Written by Holly Ashby and Kasi Martin for The Peahen. Holly Ashby is a writer and illustrator who works with the London meditation center, Will Williams Meditation, which helps people overcome stress and recover from burnout. Kasi Martin is the founder of The Peahen where she writes about ethical fashion for the mainstream consumer.
It comes as no shocker that political activism is on the rise right now. But fashion lovers concerned about sustainability and ethics haven’t seen this carry into their field. You may think, “What’s the point of carefully sourcing ethical clothes when it seems that everyone else is still shopping at fast-fashion retailers and throwing out fabrics by the ton?” This disillusionment is a real danger and puts fashion activists at risk for burnout.
What Is Activism Burnout?
Burnout doesn’t discriminate. While it may take different forms, it affects the hard-pressed exec, new parent or free-spirited creative the same. Unfortunately, it’s something we’re forced to deal with every time we make a decision, whether it’s big or small. But burnout can be debilitating. It causes chronic stress that often leads to complete mental and physical exhaustion. For most of us, particularly for those of us in the field of advocacy, it takes significant time to recover from the fallout.
Whether you volunteer, campaigner or consider yourself a ‘conscious consumer’, you carry an extra burden of responsibility on top of the normal stresses of life. Furthermore, as a person who cares deeply about issues such as fair trade, environmentalism, and labor, you likely encounter bad news on a daily basis. The emotional strain of these problems can take a substantial toll.
Becoming overwhelmed by the enormity of global problems and putting too much pressure on yourself to change your lifestyle overnight is, ultimately, unproductive. Our individual choices do matter, but carrying too much of the burden will leave you depleted, and unable to help anyone. So how can you avoid activist burnout?
Take It Slowly
There’s no end to the sacrifices you can make and responsibilities you can embrace when you’re trying to change the world. If you try to take it on all at once, becoming overwhelmed is inevitable. Trying to convert your entire closet to ‘eco fabrics’ or committing to “zero-waste” living overnight will only add to your stress levels. These things are incredibly hard to achieve and expecting instant progress means you’ll be more likely to give up and revert to your old ways.
Allowing your habits as a conscious consumer to evolve naturally is important if you want to lead a lifestyle that’s sustainable for the long haul. When committing to lifestyle changes, try focusing narrowly on one issue that you care about (like animal rights, clean water, fair wages, etc). Let yourself settle into some small initial changes and steadily incorporate more as they become routine. With less to contend with at once, you won’t feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Plus, you’ll probably develop expertise about your chosen issue.