As university students complete their last finals, school teachers gear up for the last few weeks of the semester, and working professionals anxiously await upcoming summer vacation time, we all seem to suffer from the same problem: Burnout.
Taken from “Psychology Today”:
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
physical and emotional exhaustion
cynicism and detachment
feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
I personally feel a TON of burnout at this point. I am used to carrying a heavy amount of exhaustion and stress daily, but this is a new feeling for “college Mandi.” I felt afraid, anxious, and stressed about my future.
At times, I even find myself dreading becoming a teacher at all.
The questions I ask become haunting:
“Will I always be this tired?”
“If I am a teacher, will I ever experience a life without such crippling stress?”
“If I teach when I’m exhausted, what effect will I have on my students?”
Imagine a candle, burning so brightly for so long, and the flame eats the wick away until the flame burns only wax. The candle becomes smoky and volatile, until eventually the flame sputters and dies out altogether.
Simply put, it is burned out.
Talking it over with my mentors and loved ones, I’ve discovered that burnout in my life has some specific causes.
I’ve been teaching for a full year now– the longest stretch ever for me. I gave a huge recital this semester, and worked very hard for it. I had very important end-of-semester juries to stress over. I’ve discovered and been dealing with the effects of anxiety.
My burnout has a lot of understandable causes! It didn’t just come out of nowhere.
It doesn’t mean that I’m not meant to become what I set out to be.
It doesn’t mean that I’m broken.
It’s not a sign that I should stop everything I’m doing and give up.
It just means that I’ve pushed myself, and I’m very tired. (Was this a newsflash to anybody? I don’t think so.)
Maybe you’re experiencing the familiar heaviness of burnout at this crucial time in the year. If so, I hope you can take advantage of some of my favorite strategies to help relieve some stress.
Healing from burnout 101
Take a break.
This isn’t new. If you’re anything like me, your body and mind are BEGGING for a rest right now. Summer (a properly relaxing summer) comes at just the right time.
One thing that I have to remember is to consciously take the opportunity to rest.
I don’t have to start learning next year’s piano music now. I don’t need to make plans with forty different people in the next seven days. Now is not the time to deep clean my apartment, reorganize my filecabinet, or start a rigorous workout routine.
For at least a week, I need to just REST.
Get a change of scenery.
Vacation! Take a weekend and visit a friend in another city. Stay home this summer. Do anything it takes to get out of the “music school bubble,” or whatever bubble you find yourself in.
If you can get away for long enough, perhaps you’ll start missing it. That’s your sign that you still DO love this stuff.
I’m lucky– my trip to Austria in a few months will be the perfect getaway!
Be kind to yourself.
For the first time all year, LET yourself have a break. Watch all the Disney movies your heart desires. Get caught up on Game of Thrones. Read your favorite books that have nothing whatsoever to do with academia. Go for a walk. Go for a hike! Get a pedicure. Take a bubble bath. Let yourself sleep in. Eat delicious food. Takea yoga class.
I could go on and on.
Just make sure your basic bodily needs are taken care of. If your body is happy, and you are actively seeking ways to lighten the load on your mind and heart, I guarantee you’ll start to feel lighter.
Hearken back to your original sources of inspiration.
For me, this means talking to my teaching mentors. Hearing them speak with passion about why they teach, what they find most important, and what they love most about teaching re-awakens my psyche. I begin to glimpse the fire that I once had for the same things.
This also means taking time to reflect on positive experiences. Remember those moments that struck you with awe and inspiration. I remember my most emotional choir concerts, solo performances, and moments in rehearsal.
You’ll be tempted to dig yourself into a hole of negative memories– so this will take some effort.
People experiencing burnout (or any other derivative of depression) tend to withdraw. We don’t really want to see anybody because we don’t feel great in the first place.
Now is the time to seek out the people in your life that consistently leave you feeling positive, energized, and inspired. Pick up the phone. Send that facebook message. Meet up for coffee. See how they’re doing in their life, and just enjoy the company!
For a burned out candle, you would let it rest. Let the heat die down, and let everything cool back to normal. You’d maybe clear out some unhelpful wax. You’d straighten up the wick, and maybe trim the burned end. You’d make it beautiful again, and then you’d let it burn brightly once more.
I hope you can do the same for yourself as we embark on our favorite season of the year.