Apparently, this is a book for idealists on the brink of burnout. I don’t buy it. Rather, this book is for everyone, from high-powered businesspeople to innovators to humanitarians, who desperately need the tools to care for themselves as they seek solutions to the world’s challenges.
— Irshad Manji, founder, Moral Courage Project, The Trouble with Islam Today
The brief chapters, or reflections, in this book are like the famous mezze from the kitchens of the Middle East, the part of the world in which this book was born. Dipping into each new reflection, you will savor a particular, delicious piece of wisdom. At the end of it all, you will have eaten a feast that will help you [...] to live your own life better and to be more useful to those around you.
— from the foreword by Dr Hugo Slim



"Alessandra Pigni has pioneered the field of care in action.  The Idealist's Survival Kit is a godsend for every activist and aid worker."— Michael Edwards, Editor of Transformation.

“Apparently, this is a book for idealists on the brink of burnout. I don’t buy it. Rather, this book is for everyone, from high-powered businesspeople to innovators to humanitarians, who desperately need the tools to care for themselves as they seek solutions to the world’s challenges. With bracing honesty and piercing clarity, Alessandra Pigni shows us not only why, but also how, to practice self-empathy for the sake of efficacy. And the chapters are short: perfect for the frantic, fevered do-gooder. Do yourself some good and slow down just enough to savor Alessandra’s hard-won wisdom.” —Irshad Manji, founder, Moral Courage Project, The Trouble with Islam Today

“The Idealist’s Survival Kit is essential reading for anyone in or interested in the humanitarian sector. Alessandra Pigni deftly cuts through the humanitarian tradition of suffering in silence, as well as the more recent fad of spilling all onto social media. Humanitarian aid is intensely grueling work; The Idealist’s Survival Kit brings sound, well-researched advice for those to whom dealing day in and out with the dangers here, whether those be contextual, organizational, or institutional, is more than something to fill a gap year.” —J., aid worker, Letters Left Unsent

“This book is a must-read—not only for those who work for NGOs on the front-line of humanitarian catastrophes, but all those who work in the helping professions throughout the world. Radical in its conclusions, it shows again and again that, as if the trauma of such situations wasn’t bad enough, the greater problem for aid workers is burnout. It is more pernicious too, because few will admit to it or its cause—bureaucratic blockages and unloving work- ing conditions. Which humanitarian organization will admit that it is paperwork which destroys the soul and desk-fatigue rather than battle-fatigue that reduces the hardiest to complete helplessness? When you’ve volunteered to expose yourself to the worst that the world can do, how can bureaucracy reduce you to tears? This book shows how. Then, little by little, based on her own experience and that of many of her colleagues, Alessandra gives extraordinarily wise and inspiring advice for how to deal skillfully with it all.” —Mark Williams, emeritus professor of clinical psychology, University of Oxford

“Learning to take appropriate care of our own bodies, hearts and minds is essential if we’re to have resilience, resource and stamina as activists and humanitarian workers in the longer term, and to retain our capacity for the compassion that was probably a key part of what called us into such work in the first place. Experienced humanitarian, respected psychologist and mindfulness teacher Alessandra Pigni offers truly invaluable and trustworthy advice on well-tried practices and perspectives for restoring and retaining some sense of sanity, balance and open-heartedness midst the intense challenges and perennial chaos and compulsions of caring for and campaigning on behalf of others. This book offers bite-sized wisdom that can support and be of service to you in the important work you’re doing.” —Chris Cullen, University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre

“It’s hard to put ourselves first in international aid and philanthropy and other helping professions. Yet if our goal is lasting social transformation, we need organizations and movements driven by strong, imaginative, and effective individuals who can stay in this work for the long-haul. The Idealist’s Survival Kit provides the revelation that makes self-care not just a luxury, but an indispensable spiritual practice. Alessandra Pigni writes as your best friend, your therapist, and your own inner voice, offering guidance and encouragement to remember at once how small, and how powerful, we truly are.” —Jennifer Lentfer, creator of

Thoughts from readers

"Thank you for your survival kit, thank you for your writing - Thank you for doing this. While my research is a little different/ has a different niche focus, I am learning a lot from you, and I just wanted to let you know I appreciate your work." - Abrar graduate student in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs

"I find it [The Idealist's Survival Kit] very comforting and also thought provoking [...] obviously what you write does not just apply to aid organisations" - email from a university lecturer

"A survival kit for idealists. By Alessandra Pigni @mindfulnext Given many copies away, everyone thrilled!" - Sue, medical doctor

"Hi Alessandra! I was burnt out and unable to work most of last year. I’m doing much better now. Your book was one of the most helpful things in that journey, even though I’m in tech there were so many parallels to humanitarian work. Since then I’ve bought 5 more copies and been lending them out to friends left and right - and they’re finding it incredibly helpful too." - Jennifer, Silicon Valley techie

"If you're looking for a good read or a gift for any #aidworker pals I can highly recommend this thoughtful book by @mindfulnext" - Rhianon, aid professional

@mindfulnext - thank you for writing this book! Amazing resource. Looking forward to using it in our team building - Martin, twitter follower

"Dear Alessandra, I have just finished reading your book and I am sure it will stay with me forever. It took me really long to finish it. I found almost every chapter worth re-reading and re-thinking many times. I started reading it in Antakya, Turkey so I really felt close to your experience when talking to my colleagues from Syria. Later, still reading your book, I was leaving Turkey and considering another deployment or return home. I took the advice and had a long leave before I decided. And now, I finished the book already working in Iraq. Thank you for giving me support in all this. Thank you for making me have second thoughts." - Monika, humanitarian

"Hello Alessandra, I just wanted to tell you that I'm appreciating very much your book! After 14 years with MSF, I had a spectacular burnout, which took more than two years to recover from.  Reading your book helps me to see very clearly what I was feeling with the work. [...] Incidentally, I bought your book because of having seen that it was about burnout - but I hadn't realised that you'd worked so many years as a humanitarian as well.  Now I am recommending your book to all of my former colleagues who are struggling with the same things you describe. I just wanted to express my gratitude for your having put words and clarity to my experiences ... And for your book as a support to people who are still in and struggling within that system." - email from a former aid professional

"Amazing book! I've already recommended it to several friends most working in aid, development and human rights as well as other professions. Easy to read, insightful and brings to light the much needed conversations about working in the humanitarian sector." - review

"An insightful and nourishing read for those in aid and development, or considering a career in these fields. I found myself nodding my head during every chapter, and came away feeling more hopeful and understood." - review

"This book was a real eye opener, probably the most provoking read for a LONG time. Bravely and passionately written. Generously filled with personal experience and observation. A very useful read for anyone subject to burnout through working in an exploitative and pressurised work environment." - review

"This is an excellent guide to retaining one's sense of self, compassion (and sometimes sanity) when faced with the demands of working for an NGO in the field." - review

"I am always inspired by Alessandra's words of wisdom, her teachings and her unequivocal way of communicating the essence but also the meat on the bones of any idea or story. She shares snippets of her life and worldview whilst always taking into account others too. A touching and heartfelt journey and guidebook for all of us." - review

Who is the ISK for?

"[...] this book is for everyone, from high-powered businesspeople to innovators to humanitarians, who desperately need the tools to care for themselves as they seek solutions to the world’s challenges." - Irshad Manji

I wrote The Idealist's Survival Kit. 75 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout with a particular audience in mind: idealists. I'm discovering that idealists are everywhere, some are humanitarians, some are doctors, some are techies in the Silicon Valleys, some are journalists, some work a corporate job and serve in hospice as volunteers, some are teachers, nurses, social workers, writers, photographers, entrepreneurs. Some wear an activist's badge, others operate in the background, or on the margins and bring change in their communities. Some work behind a screen, some in direct contact with some of the world's most complex situations. We come from all walks of life, we are a diverse and interesting bunch, often full of contradictions and paradoxes. We are sensitive and enquiring souls with the ambition to leave a positive mark in the world.