What is Burnout?

Burnout is more than an abundance of stress; it is the act of being emotionally and physically drained from numerous experiences simultaneously. Psychologists define burnout as a “break between what people are and what they have to do.” With so many balls to juggle, feeling intense exhaustion can be expected. Yet, there are opportunities to combat this burnout, including in the world of community organizing.

Be Aware of the Symptoms

Remedying burnout starts with understanding how overexhaustion and stress can show up in your body. Here are a few symptoms to look out for:

  • Exhaustion: Feeling emotionally and physically drained which can lead to reduced productivity and careless mistakes
  • Cynicism: Having negative associations with the work you used to love which can lead to reduced goals, aspirations, and commitments
  • Inefficiency: Doubting self-worth and excitement for your work which can lead to not being as present or mindful

How to Combat Burnout

Success doesn’t happen overnight. As organizers, painstaking hours are put into our campaigns. As Occupy Wall Street organizer Cheyenna Weber said, “Our roles are to study where our society has failed and then generate creative solutions to fix it. We are students of violence, oppression and harm.” It is normal to feel burned out from working hard! Luckily, there are ways to work with your team to ensure sustaining achievements.


Delegation is an important leadership skill when it comes to taking a load off your plate and handing over responsibility to others. This not only boosts participation within your organization, but is a reminder that there is strength in numbers. Remind yourself that collectivism exists and “no single person is the one hero”; it’s a marathon, not a sprint! Delegation will engage more of your organization’s members and help with decision fatigue. Making it easy to participate is important when providing others the opportunity to step up and give yourself a break.

Set Realistic Expectations

Clearly communicating to your team and clients about the goals you intend to accomplish is key here, just as those goals need to be SMART. What are SMART goals you ask?

S – Specific 

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Time-Bound

This will be important when breaking away from the grips of frustration, disappointment, and resentment. Setting your team up for success in this way will help avoid the onset symptoms of burnout and help motivate your team for the long run. Break free from perfection when setting these goals and understand what your team is able to accomplish!

Establish Work-Life Boundaries 

Work-life integration can benefit your team in understanding your worth as an organizer and voice of the cause. This integration consists of taking brain breaks, limiting work hours when needed, and knowing what you can control. Scheduling “action hours,” where you communicate with decision-makers and make strategic decisions will help manage the stress that follows this process. Professional organizers find boundaries can “help protect your energy, time and value” which feeds into practicing self care.

Practice Self-Care

You are an important part of your organization and your team relies on you! Thus, taking care of oneself is vital for sustaining day-to-day operations. You must find balance; this is a daily practice. Self-care consists of anything that recharges your social battery to reduce stress levels and improve overall mood and performance.

Some examples are: 

  • Eating well
  • Sleeping enough
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Journalling
  • Reading
  • Engaging with the community

Making the time and space to reflect, emotionally, and physically, will help build a healthier mindset so your team can work more effectively. This is subjective to each individual, so find activities that work for you and ones that can be seamlessly incorporated into your everyday life.

Celebrate the Wins

Being appreciated within your organization is motivating for all members. Here are a couple of ways to celebrate those wins:

  • Recognize eachother’s hard work and efforts that went into its execution
  • Support and encourage your team, it doesn’t need to be about the work all the time
  • Continue to give constructive feedback and learn from your mistakes
  • Thank eachother for the time and thought that your members put in each day

This will help motivate them to continue showing up with positive attitudes and hard-working efforts.

Seek Support 

You are not alone! Support comes in many forms: emotional, practical, or informational. Burnout is a normal feeling and can happen in any capacity. Be aware of the resources that are available to you before, during, or after burnout occurs. Here are a couple of links that can provide help for organizers:

Overcome Burnout TOGETHER

While the work your organization is doing is important, so is your mental health and well-being. Taking care of yourself and your comrades will help ensure satisfaction and deep-rooted success. Our trainings enhance your leadership and coaching skills, benefiting both you and your team. We focus on five main leadership skills:

  • Articulate a story of action
  • Build foundational relationships
  • Structure a team with shared purpose
  • Turn resources into achievable goals
  • Translate these goals into action

With the right skills and support, it’s easier to celebrate wins (however small or large) and overcome burnout–together.