Image: Ethical Unicorn
Burnout is described as ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.’ Many of us have seen it, many of us have lived it. The daily stresses of study, work and just general life can overwhelm us all at times.
But ethical burnout is something else, it’s also about dealing with the fact that you see everything a little differently to most people. With every decision you make you see the potential impact you will have, with every item you see the stories of those who made it. Every light you turn on gets you thinking about carbon emissions, every coffee reminds you of the millions of cups going to waste each year. Whatever it might look like specifically for you, at times it can feel exhausting to carry this constant awareness and to govern every area of your life according to it. Of course more often than not it’s incredibly fulfilling, but it’s important to recognise that we can all get tired too.
We can start running into problems when ethical living starts to feel like a burden, something that gets heavier and heavier, eventually causing us to fall. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
So here are my top tips to avoid hitting ethical burnout:
Remember that it’s not all on you
Yes, small changes in our lives add up to big impact. But more often than not it’s because these are being made in conjunction with scores of other people making similar switches. It’s not up to you to save the entire planet on your own, try to remember this when it feels like you’re slipping into a panic about the future of the world and all its ecosystems. While it is your responsibility to manage your own impact as best you can, it’s not your lone job to save every single inch of the earth. We’re all in this together, so focus on what you can do and what’s around you. Don’t berate yourself for not being perfect enough, instead focus on what your goal is, and remind yourself that you are playing your part as best you can. Be kind to yourself, and remind yourself of everything you’ve already accomplished.
Find a community
We often slip into the panic feeling when we feel isolated. If it feels like you’re the only person that cares about the planet you’ll be constantly worrying that you can’t do it alone. Find yourself a community of likeminded people to encourage and inspire you, and also to remind you that you aren’t alone. The world may not be perfect, but there’s a whole host of eco-warriors out there as well as you. Whether it’s a local environment group or something online (I’m part of the Ethical Influencer Network myself), finding others with the same mission as you makes the ethical goal seem much more achievable.
Take a break
Self care is important for everyone. If you’re running the risk of burnout, take extra effort to make sure it’s part of your regular routine. Whether it’s just sitting with a cup of tea, binge watching netflix or getting outside to the middle of nowhere, we should never get so consumed with helping others that we forget to look after ourselves too. We can best help others better when we’re the happiest and healthiest we can be, so make sure to set aside proper time for rest and relaxation. Don’t believe your brain if it tries to lie to you and say you’re wasting time, remind yourself that being at your best will be most effective in achieving your ethical lifestyle goals long term.
Find an outlet
Often when I’ve experienced moments of burnout I also find I’ve been bottling all of my emotions inside without realising. Whether it be big things, like politicians not thinking about the environment, or small, like the time I forgot to ask for no straw, it can all start to add up pretty quickly. Finding a healthy outlet for these feelings is a great way to look after ourselves along the way, and studies have proved that finding a creative hobby is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety and elevate our mood. Whether it be poetry or pottery, see if you can find a method that leaves you feeling refreshed and, more importantly, like you can express yourself.
More than anything, remember that the compassion you’re working to extend to others should always be turned inwards too. In the words of Ze Frank:
‘Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.’