Making music is a very pleasurable activity because it is where our passion lies and your heart is always in your passion, but no matter how pleasurable or exciting we find making music to be, it can also become very exhausting and depleting. The term ‘burnout’ according to Herbert Freudenberger’s book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, can be defined as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” For musicians, burnout can come in various sorts – in form of physical stress (which may present symptoms like constant feeling of tiredness, headaches or fever), writer’s block, self-doubt, financial crisis, anxiety, loneliness, depression, lack of energy or drive to do music, negativity about your work and life in general, etc. Burnouts are curable. If you feel like it is not, and it is becoming a threat to your life or health, it is probably because you have neglected it and refused to do something about it in time. I’ve shared some ideas on how to deal with burnout as a musician.
Take some time off work
If you are experiencing burnout as a musician, stop working for a while, this is about you and not about your fans or anyone else. Your routine or monotonous tasks may be the reason you feel very unmotivated. Stop rehearsing, stop producing, stop singing…it’s only for a while. I know this sounds really weird but trust me when I say it is important to stay off work if you want to come back to work. You have been working so hard all year round and it is beginning to tell on your mental, physical and emotional state, why not pause for some time and continue when you feel much better – a few days wouldn’t hurt.
Have a lot of rest
Musicians hardly find time to rest because they feel like they have to complete this and that project; as they finish up one, another one hits them in the face…and the cycle continues; they see the words “take a break” the same way they see the words “unaccomplished”, “failure”, “lazy”, this is totally wrong. As a musician, learn to program yourself to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. It’s okay to take breaks in between your work sessions, it’s okay to have short time naps, it’s okay to relax your body and mind without sleeping or doing any other activity, it is not a “waste of precious time” as many musicians may see it, it’s keeping yourself healthy and sane. Take care of yourself and spend time doing that, don’t let anybody make you feel bad or wrong for putting yourself first.
Start a new project
Try out a new project that may not be music-related. The burnout you’re experiencing is with music, so try out art, drawing, baking, sewing, painting or whatever your next-in-line passion after music is -you could even get a pet to look after. If you don’t have an already existing one, find one or learn one. The whole purpose here is to get you out of your unproductive state in music. When you lay your hands on something different asides music for a while, returning to do music would be like coming over to a fresh start and completely dealing with your burnout.
Spend time with family and loved ones
Laughter they say, is the best medicine. What better way to deal with lack of drive and enthusiasm than spending time with family members and loved ones? Being around the people we love automatically has a way of making everything feel much better. Watch your favourite comedies and shows with them, have meals, picnics and sit-outs with them, spend time showing and receiving love from them, listen to your favourite songs with them and watch your emotional health come back to life.
Change your routine
Monotonous routines are one of the fastest causes of burnouts. Switch up your routine often to maintain an intact state of mind, some of the things you can add to your routine are: taking walks every evening, going to the theatres on weekends, visiting the park, shopping, going for a relaxing body massage once every two weeks or once a month (or as often as you can afford it), and engaging in regular light exercises. When you overwork yourself, the first part that is affected is your mind; when you balance the condition of your mind, every other area begins to take shape.
Change your environment for a while
If you’re claustrophobic, this is a very important step for you to take to overcome your burnout. Staying in an environment for a long time can be suffocating and stressful; especially if it is a confined space like a home studio. To deal with burnout, try working from another studio, could be a friend’s studio or a commercial studio. You can be in sync with nature by taking short trips or going on vacation; leave your environment for a while and come back to it later.
Reignite your passion
We all remember that fire and spark that was lit during the early days of our making music. Now it is gone but we have to find it back in order to keep being motivated. Revisit your purpose of doing music – why you ventured into it in the first place. Reignite your fire and passion for music by listening to musicians who you looked/look up to in the music industry. Sometimes burnouts can occur as a result of unachieved goals or unrealistic expectations from fans; validate yourself and congratulate yourself on your little successes. Be patient with yourself; you’re doing the best you can and it will pay off someday, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I did a video on my YouTube channel of how to stay creative and inspired while making music, check it out here https://youtu.be/IVorMnd805g
Please note that burnout is a serious thing and can adversely affect your mental health and career permanently if you do nothing about it. If you have tried everything you can to deal with it on your own and have met with little or no success, seek help! Talk to a medical doctor, a psychologist or a counsellor depending on what area the burnout seems “incurable” (physically, mentally or emotionally). Always remember that it is part of those things you’ll experience as a hardworking musician every once in a while, and it is not permanent; this too shall pass.
How do you deal with burnouts? Comment in the section below.
How I Stay Motivated As A Musician (My Personal Experience)