Burnout can occur in any industry, but in ours it is sadly very common. As per anxiety and depression, burnout too is a mental health disorder triggered by excessive and prolonged stress – in some cases, anxiety and depression may even be the cause or contributing factor.
Burnout is described by Help Guide as:
“...a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.”
What causes burnout in musicians and how to avoid it?
The number one (at least in my life and that of some of my close friends) has always been monetary stability and regularity. Fortunately, I now have the ability to survive as a full time musician, thanks to many of the things I've written about in my upcoming book (The Touring Musician's Survival Guide), however, I have experienced burnout, anxiety and depression in the past and know that it is a dark hole full of spiraling negativity and questioning life choices. The best advice I could give is to have enough alternative forms of income to help alleviate some of those financial pressures until you can sustain it full time. Pick time flexible jobs that you'd be happy to leave in an instant or with bosses who understand the sector you are trying to succeed in.
On the flip side to this, remember why you started playing music in the first place! Some people can get so caught up in the money, they forget why they
started playing music in the first place. I know we are trying to be successful and make money from our passion...but don't lose sight of that passion! It's one of the quickest paths on the road to resentment, and ultimately burnout.
Not advancing in your career. Again, I've been there! From experience, it's very easy to blame everyone but yourself for being stuck in a rut. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see the bigger picture - Maybe it requires a different tact. The work isn't magically going to fall from the sky straight into your lap...sure, things happen and phone calls will (from time to time) come out of the blue, but not if you don't put yourself in the right position. Create the opportunities for yourself! (More on this soon - enter your email below for updates)
Not enough time for family or friends. Ensure that you allow yourself downtime. It's very easy to get caught up in, and sometimes obsessed with, musical projects or ideas. We're musicians – we LIVE music...but try to live it well! Make time for your partner and family and give them support. They need it just as much as you! Heads up – Don't talk about music all the time or you'll bore the life out of them!
Signs you may be heading towards burnout.
Lack of focus. Your brain might be flooded with a million different tasks and rather than checking off your to-do list one by one, you jump from pillar to post trying to spin all the metaphorical plates at once. This is super unproductive and a sign that you are nearing burnout. Being present and engaged may also be a symptom; If you are struggling to hold conversations with family or friends without being able to switch off, this is a sign,; The same can be said with the inability to switch off at night time, which may manifest itself in insomnia.
Procrastination. Rather than cracking on and getting stuff done (combined with your lack of focus) you may decide to avoid the problems and work altogether. Sometimes it's easier just to put Netflix on or mind-numbingly scroll through Facebook and Instagram. Some people resort to alcohol as an escapism, but when it's to avoid the thing that's supposed to bring you joy, and if your career – income - changes must be made to deter from this negative coping mechanism.
The way you feel about your project and how you talk about it with others. Ever get asked that generic music question: “Hey how's everything going? Still doing your project?” and brush it off with a vague answer that projects success, even though inside you're dying with feelings of uncertainty, guilty and worry? This is a sign. If you are not excited about your project any more and feel like you have to lie to feel accepted, ask yourself why.
In this situation it is easy to vent your frustrations on others; You may make excuses or look to place blame elsewhere. Resentment of other people's success is an issue and a really negative place to be. Instead of seeing the negatives in others, try to pinpoint their successes and replicate them for your own project. The world doesn't hate you or your project...you may have just hit the wall and need a new tact or lease of life. Take a step back and evaluate, rather than driving yourself (and your reputation if you get caught bitching) into the ground.
To truly avoid burnout and for a healthier brain, it is important to step back and see your life as a bigger picture; Make sure everything doesn't revolve around music. If it does, your life is just one dimensional...and instead of burning out at your job, you are essentially just burning out at life.
Have hobbies, play sports, go on holidays, see the world, make new friends, learn new languages...whatever it is, to maximise your enjoyment and musical potential, you must detract temporarily from the music itself.
Taken from 'The Touring Musician's Survival Guide' - a complete guide of what to expect, to watch out for, to maintain, to do, to learn...all with the aims of making you a more well rounded, equipped and employable musician in today's industry - OUT NOW!
Written by musicians for musicians.
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