Power Trip

The Overwhelmed Person’s Guide to Activism

How to fight back when you have very little fight in you

Clio Chang
Published in
8 min readOct 8, 2018


Illustration: Susan Lee

InIn the two years since Donald Trump was elected president, an upswing in political engagement has been one of the few positive side effects of an increasingly polarized country. According to a Pew survey, 39 percent of the most partisan liberals attended a political event, rally, or protest in the year after the 2016 election; over half contacted an elected official. Overall, more than half of the public — 52 percent — said they were paying more attention to politics since Trump’s election.

But in a world that’s lately felt like a pretty big mess — a new sexual harassment scandal makes news every week, ditto with a natural disaster caused by climate change, and yes, migrant parents are still separated from their children — it’s also hard to not feel paralyzed and exhausted. How, exactly, is one supposed to make a difference when there is so much that needs to be changed? Going to one protest is easy, but what about in our daily lives, when there are also jobs and classes to attend, debts to pay, and children to take care of?

There’s no need to be overwhelmed, and there’s no need to feel like you need to fix everything. Medium talked to a number of organizers — some longtime activists, some new to the scene — about advice on how to step up and get involved even if you’re just one (very busy) person.

Start in your own community.

“Definitely connect with people who are already doing stuff,” Adelle McElveen, a volunteer at Indivisible Brooklyn, said. “Do some due diligence to see who’s out there, who’s active.” The trick is to figure out what you’re passionate about — whether it’s affordable housing, prison reform, kicking a blowhard representative out of their congressional seat — and connecting with groups doing that work in your area.

Googling is an easy way to start, and the internet is full of lists of groups, many of which have guides on how to participate. “A lot of the time, you can read the news and see sort of a structural problem with the world and not know how to fix it,” said Teo Bugbee, an organizer at Writers Guild of America East (disclosure: I’m a member of…