Burnout is a word thrown around a lot in the music industry and it is difficult to know when burnout may be around the corner. But that’s the ultimate trick, to see it coming and know how to do something about it. If we don’t see it coming (or ignore warning signs as that’s easy to do), we can certainly do things to recover from it.
How does burnout happen?
Basically, burnout happens when we have impossible expectations of ourselves coupled with not being proud of who we are and what we do. Sound familiar? Sprinkle in no time out and that’s a recipe for an emotional crash. Maybe we take lessons to become a pro on the guitar or the most in-demand DJ – we dedicate countless hours to learning and playing and writing and gigging. And it’s all we can do to not think about taking over the industry. Eventually, if we are not careful, we become consumed with it all and there is nothing left in the tank. So we take a forced extended break, as the desire to play has left us. This is burnout. It’s not being annoyed with rejection – it’s burnout. It causes relentless apathy.
Is burnout caused by pursuing music itself?
Not exactly – burnout can be caused by a myriad of things, but it’s all about perception.
The way we think about things dictates how we will feel.
The music itself is a passion for many, and certainly for all of us. It’s often the things weaved between the pursuit of musical greatness that cause the highest probability of burnout.
• difficulties with making things work with other band members
• dealing with different personalities and ego
Keep things simple. No one needs drama, that is reserved for reality TV. Cull the pack and keep people that work well together around you. Keep people who lift you up around you (NOT ‘yes men’) – and also lift others up too.
How to prevent burnout
Everyone is different with how they see the world and handle stress, and this is a wonderful thing. Otherwise, everybody would be the same and life would get boring. The music industry portrays a need to live it up and pull all-nighters in the studio. To constantly be on social media and partying all weekend.
Yes, take care of your social media profiles – but don’t buy into the facade of everyone else’s. Social media makes things look shiny and fulfilling, and comparing yourself to others’ lives on the ‘gram will buy you a one-way ticket to despair. When you know this, you can view it from a distance and know that it doesn’t represent real life. This reduces the pressure greatly. Do what you do best and don’t take social media literally. It is possible to work ‘non-stop’ on something you’re passionate about and to feel fulfilled. What we mean by non-stop is a ‘large chunk of the day’. Not through to the middle of the night or all night. If you truly adore what you are doing, it won’t feel like work.
The thing with doing what you love is other people must help out if you want to be great. With this comes stress from other people and things that need to be done that are not of interest to you. Emailing back that promoter, working out your mixing budget, putting
together your schedule – none of that sounds super fun. One thing, in particular, you need to watch out for is being pulled into other people’s
nonsense. The moment you start dedicating your time to what everyone around you wants, you have less time for yourself. When we neglect ourselves, we burn out. Other people’s problems are not your responsibility. The best way to deal with burnout is to listen to warning signs early, and then we have a good chance of preventing burnout altogether. Here are some tips:
You can not do everything all the time. No matter how gifted and capable you are. Find other gifted people to help. You do what you are great at, and get others to do different things that they are great at. This lightens the load.
Cull the pack and keep people that work well together around you. Keep people who lift you up around you (NOT ‘yes men’) and also lift others up too.
• Take breaks
Rest when you can and do things non-music related that give you a fresh perspective on life. Perhaps hanging out with friends that are not in the industry and blow away the cobwebs. Play a sport or go away for the weekend. Balancing our minds by being in different environments can really help. Find things you enjoy that take your mind away from music for a little while. No human has lived a full life by relentlessly focussing on one thing to the point of near insanity.
• Reduce drama
Really get to know who you are and what you want, and what you are good at. Knowing this will allow you to set boundaries and choose people to be in your team that is good at the things you are not. Choose others you can get along with and speak up when something happens that you are not ok with. Leaving things to fester leads to resentment, which is stress, and takes you closer to burnout.
Delegate, take a break, and if you need to – cull the pack.
What happens if it’s too late and I’m already burned out?
First of all -, that’s ok. Second of all – you need recovery time. Sometimes the best cure is to follow your gut instinct. What is it that you need? It is more time alone? Is it a holiday, or an activity you did as a child and loved? The important thing is to do things that bring you a sense of calm and relaxation. If you have found that you no longer enjoy music, then take a break from it. It is ok to do this, and it will give you back your inspiration and energy. You don’t have to throw your instruments away – the fun will return once you have healed. The break may last for a week or a few months – or even longer if your burnout is very bad. Lean on others who can support you and you know what? Go outside in the fresh air, exercise, eat vegetables!
Oh how we can hear our Mother’s voices with this one, but it is true. And most importantly, breathe. Use an app like Headspace or Happy Not Perfect to practice breathing, guided meditation and other exercises to help you get back on track. Eat well, take time for yourself, be kind to yourself with your inner dialogue, and surround yourself with good people who support you. We all know to do these things but sometimes life can get away with us, and we become neglectful with ourselves. Once you recover from burnout, listen to any future warning signs and act on them early!
Delegate, take a break, and if you need to – cull the pack.
Oh and eat vegetables.