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Musical Burnout: How To Avoid It

Finals are basically over for most people, which means that burn-out may or may not be on your mind anymore. I know I feel amazing now that all my things are over, but if you had a rough semester, you might be feeling like you got hit by a truck and now you never want to play a note ever again.  Or, on the flip side, you had an awesome jury or recital, and now you can’t seem to make yourself practice. Both of those, my friends, are types of burnout. Burnout is rough. I was starting to suffer from it last semester, and let me tell you, it’s not fun. The two types of burnout (Things went awful and now you don’t want to practice vs. things went great and now you can’t make yourself practice) are very different, at their root. However, both of them require the same strategy to solve your problem: you’re gonna need to make some goals.

So! First, we’re going to focus on what you do if stuff went poorly. There’s a couple steps that you need to take to really eradicate stress related burnout.

  1. Accept that the semester or the event did not go as you wanted it to go. Sometimes bad performances happen. Sometimes you won’t prepare enough. Whatever. Accept what happened – you can’t change it.

  2. Identify what went wrong. Were you involved in too many clubs? Going to too many parties? Did you have to work too many hours? Or did you just not practice enough?

  3. Make a goal to overcome whatever that problem was. Make it a Big Goal, and do what you can to really mean it. You need to have some sort of driving force to make a change, so add a reason. Example: “I am going to practice an hour a day, BECAUSE I want to improve my technique.” Another! “I am going to make sure that I keep my practice time sacred and not let homework or other things interfere, BECAUSE I want to respect my own musical goals.”

If music is your goal, you need to show the goal the respect both it and you deserve. You’d make time for the important people in your life, or for hobbies you enjoy, right? So make time and reserve time and have a GOAL for what you want to accomplish.

Now! Second type! I’m gonna kinda spoil the ending here and call it apathetic burnout. If you have to deal with this second kind of burnout, you’ve usually been pretty good about having goals already. You’ve hit the goals you’ve set with that good semester or that great performance or that successful acquisition of a skill. Awesome! But if you’re not able to “make” yourself practice anymore it’s usually a sign that you no longer have a driving force. Your subconscious is basically saying now what. You don’t have any goals, so you don’t have any real reason TO practice.

So again! Make a goal! It’s gonna be a lot easier to practice when you have a goal that you’re trying to achieve. It’s why I take piano lessons during the summer, and why I’m going to hopefully take voice lessons this summer. Then goals are imposed upon me by my teachers, which means I feel the need to practice. That’s acceptable! That’s just knowing your own mind. Do what you need to.

Burnout isn’t impossible to get over. You can get over it. Set goals. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

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