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Activism Burnout and Back Again

Scan_Pic0043In my first post I described how I was born and raised in Activism.

My early years as an activist, I was what some may call a pretty ‘hard core”. The stereotypical “angry activist”.

I had alot of anger as a result of my less than perfect childhood.

In those early days I hadn’t yet realized where this anger was rooted and I used my activism to channel my rage.

Life was filled with protests and direct actions. I had always said if I was arrested during a protest that it would be a badge of honour.

Naturally I hung out with alot of other angry activists and we fuelled each others fires.

But you can only stand in fire for so long before you either get burned into ash, or rise like a phoenix from the flames, transformed. 

By twenty-one years of age, I was already experiencing activist burnout Big Time! I hit a wall. It felt like all my efforts to raise awareness were fruitless. People didn’t care I wasn’t reaching anyone.

Around that same time I had a conversation that changed my life!

A close friend told me “if I didn’t know you I would cross the street if I saw you coming, you look so angry”. 


At first I bushed off her statement, but it was there ringing in the back of my mind all the time.

Then one day while walking by a mirror I caught my own reflection, I was shocked by what I saw, she was right. I hardly recognized the angry girl in the mirror.

I knew I needed to make a change. I started reading self help books and going to therapy. I had a lot of childhood anger to unearth and heal. I said goodbye to my then-activist friends. It became clear they couldn’t understand the changes I wanted to make and I couldn’t support them.

I also learned more about myself and my sensitive nature. There was just no way I could continue in activism without wisdom and mindfullness.

As an empath and an introvert, even just being in groups is draining for me. So I’ve had to become very careful about the kind of energy I surrounded myself with. 

This means saying no to a lot of events and functions. I’ve developed the habit of  regular, scheduled self care (hello Yoga and Meditation). Nourishing myself and recharging my batteries is crucial to me, especially once I began to teach.

Eventually I came back to my activist roots, this time with more wisdom and compassion. This time I was learning how to avoid burn out. I became what I call a Pro-activist (commonly called Spiritual Activism or Engaged Buddhism) but that is a story for the next post.

What about you? How to you avoid burn out? What’s refuels you to be a force for good in the world?


Next in the Series by Nyk: “The Evolution from Anger to Spiritual Activism” Part 3

Haven’t read Part 1 yet? Here it is. “Activist, Baby, I Was Born this Way”