As performers, we are ALWAYS on the go. Whether we're learning lines, practising songs on repeat, memorising choreography or hustling in our side business to pay the bills - it's incredibly easy to become victim to burnout and put yourself under a lot of pressure.
According to HelpGuide.org, burnout is described as 'a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. 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.'
As performers who have likely taken on our hobby/passion as our job, it's incredibly difficult when we lose that all-encompassing passion that drives us. Performing is who we are, and when the stress and mental exhaustion impacts your interest in performance, it makes you question your entire identity.
It's therefore evident that us performers need to take healthy steps, prioritising both physical and mental health in order to avoid burnout. Here's 5 tips to prevent performer burnout:
1) Know the signs
The first key to preventing burnout is to know the signs. If you're not sure what burnout is, or know how to identify burnout, how can you prevent it, resolve it or focus on rest and feeling better? Burnout impacts not just your emotional or mental wellbeing but your physical wellbeing too.
Physical signs and symptoms of burnout
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
- Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses
- Frequent headaches or muscle pain
- Change in appetite or sleep habits
Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
Sense of failure and self-doubt
Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
Detachment, feeling alone in the world
Loss of motivation and decreased satisfaction
Behavioural signs and symptoms of burnout
Withdrawal from responsibilities
Isolating yourself from others
Using foods/drugs/alcohol as a coping mechanism
2) Take time away from auditions
Repeat after me: there will always be more auditions. As performers, especially in today's climate, it's easy to put the pressure on yourself to be auditioning constantly and to be grabbing every opportunity thrown your way.
But auditions are exhausting. Rejection is exhausting. Practicing is exhausting.
Sure, auditions are obviously important - but your health is more important. There will always be another audition, another show, another event, another advert. Taking the time away to prioritise your mental health will not only help you avoid the symptoms of burnout but also make you a better performer in the long run, as you'll have the ability to show your best self.
3) Work on overcoming any perfectionist tendencies
According to Robert H. Woody, Ph.D, striving for perfectionism as a performer is irrational - but how many of us can admit that we try anyway? That we're plagued with perfectionism!?
It's a common trait of performers to try to be perfect - hit that perfect note, emphasise their lines with the perfect dramatic edge, perform the perfect arabesque. It can also impact body image, with performers bodies being constantly on show to any audiences, making us want to look perfect too.
Perfectionism has been proven to feed into feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression - and burnout. To prevent burnout, working on overcoming perfectionist tendencies is important, and Robert H. Woody suggests performers need to stop focusing on being perfect and instead analyse performances holistically:
"Overcoming a perfectionist mindset starts with getting real. Literally. I’m of the belief that in efforts to attain good psychological health, reality rules. Performers should not keep a running tally of correct and incorrect moments during performance; rather they should evaluate their performances more holistically—after all, that’s how most audience members do it. And I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for performers to think less about correctness and more about communication."
4) Socialise and get support from friends and family
If you're overworking... auditioning... side-hustling... training... practising... it's likely you're not spending a whole lot of time with the people you love.
Although in the performing arts industry we're surrounded by like-minded, driven and charismatic people, it can also be draining and competitive. Many of us live in bustling cities (where the opportunities are) and where we're constantly on-the-go. Sometimes we just need a cup of tea and some chill time with our family - and that's a GOOD THING!
Taking time out of your usual routine, visiting friends and family and taking the time away from your busy schedule regularly is an effective way to prevent burnout. Further, if you feel the symptoms of burnout creeping their way in, make sure you let your family and friends know, so that they can check in with you more regularly.
5) Make time for your health
Slow. Down. That extra 30 mins reading your script is not going to be the be-all-and-end-all! Don't underestimate the power of a good nights sleep, taking the time to make a nutritious meal, or grabbing a water instead of a coffee.
A lack of sleep, an increase in caffeine and a diet of snack food will not be the sole reason you experience burnout, but they will be contributing factors in how you feel day to day, as well as to your anxiety levels. According to the Harvard Medical School, caffeine overconsumption can mimic anxiety symptoms, and combined with a lack of sleep, little substantial fuel and a constant physical and emotional output into our careers, these lifestyle factors can all contribute to performer burnout.
Although it might seem obvious, these small changes as a performer can be a significant way of preventing the symptoms of burnout.
Burnout is a state that we hope no one has to ever experience, performers and non-performers alike. But we are aware that many performers will potentially experience burnout at some stage or another, due to fast-paced and intense nature of the performing arts industry, and as the type of people we are and the tendencies we share.
It's SO important for your own wellbeing that you're able to prevent burnout and look after yourself mentally, physically and emotionally.
Further, working on preventing burnout will be beneficial for your career and your performing abilities long-term.
We hope you find these tips useful - make sure to share if you do!
About The Lovie Diaries
The Lovie Diaries is a small female-led business. We make journals for creatives, designed to support you in your art. Our journals are used by some of the worlds best actors, dancers and musicians.