Madi Baughman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.
After everything that’s happened lately, from the exhausting healthcare debate to Hurricane Maria ravaging Puerto Rico to the shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, it can feel hard to have the energy to care about politics. I know that I, personally, have felt the urge to crawl into bed, hide under the covers and not come out for a good three days until I’ve had enough time to process everything that’s going on. For the record, this is coming from someone who likes discussing politics. I can’t imagine how heavy this must be for people who aren’t passionate about it.
There’s a certain term for this sort of exhaustion: “political burnout.” Last election cycle, no matter what side you were on, many people faced the reality of this burnout, getting so stressed to the point of no longer caring or becoming desensitized to the issues they once used to feel passionate about. This is a sad reality for lots of activists, due to the intense pressure they face, and even non-activists can face withdrawal — such as stress-induced breakdowns, intense tiredness, or feelings of apathy — due to burnout symptoms.
However, there is a bright side to all of this: There are things you can do to prevent burnout from happening, or shake it off and get feeling back to normal. Don’t forget that self-care is one of the most important things in life. If you neglect your mental and/or physical health to the point where you’re always running on empty, it only elongates the amount of time you’re affected by burnout. Get involved with things that you enjoy or feel strongly about that are separate from your political activities to give yourself a break — like book clubs, sports teams or even taking classes to learn new things.
Remember that even if your cause doesn’t find the success you were hoping for at first, you’re still out making a difference, and important things are rarely accomplished without a lot of hard work. It can be easy to give up after initial disappointments, but the satisfaction from pushing through is so much greater.
Finally, keep in mind that burnout is different for everyone, and if you find something that works to help you through the stress and fatigue of activism, do it. If you have to take a break from politics for a while to come back at your best, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t give up completely. There’s too much at stake for us to do that. It gets tiring, having to fight the same fight over and over and over again, but we can’t stop standing up for what we believe in; if not for ourselves, then for the people who come after us. It’s our duty to leave the world a better place than we found it — otherwise, what is this all for?