Idealist Article: Staying Healthy and Sane While Working for Change
All at the same time, Jen Chau was running her own nonprofit, working 45 hours a week at another organization, starting a small business, and taking three classes. And a lot of activists and nonprofit professionals find themselves with similar lifestyles: by following their passion to make change in the world, they often over-commit their time and resources. Is it healthy?
Chau recently changed her approach and was inspired to write "Activism—now for the sane and healthy too!" on her blog, The Time is Always Right—because, she believes, "Activism needs a serious make-over. I am living proof." She recounts how she came to realize that while she does need to work (and work hard) for change in order to lead a happy and healthy life, she also needs to balance that work with more time spent with her family and friends; more purely fun activities, like allowing herself to read novels instead of only reading books about the issue she's working on; and getting eight hours of sleep a night.
In a WireTap article, "Calling Activists to a Higher Standard," Adrienne Maree Brown writes that she knows a lot of activists who work themselves too hard, become burnt out, and as a result, can't produce high-quality work anymore. But "what is the standard of living we want for everyone? It's not excess, and it's not martyrdom. We must perpetuate a new vision for a lifestyle of plenty—taking care of ourselves and our communities, giving adequate attention to our health and our children, living according to the values we are fighting for every day. That means sleeping well, eating right, understanding your piece of the work and working it."
Responding to the same issue, Julie Fiandt suggests—in "Creating a Balanced and Sustainable Activist Life" on ThinkGirl.net—to take up spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature to complement and enhance one's social justice work. She also lists several books that activists can use as resources to help them take care of themselves while working for change.
How do you balance work and life? Share your stories or tips in the comments below.
**As I prepared to post this article after noticing its relevant title, I was surprised to notice that I'm mentioned in it. That doesn't happen every day!**