I experienced my first activist burnout – here’s how to tackle it

A few weeks ago, I had what I would probably describe as an ‘activist burnout’. Asking hearing people to make their content more deaf friendly and accessible, only for them to ignore you and belittle your concerns is exhausting. At worst, it can make you question your efforts to increase deaf awareness, when certain individuals just don’t want to listen.

In my case, it prompted me to take some time away from social media for a little bit – something which can do us all the world of good at some point in our lives, not least in a pandemic. It was a shame that it took such an exhausting situation to make me appreciate that, but it did mean I could turn my attention towards other interests of mine – at least for a little while.

I think that’s something I learned from the whole situation: that activism and campaigning can take many forms. It isn’t just the public-facing tweets posted to Twitter, or infographics shared on Instagram, sometimes it can be working on e-newsletters, blog posts or opinion pieces. In certain circumstances, it’s not about persuading anyone, it can just be about getting your experiences out there for other people to react to. When social media tired me out, I spent time on my newsletter, and that was enough to pull me away from those platforms and distract myself with something else.

Secondly, I had supportive friends around me. If you’re having people ignoring your concerns and requests, then sometimes it’s good to have a group of people with which you can share your frustrations. In this instance, I had a WhatsApp group of Deaf friends who not only helped to unpack my feelings during this time, but also supported me with dealing with the wider issue.

It’s these two things which can really kickstart the creativity, and I think it’s that which can really be dampened when you experience activist burnout. As I say, it’s almost like this feeling of ‘well, what’s the point?’ Friends will remind you why you do what you do as a deaf campaigner, while focussing your energies on another creative outlet has the potential to help you remember why you create and share content in the first place. It certainly did for me, and reminded me that I do it because I love sharing knowledge, generating ideas and sparking conversations about all things deafness and disability.

The reason ‘why’ can get a little lost when you experience activist burnout, but if you take the right steps, you’ll soon rediscover it, and be back campaigning with a lot more energy as a result.

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