How Parents Can Support Their Dancers, Part 3: Preventing Burnout

It is Baltimore School of Dance’s #TipTuesday! So you may have noticed there was no tip last week. I was very sick. I had felt it coming on for quite a while and ignored it. That was a very bad idea. However, it did give me a good idea for our Tip Tuesday series for parents! I firmly believe in the “lemons to lemonade” approach to life. So the topic today is preventing burnout.

Burnout can take many forms: fatigue, illness, depression, anxiety, irritability, apathy, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and in extreme forms mental confusion. The causes of burnout vary. I know when I experience burnout, it is usually when I feel overwhelmed and bombarded with work and problems from several areas in my life at one time for an extended period of time. We all experience times in our life when we feel like we just cannot deal with everything being thrown at us. At these time, we need to ask for help, which can be very difficult for some people, so a good support system is a must. Sometimes that can be as simple as having someone just listen, without judgement or advice offered. So parents, just listen to what is bothering your child without trying to “fix” it.

Other simple things to help someone who is burned out is to:
1) Ask what you can to do to help. When someone offers to help, it is a little easier to ask for it. Most people don’t want to bother others by asking for help.
2) Offer words of encouragement or a compliment. When a parent or student goes out of their way to compliment me on my work, it reminds me why I do what I do and makes the long hours of hard work and personal sacrifice worth it.
3) Give a favorite treat. It is amazing how well a little chocolate works to lift my spirits.
4) Get the person to take a break to enjoy their favorite activity. Sometimes getting a little distance from a problem can give much needed perspective.

Rest: Dancers and other high level athletes need more rest and sleep (8-9 hours) than the average person. The body needs time to repair itself on a daily basis and so does the mind. Getting enough sleep helps prevent disease and mental illness.

Relax: I find it very helpful to relax and pamper myself when I feel burned out. I get a massage or sit in a hot bath or sit by my pond in my garden and just watch the fish, birds, and insects do their thing. I can’t tell you how many times an answer to a problem or inspiration for choreography that I was stuck on has come to me when I finally quieted my mind and stopped thinking about it.

Eating: I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat well to combat or prevent burnout. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with anti-oxidants and nutrients which are essential to helping our bodies heal from injury or everyday training, combat or prevent disease, and provide energy to go about our day. Fast food, processed food, etc. are lacking those nutrients and have chemicals in them that can actually make you more tired, depressed, etc.

Spirituality: While it may not be for everyone, my strong Christian faith keeps me going when nothing else does. I have achieved goals, endured tragedies, rose above difficulties because of my faith in God. It gives me comfort and the motivation to keep going when all I want to do is give up.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any tips for preventing burnout please share in the comments below.