The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: When you’re burning out on the world falling apart

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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I try to keep informed on politics and the state of the world, but I'm getting so, so tired. I have depression and anxiety and struggle to deal with my daily first-world issues — how do people deal with watching the world fall apart? I want to do something to help, but I can't afford to donate and protest crowds give me panic attacks.

— Politics Burnout?

Politics Burnout?: It’s okay to take a break. Even the most engaged politicos and activists would tell you that you need to take breaks to be effective — at anything, for sure, but certainly something as stressful as watching your world take a turn that threatens values you cherish or depend on.

So figure out what you need to take care of yourself — both your need to be engaged and your need to disengage and rest.

As for what you can do when you don’t like what your elected officials are doing, and can’t donate and won’t march, then start calling. Calls to offices calmly stating your position are a key element of pressure for change. Write yourself a script — you can find examples online for specific issues — and get to it. Or, volunteer for a cause you care about. Or for a campaign to unseat someone you dislike or elect someone you like.

Again, within the limits you need, as part of a broader strategy to live the best life you can. So: You want to stay informed, so do that; you need breaks, so take them; you will feel better if you’re able to do something concrete, so make X calls a day/week, or volunteer X hours per week, or whatever seems doable — then turn to something you know refreshes you and live in that moment as well.

Re: Burnout: One remedy is to not fall into the 24/7 news cycle, but commit to one way to find news and then move on. For example, you could watch only the nightly, 30-minute national news broadcasts on ABC, NBC or CBS — then you are up-to-date on what's going on but you are less likely to be sucked into a ton of negativity and despair. Plus, many of those broadcasts end with an uplifting story. Or follow one daily news summary (I like The Washington Post's Daily 202). I have stopped trying to be updated on the absolute latest on everything because it is impossible and it is exhausting.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: Agreed, thanks. Pick a reputable!!!! un-cherry-picked, fact-based source or three, a broadcast, a podcast, a newsletter, and cap it at a tolerable dose.

For Burnout: Remember the world that's falling apart is made of individual people. Making a difference, even by just being kind to someone today, has an impact on a real human who could use your kindness here, now, today!

— Making a Difference

Making a Difference: So true, thank you.

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