Sustaining an EA lifestyle and avoiding burnout

Sustaining an EA lifestyle and avoiding burnout

Last updated: 4th October, 2023

1. Self-care and mental health

EA can demand a lot from people, and there is a sense of urgency to act, but it is important to do so in a healthy way. Self-care is about making sure that you take care of your mental and physical health, and that you do not do altruistic things at the cost of your own personal health.

“We don’t need people making sacrifices that leave them drained and miserable. We need people who can walk cheerfully over the world” - Cheerfully by Julia Wise.

a. EAs on self-care

Many people in the EA community have contributed advice and shared their experiences about being an altruist:

Many people find it helpful to be part of a community of like-minded people. To see if there is an EA group in your area check out the map of local groups on the EA Forum.

b. EA Community point people

Julia Wise and Catherine Low are point persons for the EA community. You can come to them with concerns about problems you’ve noticed or experienced in the EA community.

c. EA Peer Support Facebook Group

This is a private Facebook group to allow EAs going through personal struggles to support each other. You can request to join it and post there or submit an anonymous post about your issue to get other EAs' thoughts.

d. Apps

There are many apps that are good for helping with your mood and mental state of mind. Here are some examples founded by people in the EA community:

  • Improve your Mood tools on Clearer Thinking - Free
  • MindEase - Anxiety and Stress Relief App - 7-day free trial
  • UpLift - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy App to help combat depression
  • Canopie - A free mental health app for new mothers

e. Mental Health Resources

Some health care professionals within the EA community have created some mental health resources:

2. Value drift and staying motivated

Most people in the EA community are young, and therefore their greatest impact could lie in the medium- to long-term when they are at the peak of their careers. However, not everyone in the EA community will continue to act according to effective altruism principles throughout their lives.

“Value drift” is a term used to describe various ways people greatly reduce or cease their altruistic actions. The causes could be a change in values, a loss of motivation, or a change in lifestyle. The percentage of people drifting away from EA has been estimated by Peter Hurford using the EA Survey data, and by Joey in “Empirical Data on Value Drift”. Marisa Jurczyk conducted a qualitative analysis of value drift in EA.

If you are highly motivated now but think you are likely to experience value drift, you may wish to focus on having an impact in the short term.

Also, you may wish to take action now to reduce the chances that your values and motivations will change. For practical things, you can do to make it less likely for you to change your values, and more likely for you to remain motivated, see the tips in Marisa Jurczyk’s qualitative analysis.

Note that while it seems reasonable to take steps to keep your motivation high, it is debatable whether we should take steps to prevent your values from changing as it is possible that your future self will have better values than your current self.

3. Productivity resources

Many people in the EA movement get significant value out of learning to be more productive in their work. Here are some tools and readings to help you get more out of your day.

Peter Hurford’s article “Productivity 101 for Beginners” is a good starting point for thinking about productivity. His article “How to Be Productive” provides a more in-depth look at particular methods.

a. Tools: Improve Decision Making and Reducing Cognitive Biases

b. Goal-Attainment/Habit Apps

c. Task Managers

d. Learning

e. Productivity Coach

Lynette Bye is a Productivity Coach for people in the EA community. She writes about productivity and interviews EAs on their productivity techniques on her blog. For a brief overview of her work see her Planning Productivity EAG Talk and her 28 quick productivity tips.

f. Further reading