The Urban Review

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 696–716 | Cite as

Relieving Burnout and the “Martyr Syndrome” Among Social Justice Education Activists: The Implications and Effects of Mindfulness

  • Paul C. GorskiEmail author


Activist burnout, which causes activists to disengage from their activism, is a formidable barrier to the sustainability of social justice movements, including those focused on social justice in educational contexts. However, the cultures of these movements often disregard the importance of self-care, seeing it as self-indulgence, putting activists at even higher risks of burnout. In this study, one of the first to assess the impact of specific self-care strategies on activist burnout, data from interviews with 14 social justice education activists are analyzed in order to uncover how they used mindfulness practices such as yoga, tai-chi, and meditation to cope with burnout. The analysis revealed a variety of ways in which mindfulness mitigated their burnout experiences. It revealed, as well, a shared perception that, beyond helping to sustain their activism, mindfulness made them more effective activists.


Social justice Activism Burnout Mindfulness Well-being 



This study was funded in part by a mini-grant from the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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