HealthMiddle East

Overcoming Activism Fatigue: Keeping the Palestinian Cause Alive

As guilty as it may feel talking about “taking breaks” and managing our own mental health–especially when we’re seeing stats like one child dying every 10 minutes in Gaza–you have to remember that you can only care for others if you learn to care for yourself.

As guilty as it may feel talking about “taking breaks” and managing our own mental health–especially when we’re seeing stats like one child dying every 10 minutes in Gaza–you have to remember that you can only care for others if you learn to care for yourself.

We have been constantly raising our voices for Palestine for over a month. Many of you may be feeling tired and emotionally drained from:

  1. Keeping up with the news
  2. Posting on social media
  3. Going to protests

And you probably feel guilty about it, too.

In some ways, the presence of guilt is a good thing. It will keep you on your toes and stop you from becoming lacklustre.

However, the tiredness and energy drain you feel is a very real phenomenon known as activism fatigue.

Activism fatigue refers to the overwhelming exhaustion people feel from “prolonged engagement in social, environmental, or political causes.”

It’s a mix of emotional drain and diminished motivation, often seen in those tirelessly fighting for change. We have to learn to manage our activism fatigue because sustained activism is what drives meaningful societal change.

Sustained activism is why:

  1. Weekly protests are getting larger in numbers
  2. Stocks of certain organisations are plummeting
  3. Non-Muslims are waking up to the tragedy in Palestine

Maintaining this momentum is tough, which is why we’re suggesting these five ways to help you manage and beat activism fatigue.

Know the Symptoms of Activism Fatigue

The first step in managing activism fatigue is recognising its signs and symptoms.

Activism fatigue manifests through a complex array of symptoms, deeply impacting both mental and physical health.

Mentally, it often first appears as a sense of overwhelming exhaustion not alleviated by rest. You might find that your once boundless energy and passion are waning and are replaced by a feeling of being emotionally drained.

This fatigue can also manifest as frustration or anger, particularly when efforts seem fruitless. As it progresses, you may experience a deep sense of sadness or hopelessness, questioning whether your voice is even making an impact.

Physically, activism fatigue can take a toll as well. Persistent stress may lead to headaches and muscle tension. Sleep disturbances are common, including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep. You may also notice changes in your eating habits, such as loss of appetite or overeating, often as a means of coping with stress.

Psychologically, the fatigue can result in increased anxiety and a heightened state of alertness, making it difficult to relax or disconnect from activism-related thoughts and worries.

Cognitively, there can be a noticeable decline in concentration and memory. You might find it hard to focus on tasks, forget important information, or struggle to make decisions, which can further impede your activism efforts.

Focus on Self-Care and Personal Wellbeing

Self-care is indispensable in sustaining long-term activism.

Try to establish firm boundaries to prevent overcommitment and burnout. This means consciously deciding how much time and energy to dedicate to activism and when to step back.

Regular breaks are not just beneficial but necessary. They should be scheduled into your routine. These breaks, whether short daily pauses or longer intervals, help in mental recovery.

Engaging in activities outside activism is equally important. Pursuits like reading, gardening, or sports offer mental diversion, helping you to detach and relax. This change in focus is crucial for mental well-being and can lead to renewed energy.

We know you will feel guilty and weird about taking breaks. But if you burn out, what use are you to the Palestinians? They need your voice. And for you to be there consistently, over a month, year or more, you need to take breaks.

Focus on adequate sleep, where possible. Sleep deprivation can lead to decreased concentration, impaired judgement, and heightened emotional responses–all counterproductive. The last thing you want is to have the right intention but say the wrong thing, which can make things worse.

Eat well and exercise, too. It’s a good practice to walk daily at a minimum. Exercise releases stress-reducing endorphins.

Build a Support Network

Having a supportive community around you is crucial in sustaining activism.

Creating a support group can be as simple as having regular conversations with family and friends about how the situation in Palestine and elsewhere is making you feel. Releasing your sadness, anger, and even crying is therapeutic and rejuvenates your motivation.

Be Careful What You Consume

Being cautious about media consumption is pivotal, particularly in an era where graphic and distressing content is readily accessible.

Continuous exposure to such intense media, like images of deceased children or people trapped under rubble, can have profound psychological impacts, including heightened anxiety, trauma, and desensitisation. I

It’s essential for you to identify your personal triggers—specific types of content that elicit strong, often negative, emotional responses.

This self-awareness allows you to set boundaries around their media consumption, thereby protecting their mental health.

For example, if seeing graphic images of violence or disaster triggers feelings of despair or helplessness, it may be prudent to limit exposure to such content. This doesn’t mean staying uninformed but rather choosing sources that provide the necessary information without graphic details.

Additionally, setting specific times for media consumption can prevent the constant bombardment of distressing news, allowing for mental breaks and time to process information.

It’s also beneficial to balance exposure to distressing content with positive, uplifting media, as this can help maintain a sense of hope and perspective.

Celebrate Small Wins

The importance of recognising and celebrating small wins in activism, especially in long-standing issues like Palestine, cannot be overstated. These small victories are crucial for maintaining morale and momentum in a struggle where large-scale changes often seem distant or unattainable.

For instance, raising awareness about the situation in Palestine with five friends who previously were unaware is a win. One of those five friends joins you at a peaceful rally–another win.

Another example might be the success of a local campaign or fundraiser. Organising a community event to support Palestinian rights or raise funds for humanitarian aid and seeing a good turnout and engagement can be incredibly motivating. It shows that even at a local or individual level, tangible contributions can be made.

Such small wins are vital in sustaining the spirit of activism. They provide tangible proof that your efforts are not in vain and that every action, no matter how small, contributes to the larger cause. In long and arduous struggles like that of Palestine, these victories keep hope alive.

You Can’t Help Others If you Don’t Help Yourself

As guilty as it may feel talking about “taking breaks” and managing our own mental health–especially when we’re seeing stats like one child dying every 10 minutes in Gaza–you have to remember that you can only care for others if you learn to care for yourself.

You must prioritise your self-care for the sake of the people in Gaza.