We asked members of our community to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Jessie Palatucci, Online Communications Specialist, reflects on burn out and some ideas for overcoming it.
Lately I feel weary and I’m only 26. And while I’ve technically been working in one way or another since I was 13, I think it would be difficult to blame my burn-out on my relatively short career.
A few weeks ago I thought I had figured it out. I live in the Nation’s Capital, and decided that all the animosity and partisanship was grinding me down. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that I sat glued to C-SPAN, alternatively transfixed and horrified by the way our politicians seemed intent to drive our economy straight off a cliff.
“That’s it,” I thought. “DC is dragging me down.”
And so in the grand tradition of the U.S. Congress I used the August recess to flee the swampy heart of our country and took a vacation. I packed my bags and headed north toward cooler weather.
First I travelled up interstate 95 toward New York, where I spent several days with family. This felt excellent. And yet still, I was tired. The people I love seemed worn thin. The harsh political rhetoric still filtered in through the TV and radio.
So I pushed forth, further into New England to the beautiful green mountains of Vermont. Let me tell you – getting into the mountains is better than medicine. It’s nice on the eyes, ears and brain. And it renders your cellphone totally useless. (Bad for making calls, great for unplugging.)
And still, I fretted. The friends I visited – they all seemed stressed. The towns I passed through – they’re struggling.
Now I’ve been back for a few weeks and I’ve decided that maybe it’s not just me. It’s ALL of us. This nation is in a collective funk. You know what I mean. There’s a lot to be – well – funky about.
We’ve got a jobless recovery. Federal spending cuts coming down the pike that are going to leave a lot of people high and dry. And a seemingly endless chain of natural disasters beating us down.
How are we supposed to stand it?
I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m working on a short list of things that are helping. If you’re feeling like I am you might want to try them out to.
- Sing. Loudly.
We had a hymn sing in our little chapel recently and let me tell you – it felt GREAT. There were only a handful of us there, but they turned up the instruments loud enough that I couldn’t hear myself (which is key, since I am largely tone deaf) and the six of us belted out some tunes. I highly recommend it.
- Do something nice for someone.
I’m all about doing justice, but sometimes it takes a little charity to remind myself of why I do the justice work to begin with. (i.e. because I want to make people’s lives better.) So I’m trying to do some nice things, like remembering to check on people who are having a tough time. Sending letters and care packages. Putting my money where my social-justice-mouth is.
- Move your body.
I’m always amazed by how my body knows I’m stressed before I do. Sometimes the best way to quiet a worried mind is to distract it by shaking yourself out. A long walk, an impromptu dance party or a really fabulous stretch can go a long way.
- Cook a meal from scratch.
Find a recipe you really want to try and make it from start to finish. I find I end up feeding more than my stomach. Being able to start and complete a task is often all it takes to feel some control over my life. Plus, it’s delicious.
- Be kind to yourself
Sometimes the best thing you can do is cut yourself some slack. Recognize that none of us can solve all the problems we’re facing alone. Allow yourself time to relax. Grant yourself an off week. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling bad to begin with.
Fall is coming and there’s sure to be lots of work to do. So we all need to make it our duty to get our minds right. That way we’ll have the energy and enthusiasm to heal ourselves, our communities, our country and world.