In my first job, I taught youth about the justice system and their rights – in schools, community centres and in a few youth custody facilities.
I was excited to learn and to do my best so I would take home work on the weekends and do whatever I could to help.
When I inevitably made mistakes, I was very hard on myself and would really beat myself up. Especially when my mistakes impacted the very youth I was trying to help.
This led to perfectionism. I didn’t want to make any more mistakes so it’d take me a long time to complete whatever task was in front of me. When it got really bad, it’d literally take me a week to send a single email because I’d edit and re-edit and re-edit, trying to make it perfect.
I ended up depressed. The combination of beating myself up and perfectionism was painful. I couldn’t effectively do the work I wanted to do. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
In some ways I loved my job, in the moments when I was working with youth and they’d have an insight, it was amazing.
And in other ways, I felt like I could barely drag myself to the office.
I burnt out.
I wanted to share this story right now because the pandemic is a marathon and the fight against racial injustice is a marathon. And I don’t want you to burn out.
Here are some things you can do to prevent burnout:
- Don’t Try to Do Everything
If you’re dedicating time to the fight against racial injustice, find out what part the fight really speaks to your heart and put your energy there.
In an interview about her documentary, 13th, on the prison industrial complex Ava Duvernay says,
“People become tuned into different parts of the documentary, people become passionate about it and that’s why it’s important for me to not just put a 1-800 number or “sign this petition” at the end of the documentary.
People always ask me, “What do I do now?” and I always say, “What do you want to do? What part of this whole crazy system speaks to your heart?”
(If you haven’t already seen 13th, I highly recommend it, it’s on Netflix!)
- Take Breaks
After I burnt out from that job, I moved to an ashram, a spiritual community based on the teachings of yoga, for two years where I studied yoga and meditation intensely.
I wish I’d taken more breaks and done more self-care along the way so I didn’t have to take this two year hiatus.
If you take breaks and do self care along the way, you’ll have more energy to give in the long run, so give yourself that.
Don’t work yourself to a breaking point the way I did.
- Connect to the People You Love and Trust
A big part of my burnout was caused by beating myself up. When you make mistakes, because you’re a human and ALL HUMANS make mistakes, talk to people you love and trust.
It’s important to learn how to forgive yourself and one of the most powerful tools I’ve found to do this is to talk to those that I love and trust and tell my story of the mistake. The more times I tell my story and realize that yes, I made a mistake and I definitely don’t want to do that again but that I’m still worthy, I’m still a good human being, the more I can heal and keep going.
- Attend an Emotional Support Circle
One great place to share the challenges you’re going through and is with others who are going through something similar. Next week the topic for the emotional support circle is Burnout. Join us July 6th from 1:30 – 3:00 pm EST.
This circle’s specifically for female-identified and non-binary folks and you’ll be led through an exercise that will help you tune into what challenges you’re navigating and to get support.
The more you can tune into the challenges, share about them and learn to transform them, the more you can heal.
This circle is free or pay-what-you-can
- Don’t Try to Do Everything
Keep taking the best possible care of yourself.
- Talk soon,