Climate strike week 97 from Oxford, England. Something I’d like to talk about is the normalisation of burnout in activist spaces.
In these photos, Kay and I look happy, hopeful and energetic. The reality is that while we were staying in a tree house at a HS2 Rebellion camp, we spent an evening crying and having a mental breakdown together from pure mental exhaustion, existential fear at the expanse of the climate crisis and years worth of untreated burnout combined. These photos were taken a few days later on a day we finally dedicated ourselves to having a break because we were collapsing under the self inflicted weight of moral responsibility.
However we are keeping in mind that we are incredibly privileged that we have the option to simply take a break from being on the front lines of the climate crisis by leaving the ancient woodlands for a few days, but of course millions do not have this option.
This entire day of complete rest made me feel overwhelmingly guilty that I could barely sleep that night. But why? Every second spent being a normal teenager feels like a waste of awareness raising time in my head, which I think is how it got to the point where Kay and I had gone so long without a break that we were eventually forced to have one; the mere thought of continuing life for another day had reduced us to sobbing.
We have no time left to lose when it comes to the climate crisis. When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle and so the idea of taking a break to have fun and do normal teenage things feels almost abstract and like cheating. However, just as our current way of living isn’t sustainable, working through burnout isn’t sustainable either. Rest is often just as productive as work and should be prioritised as such. We are torturing ourselves over a single day of rest from activism when long term it will mean we can maintain the work and do it more efficiently. The climate crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. We are in this for the long haul. We need to take care of ourselves because everyone is needed to overcome this. We can’t afford to lose anyone along the way.
Over 70% of global emissions come from just 100 companies globally and so individuals taking a single day of rest so as they can come back fighting even stronger shouldn’t cause such an intense feeling of guilt when we are least to blame.
It is normalised in activist spaces to spend our time on five, six, seven or more calls per day that often go into the early hours of the morning after already doing a full day of education or work with maybe a protest or two thrown in somewhere as well. Not to mention the hundreds of notifications received from emails, telegram, Instagram, slack, twitter etc. This is impossible to maintain without eventually burning out.
If you need a day of rest, take it. If you need two days or a week or even a month of rest, take it. We will be here holding down the fort until you get back. Please take care of yourself.
If you need more support, I’m always here for you. Just message me.
Alternatively, here are some numbers you can call:
The mix- 08088084994
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