I, too, was affected by these feelings while working as a political canvasser. Between the intense hours and six-day workweek, I saw my co-workers more than my own family. The job itself caused extremely high levels of stress and exacerbated my anxiety and depression, primarily due to a lack of time off and the knowledge that my work was directly tied to human rights. And I’m not the only one who has felt this way.
The Inherent Difficulty of Political Work, and Associated Struggles
“There have been days when my job has completely crushed me,” says Rachel, 22, a canvassing director in New York City. Her company works with nonprofits and raises money for immigration and reproductive justice initiatives. Though she is dedicated to the causes she fights for, the opposition she faces on a near-daily basis can make the job difficult and takes a toll on her mental health. “You are surrounded by a ton of opposition from people that don’t entirely understand what [you] are saying and yet disagree with you so vehemently.”
Rachel admits that her job offers limited space for self-care and that she actively has to carve that time out herself. She adds that shutting off can often be a big challenge as her work, quite literally, follows her home. “Something will always come up in the news—on social media, on TV—that has to do with what I do every single day,” she tells Supermaker.
Coping With Activist Burnout
Dr. Paul C. Gorski, the director at the Equity Literacy Institute and a lifelong activist, sought to deep-dive into activist burnout when he and two other authors embarked on a research mission exploring the subject. While doing this work, he experienced the stressors of activism head-on, gaining insight into the variation of anxieties and how they may manifest.
“There’s this self-imposed pressure based on people desperate to end the suffering. Think about racial justice activists who understand, not just individual suffering, but mass structural suffering,” Dr. Gorski tells Supermaker, noting the additional stress that stems from the way activists are characterized by media and government. “[Activists] exhibit reasonable behaviors, given the conditions they’re dealing with and the injustices they understand so deeply.”