Why Burnout Matters
How to Avoid Burning Out as an Animal Rights Activist Articles from All-Creatures.org


Dallas Rising, In Defense of Animals’ Council of Sustainable Activism
March 2015

Dallas Rising activist
Dallas and one of the members of her interspecies family

Imagine you’re feeling on fire with your activism. You’ve got momentum, energy, and excitement. You have activist friends you care about and who make you laugh. You’re enjoying your save­-the-world work, feeling healthy and strong, have no serious financial concerns, and you’re getting to spend quality time with the people you love on a regular basis.

Things are going great for you, but there’s a person in your group who isn’t feeling so strong and balanced. They seem to have less energy and aren’t laughing like they used to. They bow out of social invites, saying they’re tired or don’t feel well.

Why should you care?

It’s important to remember that our entire movement and organizations are collections of individual people. When one is vulnerable, it affects the people around them. Here are a few signs of burnout to recognize in a comrade:

• Avoids attempts from members of the group to communicate

• Responds with vague or non­committal comments

• Does not complete action items

• Fragments from the group and isolates

• Presents as tired and stressed but still manages to get a ton of work done

• Confides to friends about feeling overwhelmed

• Gives negative feedback as opposed to constructive (criticizes ideas)

Burnout can look a lot of ways. These are just some of signs. Notice that every single one of them impacts others. One person’s struggle doesn’t just affect them, it affects the entire community.

Here are a few suggestions to help comrades with burnout:

• Make an effort to ask, directly and privately, if they’re okay

• Communicate with compassion when discussing whether or not they can uphold their obligations

• Accept someone’s decision not to follow through on a commitment by acknowledging their decision with kindness and requesting information needed to complete the project

• Don’t pressure or expect everyone to take an action step at every stage of a project

• Cross-train on essential action steps so others can back-up when needed

• Notice when one person is doing more of the tasks than others and ask if they would like help (cross-training helps here too)

• Simply and genuinely tell the person that they’re appreciated and/or missed

• Cultivate a culture of support for fellow activists by being there for one another when personal issues arise

Both of these lists can be expanded upon and I hope you add your own suggestions. This blog is intended to encourage animal activists to approach burnout as a communal and political issue instead of a personal issue that individuals feel they should handle on their own through self­care alone.

Dallas Rising serves on In Defense of Animals’ Council of Sustainable Activism and is the former executive director of the Animal Rights Coalition. She lives in Minneapolis with her interspecies family.

How to Avoid Burning Out as an Animal Rights Activist