Preventing burnout as a climate advocate
By Juliet Freiheit
As an environmentalist, remaining consistent in your advocacy over time can be challenging. Climate work can carry heavy emotions — both negative and positive — and it can be hard to ride the roller coaster of possibility without burning out.
CCL’s “Preventing Burnout as a Climate Advocate” training on July 12 helped attendees learn how to practice resilience to avoid burning out. Tamara Staton, CCL’s Education & Resilience Coordinator, co-hosted this training with Drew Eyerly, CCL’s Conservative Outreach Director. The two led an exploration of burnout, steps to resilience, hands-on practice activities, and open discussion. If you missed the training, easily tune into the event recording or explore the presentation slideshow to learn more.
Beginning with a check-in of their current mental states, attendees then began building personal resilience through music and movement. Music and movement calm our nervous systems and help us tap into our higher brain, allowing humans to be more resilient. This small, yet impactful, exercise prepared participants for their training.
What causes burnout?
Drew explains burnout is caused by feelings of pressure, a combination of enduring situational stressors, and high expectations. The deep sense of overwhelm or urgency, personal awareness of the complexity of climate change, or slow pace of progress are also common causes that lead advocates to burnout. There are a variety of emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological signs that environmentalists can recognize and address about themselves to revive their efforts.
How can you prevent personal climate burnout?
Deepening and strengthening our own resilience is key to preventing this burnout. Resilience is the ability to learn to thrive under stress and bounce back from these stresses of life. The course of climate work is not an easy one, with many highs and lows, but resilience helps us stay the course.
Tamara shared five steps to deepening personal resilience: identifying your current feelings, accepting that what you need is what you need, seeking help when needed, practicing meeting your needs, and repeating the first four steps regularly. In simple terms, higher resilience brings higher energy to one’s advocacy.
Building this resilience requires consistent practice over time to rewire the brain and body. Drew reminded listeners of the helpful practice they’d done so far in the workshop such as listening to music, moving their bodies, personalizing new information, and fostering social connections. Additionally, navigating a balance between climate work and life is essential to preventing fizzling out. Provide structure to this part of your life by drawing boundaries and maintaining realistic expectations for what you can achieve. A frequent message throughout the training is taking good care of yourself emotionally and physically, which helps solve smaller challenges along the way.
In search of building resilience, do your best to avoid ignoring these signs of burnout. Do not overwork yourself or work on climate late at night. Most importantly, never give up. The battle against climate change can make advocates feel hopeless or tired, but we need all the help we can get. If you feel like giving up, simply practice the four steps to strengthen your resilience: identify your current feelings, accept what you need, seek help when necessary, and practice meeting your needs.
For more information, upcoming events and resources for building personal and chapter resilience, visit The Resilience Hub on CCL Community. To join a community of others interested in doing the same, join CCL’s Resilience Building Action Team.
Juliet Freiheit is the CCL Summer 2022 Communications Intern and a student at Trinity College. As an individual who is interested in environmental policy, Juliet is ecstatic to further her experience and impact by working with CCL.