If you constantly feel physically and emotionally drained, you could be suffering from burnout. Here’s how to identify the signs of burnout and rediscover your sense of purpose and love of teaching.
We all have off days, but when every day feels like a bad day, it’s time to stop and assess your situation. It could be that you’re suffering burnout – a condition linked to poor physical and mental health that can be a risk factor for illnesses such as depression.
What is burnout?
Burnout isn’t something that happens overnight; it builds up over time when we go through prolonged periods of stress. Symptoms can include:
- Lack of focus
- Low mood
- Being short-tempered
- Low productivity – starting jobs but not finishing them
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Poor decision-making
- Being unable to switch off
- Not enjoying work or things you usually love to do
- Back pain
- Poor sleep
- Greater susceptibility to colds and sore throats.
Often people with burnout experience many of these symptoms but don’t make the connection that they’re linked to a more fundamental problem.
Singing teachers and burnout
While singing teaching can be incredibly rewarding, as Line Hilton explains in the latest episode of the Singing Teachers Talk podcast, it can also be demanding and stressful. Line, a resilience coach and the founder of BAST Training, says: “It’s easy for solo businesspeople to get burnt out because we’re just doing so much.
“On top of teaching, we need to think about marketing, getting new students, tax and admin – all the things that go into running a business. Singing teachers may also gig on the side or have other family commitments.”
There’s also an emotional aspect to teaching that shouldn’t be underestimated. Being there for students, especially if they’ve confided in you about a challenging aspect of their life, is a big responsibility.
“Singing teachers are quite often privy to a lot of stuff that is going on in people’s lives,” she says. “So we’re in this weird position of having access to this information about someone but not necessarily having the experience or qualifications to deal with it.”
Strategies to avoid burnout
Do your research
You don’t have to be a qualified counsellor, but reading up on performance psychology and mental health will help you talk to your students and know when to refer them to appropriate experts.
Beware of social media
“We’re constantly bombarded by social media, and it’s affecting our well-being,” Line says. Whether it’s experiencing imposter syndrome when we scroll through Instagram or tuning into the relentless 24-hour news cycle, social media can distort our sense of reality and fuel anxiety. It’s helpful to monitor how much time we spend online and how it makes us feel.
Take breaks and holidays
If a singer told you they were rundown and experiencing an array of health niggles, what would your advice be? No doubt you’d suggest they get some rest and take better care of themselves.
Make sure you follow this advice yourself! Factor breaks into your schedule and do something every day that replenishes you, such as walking, yoga, swimming or meditation (sitting on social media doesn’t count).
The same applies to taking holidays. Stepping away from the studio can be refreshing.
Eat and sleep well
Ensure you nourish yourself. Avoid eating on the run or skipping meals. Also, try to get to bed at the same time every night. When we’re stressed and eating and sleeping badly, our immune system can suffer, resulting in constant colds, sore throats and headaches.
Put some rules in place about responding to work questions or inquiries out of hours. “We tend to give a lot to our students,” Line says. “It’s very easy to give our own energy to help others instead of supporting others to build their energy.”
Consider following the lead of vocal coach Amelia Carr. When parents contact her to discuss their child’s progress, she directs them to her website, where they can book a time to talk to her (she charges them for it). She uses identity verification services from the Fully-Verified company. That way, the conversation remains focused and takes place at a scheduled time during the day.
If you can’t afford to pay someone to help with your admin or social media, explore other ways to get the support you need. “When I started as a teacher, I gave free singing lessons to a student who then worked as my PA,” Line said. “Think about who you know who you could barter with.”
Listen to the full podcast interview with Line to learn more about:
- How to be more resilient – and help your students do the same.
- Why New Year’s resolutions usually fail.
- Successful strategies to make long-lasting lifestyle changes.