Activist burnout – Signs, symptoms, and solutions

As with any high paced, emotionally charged, or stressful job, activism is among one of the most highly taxing jobs there is.

Activism is a job that not only taxes one’s body and mind, but it usually pays little to nothing in the form of financial compensation for all the dedicated hard work one does.

As any dedicated activist within the MHRM will tell you, activism takes its toll both mentally and physically. Being aware of one’s limits is crucial to being an effective activist, as well as maintaining a healthy and positive life outside of your activism.

Burnout is quite high within the field of activism. Activists tend to take on the wrongs of the world and shoulder that weight on a daily basis. They tend to give so much time and energy to their cause or movement that they can easily become consumed by it and forget to take care of themselves while acting on behalf of others and for the cause.

In short, activists can be such dedicated, caring, and concerned individuals that it is easy to pour their heart and soul into their activism which can sometimes lead to frustration, mental and physical exhaustion, and even a sense that they are struggling without gain. Simply put, they suffer from activist burnout.

It’s easy for those of us within passionate and intense activist communities, such as the MHRM, to forget to take care of and look out for ourselves, our family, and even our colleagues.

But what is burnout? And how can you spot it before it’s too late?

Burnout is: *a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress accumulates, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to become an activist in the first place. It reduces your productivity and saps you of emotional energy, leaving you to feel increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give, not only to the cause, but to all other things in your life as well.

Burnout not only affects you mentally, but can also affect you physically which can make you vulnerable to illnesses such as colds or the flu. Because of the many negative consequences of burnout, it’s important to recognize and deal with it right away.

Knowing how to spot burnout is key to catching it before it’s too late to effectively treat it.

Because burnout is a gradual process that builds up over a prolonged period of time it is essential that you be aware of the signs and symptoms and remain vigilant, as burnout has a way of slowly creeping up on you when you are not paying attention.

So, what are the symptoms of burnout?

*Physical signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time,  even after a good night’s sleep.
  • Lowered immunity, feeling sick quite often
  • Frequent headaches, back pain, and/or muscle aches
  • A change in appetite and/or sleeping habits

*Emotional signs and symptoms:

  • A sense of failure or self-doubt
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and/or defeated
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • Decreased satisfaction or sense of accomplishment

*Behavioral signs and symptoms:

  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Isolating one’s self from others
  • Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
  • Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
  • Taking one’s frustrations out on others
  • Skipping tasks and duties, arriving late and leaving early

Of course you may not have all of the symptoms mentioned, but If you recognize more than a few of these occurring on a regular basis, meaning more than one day a week, remember that it will only get worse if it is left unchecked. By taking positive proactive steps towards bringing your life back into a healthy balance, you can prevent burnout from becoming a full-blown breakdown.

These are a few simple and positive things you can do to maintain a healthy balance between your activism and life, and to help keep burnout from creeping up on you.

  • *Start the day with a relaxing ritual. Rather than jumping out of bed and rushing headlong into your work as soon as you wake up, spend at least fifteen minutes meditating, writing in a journal, doing gentle stretches, having a warm shower, or reading something that inspires or motivates you. Any activity that is non-stressful and enjoyable should be worked into your early morning routine.
  • *Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands. Make time to sit down and eat your meals at the table instead of on the go, schedule a 15-30 minute walk into your day, and make a sleep schedule for yourself that you will stick to.
  • *Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
  • *Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect for at least 30-45 minutes. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking your email. Use this time to take a walk, meditate, read a book, or any other enjoyable activity.
  • *Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
  • *Learn how to manage stress.

When you’re on the way towards burnout, you may feel quite helpless. But you have a lot more control over all that stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress with the above mentioned tips will help you prevent burnout, but sometimes it creeps up on you so slowly that it becomes too late to prevent it once you realize what has happened – you’ve already past the breaking point.

If this is the case, it’s important you take burnout very seriously. Once you go past the breaking point you are on the verge of a total breakdown, and trying to push through the exhaustion to continue on as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage, most usually in the form of a severe depression, anxiety or panic disorders, or even suicide. Trust me, it’s not a nice place to be.

While the tips I mentioned previously for helping to prevent burnout are still beneficial at the initial burnout stages, recovery at the breaking point of burnout requires additional steps and timely intervention by medical professionals.

When you are at the breaking point of burnout you need to:

  1. STOP! Stop everything stressful you are doing immediately
  2. Get support, reach out to others and do not isolate yourself
  3. Locate resources to help you cope and re-focus

There are many resources available online for coping with burnout, as well as on-line self-assessment tests to see if you are indeed on the verge of a burnout. But if you find that you, or someone you know, has slipped past the initial stages of burnout and into the zone of the breaking point, I highly suggest seeking professional help as soon as possible. Contact your local clinic, hospital, or call a 24 hour crisis line immediately in order to get the help you need. They can refer you to local professionals who are capable of helping you through it.

No one is immune to burnout, but we can all take steps each day to help promote a healthy lifestyle, positive outlook, and less stressful environment for us to maintain balance, and in turn that will make us all more effective as activists and champions for the cause.

*Sourced material via http://www.helpguide.org/mental/burnout_signs_symptoms.htm

  • Peter Wright (Tawil)

    Some very important advice there, especially for the 24/7 workers.

    Thanks for opening this one up…. time for the busy ones in the MHRM to consider how to keep themselves in optimal shape.

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Voice-for-Men/102001393188684 Paul Elam

    Great post Kristina. Very close to home here. Thanks.

    And if you can’t tear yourself away from the box. At least try to get a laugh in here and there.

    • John A

      Great video, very funny. Is a gazelle “fast food?”

  • http://www.saveservices.org Teri Stoddard

    Oh my God, that video is wonderful. Excellent post too. I can verify that taking a break from activism is good and sometimes necessary. I’ve done it. It’s much better to do that than to end up leaving the movement for good, or losing yourself.


    • http://manamongoaks.com/index.html Ray

      “It’s much better to do that than to end up leaving the movement for good”

      Yep, vacations really recharge the batteries! And in between vacations, it’s better to have a long, slow-paced, steady (sustainable) effort, than a flash in the pan level of activism and then a disappearing act. It’s almost always a greater total contribution. :-)

      High levels of activism can really accelerate “the burnout effect,” and are much harder to maintain. Find a sustainable level – - – something you can live with for the long haul, IMO.

    • napocapo69

      Just noticed the sharedparenting link under the signature. It is very appreciated.

  • amoeba

    I truly needed that. Good article. I’ve had my share of stress lately to say the least.

  • napocapo69

    Thank you Kristina, actually I’m a bit burn out.
    Seriously, this is a damned needed article, that many of of us should read to self assess and to take care of own lives.

  • http://www.hermitparkclinic.com.au Greg Canning

    Thanks Kristina, it’s certainly easy to fall slowly into burnout without realising what is happening. Keeping life in balance remains a major challenge, and this article is a timely reminder that we need to take good care of ourselves.

    Love the vid Paul, I also not infrequently replay the honeybadger video when feeling low , it always picks me up.

  • Near Earth Object

    Good medicine.
    Thanks Kristina


    10. You’re so tired you now answer the phone, ‘Hell.’

    9. Your friends call to ask how you’ve been, and you immediately scream, ‘Get off my back, bitch!’

    8. Your garbage can IS your ‘in’ box.

    7. You wake up to discover your bed is on fire, but go back to sleep because you just don’t care.

    6. You have so much on your mind, you’ve forgotten how to pee.

    5. Visions of the upcoming weekend help you make it through Monday.

    4. You sleep more at work than at home.

    3. You leave for a party and instinctively bring your ID badge.

    2. You blasted your Daily Planner with a .357 Magnum a week ago, but still haven’t been able to miss a meeting.

    1. You think about how relaxing it would be if you were in jail right now.

  • Aimee McGee

    Another stress management technique – have a cat. My atavar is currently asleep on my shoulder

    • Kimski

      I’ve been saying that for years, and I have two. ..Along with the rest of the rampant Zoo. :D

  • http://manamongoaks.com/index.html Ray

    I’ve always tried to channel my frustrations with gender feminism and misandry into constructive channels: staging protests and rallies, making protest signs, making protest buttons, making protest T-shirts, making protest videos, writing a few articles, writing letters, etc.

    When I would get bored with one outlet, I’d go on, or go back, to another. It worked pretty well for more than ten years, but I’m getting old, and that’s not burn out, it’s “old.”

    I still try to contribute to the MRM (or MHRM) in ways, but at a slower pace. Pacing one’s self is good and also helps avoid burnout.

    All the things Kristina mentions to help avoid burnout seem pretty wise. There’s no discounting how important it is to get well, and stay well, both physically and mentally. Good health and good stamina just naturally go together and I wish both to everyone at AVfM.

  • http://www.mralondon.org Andy Thomas (aka “Andy Man”)

    How relevant! Everything you say in this article is so true and, for that reason, I’ve been trying stay back from stressful activity recently.

    Being slightly aspie, I am vulnerable to pouring my heart and soul into projects, including the MRM. It’s as if I expect to personally, and single-handedly, cure the world of feminism, and carry all this myself. Rationally, I know this is ridiculous, but emotionally, it feels so real.

    We need to know how to look after ourselves before we can look after others.

  • Roger O Thornhill

    Hi Kristina,

    Great article, and very timely thank you! After a brief but productive initial foray into the MHRM creating art and design work I felt quite charred around the edges.

    I’m feeling chipper again and am reporting for duty.

    Mr Elam, I await your creative requests for creative work.

    Cheers Everyone,


    • Peter Wright (Tawil)

      Good to have you back on deck Mr. Thornhill. PS. I sent Paul a T-shirt design a few days ago for potential development by a graphic designer. Was that something worth pursuing, Paul? If yes maybe Roger might consider taking it forward.

      Not sure how getting them printed and sold in the AVfM shop works, but I’m willing to fund a small round of shirts (or mugs etc) if needed, maybe a few hundred $US worth- all proceeds going to AVfM.

      • Roger O Thornhill

        Hi Peter,

        Sounds intriguing… Are you on Skype?

    • Andy Bob

      You were missed, my friend. Glad to see you back.

      • Roger O Thornhill

        Hi Andy Bob,

        I’m glad to be back!
        I’ve still been visiting daily and reading up. Thanks for the welcome back. I have been busy settling back into work after being unemployed for a stretch. I’m looking for things to make and do. Idle hands… :-)

        • Turbo

          Great to have you back ROT

  • Peter Wright (Tawil)

    Roger, I don’t use skype much, but can communicate by email if a project is on the cards. I’m afraid I’m stuff’d after a long day’s work and need some sleep first. I’d like to hear from Paul first about whether he likes the image and thinks its worth pursuing, but I’m not in a hurry as I know he’s got breakneck weight of activity going on right now.

    I’m reluctant to put my private email up and too tired to create one at this minute…. have you got a public email?

    • Roger O Thornhill

      Hi Peter,

      You can find me on Skype easily when you need to. If it is difficult you can always contact Dr F and he can give you my details. Or send a email to rthornhill1959@gmail.com



      • Peter Wright (Tawil)

        Sent you an email with pic, Roger.

        • Roger O Thornhill

          Cool, I’ll check it out!

  • http://www.mralondon.org/ Archi Desai

    Strange that it all seems such good advice, so practical, and so very sensible. For well over a decade I know I’ve applied all of it at deferent times in different combinations. I do believe it would work for many people so I’m not faulting it for others to apply, but for myself, I don’t any more.

    Some of it, I’ve found, can be quite risky though. Taking my troubles to the professional ‘helpers’ was one of the worst things I did. A real One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest scenario. The Psychologists, psychiatrists and councillors etc who in the UK pronounce the term ‘duty of care’ as their remit were most harmful. Gleefully harmful by professions that have a strong representation of misandry. I lost count after 30 of them and that wasn’t even half way through the rest.

    There’s so many more other interrelated issues that I couldn’t express even if I wanted to.

    I know my problem now, and have done so for some time, I’m just allergic to existence. Nearly all that I am aware of, is simply too unpalatable to me, and I will only bear it as long as I will.

    I don’t mean to put people off the recommendations in the article as I’m sure it would work for many. But for me it’s been a long time since they’ve become ineffective at best.

    (I’m not minded to respond further, should anybody reply to this)

    • The Equalizer

      Archi, hang in there brother. We don’t know each other but I have been to the bottom as well and whilst I don’t know your circumstances, I know how low low can go.

      Please lean on any good people around you that you know. Sounds like you feel very alone but you’re not. Maybe your comment about not replying to anyone who might reply to you put some people off saying anything. I am sure all those who read your comment are wishing you the best as I do, with love.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/DannyboyCdnMRA Dan Perrins

    I do believe we have some prosecutors we can recommend for this list.


    The Agitator already with the annual “Worst Prosecutor of the Year” poll I’ve done in years past. (Which, alas, I didn’t have time to get to for last year.) But this will be more regular — and tagged.

    Great post, burnout is brutal.
    I had to take a step back before x-mas, watched about 200 movies and decompressed to ponder a few things and get ready for a new misandry ass kicking year.
    That’s one of the reasons why I got Jeb, he forces me to take a step back everyday to walk him and get outside and socialize a little.
    On the down side a bit he limits my activism, hhm oh wait that was the idea of your whole article, taking some time daily to decompress and hit reset, lol.

  • keyster

    The stress comes from not seeing immediate progress. But Social Movements always move much slower than the activist wants. “Why doesn’t everyone else see this?!”

    In the MRHA you’re contesting something that’s politically and culturally instituted, a part of the collective conscience – and you’re also battling a very biased media. As the MSM dies and is replaced by the New Media, progress will accelerate.

    • RM1970

      I think the same, MSM is the main responsible for this misandrist ideology, but the State performs a main role too, the unfair laws, the partial courts, and that is way more complicated to change.

      • keyster

        First you change the culture (through the media), then you change the politics. The MRHM is still working on the culture part.

  • TheSandreGuy

    To be honest, I’ve only made videos about men’s human rights, and debunking feminist claims for about a year, and I already feel worn out.

    Not just from all endless debates with feminists and manginas, but also from all real-life misandry.

    I can take a break from youtube, and forums. But I can’t take a break from the real world. How do you deal with constant misandry in the media and in the social climate in the real world?

    • Near Earth Object

      Damned if your post didn’t have the power to draw me back from my break.

      Five words into your post and I hit what felt like a brick wall—when you used the word “only”.
      I ‘think’ I know how you are feeling.
      Can you indulge me for a moment for an imaginary thought experiment?
      Imagine that I am an employment counselor and you are my client and we are working together on your resume.

      I read, “To be honest, I’ve only made videos about men’s human rights, and debunking feminist claims for about a year, and I already feel worn out.”…

      Now imagine this rewrite, if you will…because it is so very important how we talk with our self and about our self.

      ‘I dedicated myself to the Men’s Human Rights Movement across the last year by producing a series of videos where I debunk feminist claims.’ ‘Research for my videos came directly from a sequence of discussions with both feminists and manginas, as well as my own growing awareness of just how misandrous our culture continues to become on a daily basis.’

      For me, your language seems to be minimizing your contribution—a very valued contribution. All I am really suggesting—inviting you to consider—is that you give yourself due credit for your efforts. You certainly deserve it, SandreGuy.

      “But I can’t take a break from the real world. How do you deal with constant misandry in the media and in the social climate in the real world?”

      I struggle with this too, SandreGuy, as I am sure many of us do.
      Although I am relatively new to AVfM, I was not born yesterday to this matter. That said, I am going to take a break before I do just that. Kristina (thank you) has produced an article which lights the way. For me, the content of the article is not merely for reading, but for employing, and I intend to take a break and employ her article—full-time—into my life. I deserve that! You deserve that! We all deserve that! AVfM and the M(H)RM needs me, needs all of us, but more than anything else, it needs us healthy. An activist who is fighting burnout is fighting on two fronts.
      With the best practices of health and safety in the forefront of our minds, how do we check out and take a much needed and well deserved break, when we live with the toxicity of misandry in our daily lives? How can we turn it all off, even for a little while?
      I am going to get back into something called ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’.
      Google it. Youtube it.

      @ Factory
      I regret our collision. I regret that I was not in a better place where I could have brought more diplomacy to bear on our difference of opinions. I regret that we could not get beyond our differences, or at least agree to disagree, rather than turn our guns on one another. For me, that was wrong. I wish you all the best, brother.

      And finally…

      @ Erin Pizzey
      “MRALondon member and campaigner against domestic violence, Erin Pizzey, celebrates her 74th birthday this week.”
      Here’s wishing you the happiest of birthdays and many more to come.

      Okay…not saying I’ll be back because I am not leaving, but I am taking a break (for myself).

      • TheSandreGuy

        Thank you for your kind words, and I will try som of the tips.

        Interesting to hear I’m not the only one struggling with the real life misandry of our culture.

        Cheers mate!

  • http://counterfem.blogspot.com Fidelbogen

    For the record, I’ve been in burnout mode for some time, and don’t rightly know when I’ll snap back.

    • https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Voice-for-Men/102001393188684 Paul Elam

      For the record, the issues will still be here after you have done whatever you need to do to take care you yourself.

      You will snap back, I am sure, when you are ready.

  • MateNeo

    Thank you Kristina.