnout.
Steps to help prevent burnout include
In summary, burnout is the final stage of stress in which a person starts finding it hard to cope with everyday life. Burnout can have significant effects on physical health (more risk of cardiovascular events, obesity, diabetes etc) and also psychological effects, possibly leading to depression.
This is why burnout should be prevented at all costs and immediately treated if present. Everyone should be aware if this concept, and I also believe it should be taught in schools.
Activists have a duty to help change the world to better, but they also have a duty to protect themselves and keep themselves mentally and physically healthy.