When resisting makes you weary 78

A good friend confessed to me yesterday, “I just can’t anymore. I can’t listen to what’s going on and still stay sane. I feel guilty, but I’ve got to pull back.”

Maybe you’re feeling it too. People are mentally exhausted, fearful, and deeply weary after just four months. Even I—the writer of weekly action emails—was head-in-hands at the laptop last week, despairing.

On top of living our normal, busy lives, staying woke and engaged takes a lot of emotional and mental energy. You might want to pull back out of self preservation.

Looking to nature

Have you ever watched a flock of Canada geese migrating together across a clear blue sky? You’ve probably heard that the chevron formation allows them to draft on each other’s currents, making it possible to travel farther with ease.

All my life, I thought geese followed the leader at the tip of the V—the one with the best sense of direction and the most powerful wings. But I learned recently that each goose takes a turn at leading. As the leader tires, another goose takes her place, then another.

They all know the way, and it takes them far. Watch them closely, and you’ll see.

How we respond to difficulty

When you look at how our country has responded to the election—with peaceful protests, financial boycotts, expressing our views through art and phone calls—we, too, are like the geese. We’ve rallied at airports, donated to causes, knitted hats, analyzed documents, and shown up for local meetings.

No single person has coordinated every act of resistance. Together, we draft on each others’ efforts, leadership, and guidance. A leaderless (or rather, leader-full) resistance is the strongest and most effective of all. It will take us far together.

What to do when you’re tired

Consider three actions so you can stay in the movement toward justice without burning out.

1. Rest.

Realize that you’ve already been flapping for months. Rather than take a permanent nose dive, begin to accept fatigue as part of the journey—just like the geese do. When weariness arises, give yourself over to it. Give your wings time to rest. Allow yourself to glide while others keep flapping.

2. Nurture.

Create a self-care plan. Social workers do it. Therapists do it. Every day, their jobs require facing some of life’s most painful events. You, too, are facing the underbelly of America. To face it without growing weary requires a plan that helps you stay woke (alert, conscious, responsive) and also restore your mental well-being and spirit.

Choose from some of the activities below for the benefits they bring. Use this worksheet to guide you. What lights you up?

3. Return when ready.

Just like those beautiful birds, when you’re more rested, you can glide into the lead again, taking action, speaking out, and standing up for what is right. Your honking and flapping helps the whole.

Taking my own advice.

I’m writing this message from the past into the future (yay, technology) as I go on retreat.

Some people wonder how I “do it all” with this Checklist. I don’t. Taking time away from media and work is essential for me to keep going for the years ahead. Going in the woods, writing, and being quiet nourish my heart and soul. Otherwise I certainly would have stopped by now.

Still want to act?

Because I still want you to get quality, well-vetted actions in my absence, please consider following the capable some of my favorite resistance-geese.

Choose one that suits you (or your group) best:

Back of the flock tired: Just one low-hype actions from 5 Calls.

Middle of the flock flapping: Three actions from the AoCC Summer Voting Project.

Lead goose energy: Read the post-election strategy from Indivisible.

Rest assured

We’ll be back with a full list of well-researched actions, gratitude, and good news.

In the meantime, please take really good care of yourself—whether you’re flapping or coasting. We need you in the flock for the long haul.


78 thoughts on “When resisting makes you weary

  • Carol

    Omg, you are a mind reader and savior all in one! My weariness could not be better described. I needed to be reminded of the many options for treatment. Yes, a walk in the woods, silent meditation, singing for fun, hugging, sleeping, and other activities serve as salves to a wounded spirit. Thank you!

  • Ellen Stevenson

    Thank you Jennifer. Yes, we are all feeling the drag, especially those responsible for leading a group. The email load, organizing meetings, work groups, staying “up” so those who look to us for direction and inspiration will always feel connected and empowered, getting to meetings, running meetings and making sure all of facts are checked, the agenda is right and the location has parking, heat, enough space, etc. Every day I start at the computer with the new and follow up info, then go to my to do list and see what I can accomplish. Always a little worried about planned events, always wondering if I’m doing enough. I know we are all in this for the long haul, and I hope I will retain my ability to help make progress. I find that building a strong leadership team is critical – so I too can watch the geese, take a walk, take a day off, walk around the garden and renew my sense of just how precious our America is. It doesn’t take too much to know this is all worth it. One day at a time, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We are together in this. Thanks for your post today.

  • Carol Boysen

    Thank you…
    I too am weary…. and can t see any chg, end or hope in sight…
    Much need advice.!!!

    Off to walk in the park with smiling people, dogs and Spring blossoms!!!

    Thanks for you advice..

    C B

  • Monica Miller

    Oh my goodness……thank you Jen. This past week was one of guilt and hiding because I just had to step away; HAD TO STEP AWAY! Republican politicians here in Texas did not help matters either, and I found myself just shutting down saying, “Enough is enough; I can’t do this anymore!!! “. Your beautiful, healing words came at the perfect time. So starting tomorrow (yes, I need one more day) I will be ready. Thanks so much Jen.

  • Lacey

    I fully support your decision to take time to rest. Thanks for modeling that to your checklist followers :). I’m a social worker, and I 100% support you!

    • Lila Henry

      Glad you are heeding your own advice. I have no doubt you need the rest as well as deserve it! Lila

  • Debra

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Just this past week I’ve found myself having to take a step back, and give myself a break. So thank you, for your thoughtful and encouraging words! They’re just what I needed.

  • Gay Lloyd Pinder

    Thank you!!! This is an important message! It is how we will complete the marathon!! Hugs gl

  • Mark A. Hetts

    Jennifer and Friends: Taking a more measured, self-caring approach will mean “doing the work” itself can be energizing. Always take note of small steps that represent forward progress, even if it is as simple as someone being kind or friendly on the subway (you can always be that person – “What great shoes!” “Would you like my seat?” I wear a hat, a Panama or grey fedora, both with bright feathers in the hatband. When strangers simply say, “Great hat!” I am buoyed and reconnected with others, strangers. It makes both of us smile). I try to remember, especially when I am frazzled or frustrated with others working alongside me that our activism is based on love, of country and of each other. Try to love and care for yourself so you can love and care for others. Outrage is motivating, but there are larger reasons behind it that involve caring for each other. The great majority of people in this country (and globally) are decent and caring, and I try to see and feel that, even when I get pissed off. We can and will create positive change by helping take care of ourselves and each other. I hope that clears that up! Onward, dear folk.

  • Mary Roberts

    Thank you for this.I will re-post on my Facebook page.
    I find that attending to the needs of my old terriers helps me.
    I also remember that this Republican administration is counting on us to weary of the fight and give up.

    And then I’m back

  • Judith

    Thank you for all you’re doing!
    You’re making acts of resistance accessible to people who might otherwise be silent.

  • Pam Hall

    Really needed to hear this, thank you! After being sick three times with colds & flu since election, I felt utterly drained. Not dropping out of protest by a long shot though. Going to Michigan Progressive Summit in Lansing March 4th. Please keep me updated on what you’re doing, you have really great ideas!

  • Alicia Snyder

    Thank you for your work, your checklist and your message.

    What helps me is keeping some things in mind:

    1. This is a marathon and not a sprint. It is ok to conserve energy at the beginning and middle of the race.

    2. America is still a great country. It is easy to feel burdened by the rhetoric and actions of the administration, but this is our country. My life is still pretty damn good because I live in this country.

    3. Keep in mind that all of us have different strengths that we can contribute. I am an introvert so it is not as easy for me to join every march and public get-together. I pick and choose. I also know that the extroverts are energized by public events, so I can depend on them to keep that energy going. I like quieter communication: I love writing so I write to my representatives. I like to send thank-you’s–I sent thank you’s to Senator McCain and Washington state Attorney General Bob Fergusen. I choose communication that is easier for me to do yet still meaningful. I still participate in public events but I am choosy about them.

    I have made a decision to put my energy into more activism and I want to be careful not to get burned out by it so I can keep going. Self-care is very important and taking rest breaks is essential to keep us healthy.

    Thank you, again, Jen!

  • Liz

    Enhance your rest and rejuvenation times by using the techniques from Rick Hansen’s book, HARD WIRING HAPPINESS. Just a few seconds, one to several times a day, of savoring positive moments, scenery, sensations , etc. builds happiness and resiliency neurons in the brain so that one is less knocked down emotional and hence physically by negative events. It really works if you work it. I highly recommend getting the book!

  • Jayashree Rao

    Thank you Jen for the much needed suggestions. I was burnt out and didn’t open your e mail from last Sunday. So, in essence I got tired sooner but I did resort to self-care activities as well.
    Thank you for doing what you do and being who you are.

  • carol levy

    I have been to maybe 10 a least in last few weeks. older so it is very tiring. I worry that as a whole we will get resising fatigue since so many things we need to respond to. Thanks for the acknowledgement and suggestions

  • Karen Smith

    This was very helpful. Thanks. Glad we are in this struggle together.
    One hopeful note. We have a house in upstate New York in Copake, in Columbia County. And while Hillary won in this County, it has historically been a republican district and our Congressman. John Faso is a Republican.. Our hamlet formed an Indivisible group when 50 people showed up in our Town Hall last week. We were told that such groups have started in 6 other nearby hamlets and someone is trying to coordinate the work in building a Hudson Valley Coalition.As a result of such formations, there were demonstrations every Friday evening and Saturday afternoon at Faso’s local offices in the Hudson Valley, as many as 1000 people at a shot.
    Could you, in the future, add to your blog other successful stories so can keep our spirits up.

  • susan Englebry

    Yup. This has been a week of flapping and falling to the back of the flock for me after many days of not getting enough sleep. The barring of a balanced media from White House Press conferences sent up too many red flags and the history and actuality of how people have fared under despotism has loomed large. So, this has been a week of remembering what is essentially important and how to gain renewel…. as in your thoughtful advice.

    But, it has also been a week of reflection on how strong this democracy is and within it, how strong the press is and how sturdy are our rights under the 1st Amendment. And, how devoted our justice system is, for the most part, to the Constitution. We have this and it was so hard won. There have been many other things from which to take heart during the week in the wake of what has been discouraging. Coasting on these winds has been helpful.

    I appreciate these emails from you, Jen. Thank you!

  • Janet

    Thank you for writing this, I know SO many people that just feel like giving up, including myself sometimes. Our fight is too important and we can’t give up.
    I also remind myself that many of our fellow Americans have been living with injustice their whole lives, how can I give up after only fighting for a few months?
    I have vowed to myself that I will NEVER again be lax when it comes to politics, it’s been a good wake up call.
    I give myself room to breath when I need to replenish my soul, after that I go back to fighting the good fight!

  • Darcy

    This is a wonderful post–very humane. Thank you for all the work you do in disseminating information and opportunities for activism to the rest of us.

  • Lynn

    Thank you for this timely message/reminder!!! I’m going to go rest (briefly)……now without any guilt!

  • Barbara Evers

    First…. Thank you for this… I am so overwhelmed lately and I don’t see any forward progress.. But that is because every day there is another horrendous event… That being said I have discovered a site that I can go and just watch Something beautiful…… It is a animal park on the east coast where they are awaiting the birth of a baby giraffe… It’s a web cam that I run on my computer… Commercial free…..And it’s like a breath of fresh air to the madness in the news… https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q/live

  • Lisa Stein

    Thank you so much Jennifer for your awesome website and blog. Very easy to feel overwhelmed and you have a nice way of keeping it simple to do the hard work. Your words of encouragement or especially helpful. Lisa

  • fran fevrier

    Jen, thanks so much for your (for me) timely and (as always) warm words. I’m in this for the long haul, and need to pace myself in order to keep on keeping on. Mulched my little garden this morning, and feel back in touch with an essential part of myself, and ready to keep on keeping on with our resistance.

  • Susan Sarabasha

    Thank you. A friend sent this to me. Today I was tired beyond words, took a walk in the woods but still felt exhausted. Now I know I can rest and get back into the V soon.

  • Elissa Malcohn

    Hi, Jen — Thank you for this, and for your wonderful list, which I share with my groups. I will share this wisdom with them as well.

    I am neither a social worker nor a therapist, but I am both a caregiver (since 2001) and a cancer patient (since 2014). Caregiving gave and still gives me self-care tools that I applied during active treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation) and continue to apply because I am still on cancer-fighting meds. Cancer helped me hone those tools further — just in time to apply them to my activism. I personally also benefit from healthy eating and exercise, listening to music (“The Declaration” by The Fifth Dimension is especially pertinent these days), and engaging in creative activity. Work-arounds are also important — chemo made the part of my brain that I use in fiction writing inaccessible (reading anything longer than short articles was difficult as well), so I turned to digital art to maintain my creative sanity. Photography also rejuvenates me. For me, a retreat can mean sitting on my porch or spending some time at a local park. Even a five-minute break can make a difference. Now, more than ever, self-care means being gentle with oneself. That gives us resilience and the power to persevere over the long haul. Thank you very much again. <3

  • Monica Salinas

    You have my fullest admiration Jenn! Thanks to people like yourself, this country will not crumble to fascism. Your intelligence and organizational endeavors to lead us into action are amazing!! If I had a daughter I would want her to be like you!

  • Janice Shaffer

    I really needed your uplifting comments and hope your meditation retreat restores your soul and energy. I think about the Civil Rights Movement that has taken years to make small gains, and finally, truly understand the words “We Shall Overcome” if not today, then tomorrow, and tomorrow, etc but we will not give up!!! Love to you Jen and all weary but energized travelers.

  • Nan R Kenton MA, MC

    Very well said and very true. I spent years teaching about grief and its debilitating effect on body and mind. Grief is universal, as are joy, anger, hope, and love. I think the wisest course, for myself and maybe others is to find joy wherever It may be, work through anger no matter how impossible it seems, always build on hope, and never never give up.

  • Lisa G (angel)

    Good for you Jen! You are showing us the way both through the action list and through your stepping back for a rest. Yes! Balance is a must. We need to be able to sustain this resistance for the long haul. Therefore self-care is a necessity. With much gratitude…

  • ~dia Walker

    Bless you dear young one. I am inspired by your wisdom and practical suggestions-they all resonate with me. I am 64 and feel very young and a late bloomer in being truly woke as you say. But it feels good and I am slowly choosing to be informed and alert, and planning my responses into my week. Baby steps forward. Thank you, thank you.

  • Bobbi Rubinstein

    This was a wonderful post, especially the image of the geese. I took Prez Day off and stayed in my pj’s all day. I need to get to the gym more! Thanks for the work you do.

  • Laura Davis

    Jen, bless you for sharing your self-care strategies and modeling them for us. I love learning about the geese and I plan to quote you for the self-care workshop I’m teaching in a couple of weeks. So glad you’re taking care of yourself.

  • Mark Philipp

    Know why one side of the chevron is sometimes longer than the other?…………………………………………………………………………………..There are more geese on that side 🙂

  • Lauren

    Thankyou for this – being reminded of how to cope for the long run and not just the sprint is so important.

  • Kass Wood

    I applaud you for your initiative and love of our democracy. Thank you for leading the flock. I am not a leader, but rather, a pretty good follower. But I do not follow blindly. I choose my leaders very carefully. So, thank you for showing the way and plowing the road.

  • Dana D Moser

    Oh, Lord, I know what you mean, Jen. I had to go outside and video/photograph the Sandhill Cranes as they left my state of Florida to head north to Michigan. I do try to take some time out but I print out your checklist weekly and try to do some of the activities. I also downloaded the 5 Calls app and try to make at least three calls a day. I reprint your Call to Action on my facebook page weekly and several friends have written to tell me they keep up with my many postings and calls for action/phone calls, etc. It’s like whack a mole, so many, many issues. I sure wish people studied history a lot more — otherwise the old maxim about repeating crops up. I truly appreciate all that you do … you are the goose at the front of the flock (or one of my beloved Sandhills) and I’m flapping as hard as I can behind you. Thanks for everything!!! Just read this to know how much you are supported — no need for any reply. Just keep those weekly updates/calls coming.

  • Arlene Longstreth

    Thank you for knowing how I feel: hopeless and overwhelmed this week. I think, like you, I will coast this week, and maybe only make one or two phone calls. At 72, I’m getting tired!

  • Lorie Bickford


    I love this. I have thought of it in a cycling metaphor, of course. It is like a cycling pace line where everyone takes their turn pulling at the front for awhile till they tire, then they drop to the back while the next one in line moves up to take your place. You recoup and slowly move back up to the front as you have had your opportunity to rest. As you move up that line and others fall back you are both resting and slowly taking on more of the work. Then the cycle repeats itself. A team that does this can ride forever!!! So let’s ride on my friend!

  • Diana Scheel

    My husband and I live in Portland. He belongs to the Truck Museum in Brooks. Do you know where it is? So we are practically neighbors!
    Thanks so much for this addition of your newsletter.
    You are the future and hope of our country. I am almost 65 and I get tired easier than when I was your age. But my feminist and patriotic streak are energized and you have saved me from despair and created much hope in me.
    Thanks again for being you and working for our country. I wear a US flag pin with a big safety pin above it. The message is: You are safe with me AND I take my country’s symbol back from the Republicans. It is the flag of us all.
    Diana Scheel

  • Laura Singletary

    I just want to thank you Jen for all you do. This is a great resource for us. Like you, I’m getting a bit burned out. Your advice to nurture ourselves is right on target.

    Oh yes, are you familiar with 5 Calls? https://5calls.org
    Check it out, it’s a great app for making calls to MoCs

  • Melanie

    I like to think that the honking the geese do while they are flying together is a cheer, a way of saying to one another “You can do it! We can do it together! Keep up the good work!” Here’s my human honk >>>>> Thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you for taking care of yourself. Thank you for staying in for the long flight!

  • Lana Rayseen Horan

    You words are delicious and beneficial for our Bright Community !!!!! I too am grateful.
    Reminds me of camping……… out to gather more kindling. SHINE

  • Angela K

    Loved this post – what a great analogy with the geese! These weekly action items help me from becoming too weary. Thank you for making things easier for us to filter through and take action. I hope you had a wonderful time at the meditation retreat!

  • Lorraine martin

    Thank you, Jen. What an inspirational message to everyone. Whether we are discouraged, tired or not, it is a wonderful reminder to us to keep that “higher place” in mind and remember why we are called to do what we do best…to let our own light shine and bring peace, love and kindness wherever we are.

  • Cindy L

    Thanks for this much-needed blog post today. Another friend saw it posted on Facebook and shared with me. So many of us want to be actively, helpfully political — but we don’t know where to begin. And the anger, noise, and mixed messages are overwhelming, not to mention the president’s disregard for national unity. It has been so upsetting — every hour of the day and night.

    Your post is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all this turmoil and anger. Thanks so much for the great suggestions, and mostly for the validation. Sometimes you have to pull back or retreat in order to gain clarity, as you point out.

  • jane

    thank you, Jenn as always! taking time to take care of ourselves will give us the energy to continue this movement!

  • Angie Totten

    Thank you so much! I have been feeling this way too and keep feeling guilty. I did a rush of protests and phone calls the first two weeks and since then I just feel swamped by regular life. I’m glad we made an impact on our senators and others and am so grateful for the people who agitated at their congressperson’s/senator’s town halls. I live in a deep blue area so I wasn’t called to duty for that, thankfully. It was really encouraging to see other people doing those things.

  • Cynthia Heelan

    Jennifer, Thank you so much for this checklist. I share it with others, and I treasure it. Your blog is also very lovely. I appreciate your generous and positive approach to resistance.

    Did I hear about the 15 postcards on the Ides of March from you? I recently received a notice that sounded quite nasty in tone, and it was different from what I heard previously (in a message I did not save). I have purchased my 15 postcards and I plan to write on each one, an item I wish the president to support and send it to the White House on March 15th. Did I hear about this movement from you? Will my positive requests be lost among nasty notes?

    • Jennifer Hofmann Post author

      Hi Cynthia! I’m actually not recommending the Ides of Trump postcard flurry (for a variety of reasons that are too long and boring to detail here), but wanted to reassure you that it didn’t come from me. Thank you for checking and for being engaged!

  • Carol Chen

    I love this analogy. I hit back-of-the-flock tired a few weeks ago and needed to hear this. Thank you ❤️

  • Julia Cooley

    You are Devine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the section on When Resistence makes you Weary. A follower from Oregon

  • Shelley

    Thank you for your insightful and timely article.
    I totally agree and feel the same, However, I like point made by one of the readers, that we need to get back to resisting when we are restored. It feels like Trump is out to destroy our country and all the good things we have. We must resist!
    I think he is counting on us giving up, so I don’t want to let that happen.

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