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What is climate activism burnout?

The term burnout is commonly used to explain the feeling of being exhausted due to excessive and prolonged levels of stress. This can be in the form of mental, physical or emotional exhaustion and can make it extremely hard to carry on with your normal activities.

A term which has emerged more recently is climate activism burnout. So, what exactly is this and what can we do to avoid it?

Climate activism burnout can mean a range of different things for different people. However, it largely stems from eco-anxiety surrounding the climate crisis. Humans are wired in a way which makes us problem solvers. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, usually there is a strong desire to find a solution and improve the overall outcome in some way. As for the climate crisis, it presents issues that are much larger than anything one human can solve. For this reason, climate activism is long term.

The term burnout is commonly used to explain the feeling of being exhausted due to excessive and prolonged levels of stress

Climate activism burnout may happen to any of us due to a number of reasons. Usually it begins with prolonged stress (as in typical burnout) which is caused by feelings of helplessness around the climate situation. For some individuals, coming to terms with how urgent and severe world problems are more widely is overwhelming. This can be described as a person feeling like they are bearing the weight of the world’s problems on their shoulders. As urgent as the matters surrounding climate change and loss of biodiversity are, they should not take priority over individual mental health.

Burnout will typically happen over a period time, but there are some key warning signs that are worth looking out for. Emotional signs may include loss of temper, feeling guilty for allowing yourself a break and feelings of hopelessness. Some of the most common behavioural signs are experiencing difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and loss of balance between work and life. If you or anyone you know has some of these symptoms, here are some mental health resources which might be useful.

Burnout will typically happen over a period time, but there are some key warning signs that are worth looking out for

It is evident that burnout is something we should all be trying to avoid. However, this is not always as easy as it may seem. So if you, or someone you know, is experiencing climate activism burnout, what should you be doing? The best-case scenario is to avoid burnout altogether. Unfortunately, there is no secret tactic to guarantee that. So, these suggestions may be helpful.

The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. Not all of these tips will apply to everyone so whatever is best for you is what you should do. It is essential that you make time to take a breather. This can mean literally taking two minutes to practice breathing exercises or taking a few weeks or months off from activism. Switching off is something that is important to everyone from time to time, but this especially applies to those suffering from burnouts.

If things do not get better and you feel your mental health deteriorating, it is important to seek help from professionals

Another tip which may be of use is to making some routines for yourself. This might not sound like much, however developing good habits for yourself such as regular exercise can help to keep your mind and body healthy.

Communication is key. Whether you want to rant to friends or reach out to someone else, sharing your worries and problems with someone is usually really helpful.

Burnout may happen to a lot of us, whether it is climate activism related or not. So keep an eye on yourself and your loved ones as best as you can and remember that you cannot solve all the world’s problems by yourself.

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