A tired-looking man holds a burnt-out and smoking match stick as if it was a protest sign.

Advocacy Burnout: Setting Boundaries, Staying Connected, and Self-Care

When I say “advocacy burnout", I'm referring to a mental and physical health condition resulting from the emotional and bodily exhaustion that can sometimes occur as a result of being an advocate for a particular cause. Here are some tips that help me, and could help others, avoid advocacy burnout.

Set practical boundaries

Set realistic goals and specific limits for how much time and energy you are going to commit to your advocacy work. I have personally experienced advocacy burnout, simply, because I struggle with saying no. It makes me feel guilty. With this in mind, I try not to view saying no as rejecting someone else’s need for help. Instead, I tell myself I’m saying yes to self-care and my own need for help too. Put your own oxygen mask on first! Speaking of self-care…

Take care of your own health first

Make sure you are getting enough rest, exercise, and eating well. My Advocacy Burnout Prevention Plan includes daily exercise, a well-balanced diet, and nine hours sleep a night. I write the gym, into my online calendar, every day. That is because exercising is as important, to our body and mind, as working, playing and sleeping. I also try to go to bed at a similar time every night and wake up at a similar time every morning. Your brain will thank you for it!

Stay connected

Connect with other advocates, who are passionate about the same issues as you. This can support, and inspire you, with a greater sense of community. I struggled through my brain injury recovery, following my stage accident, all by myself. No one referred me to a support group. This left me with no one who really truly understood what I was going through and how my body and mind were changing because of it. It is of the utmost importance to find your people… Whoever they are… Wherever they may be.

Thanks to the Internet, making connections, even internationally, is easier than ever before. Don’t suffer, alone… Stay strong, together.

Self-compassion

Be kind to yourself. If you are doing the best you can, be proud of yourself. That is all anyone can ask of you. Here is a place where I personally struggle: having empathy… For myself. I can feel for those around me, and be there for them when they need me. But, when it comes to being kind to myself, I fall short, repeating negative self talk, and feeding the fear. Many negative emotions can have a foundation in fear. Don’t feed the fears!

Ask yourself, “would I talk to a friend that way?” If not, then, don’t talk to yourself that way either.

Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation: moves, books, spending time with loved ones, or practicing yoga. My Advocacy Burnout Prevention Strategy includes time, every week, for hobbies that bring me joy: playing with my dog; yoga; listening to music; singing; baking. I have my Google calendar, divided by color, red for medical appointments and home treatments, blue for work related items, etc. The orange boxes are for self care items, and things that bring me joy. Make sure your calendar has a healthy balance of orange in it! And, speaking of balance…

My next article will speak about finding balance, reflecting on progress and seeking help. Be sure to check back!

Have you ever struggled with advocacy burnout? What are some ways you help prevent it or heal from it? Share below.

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