You love what you do.
Touching hearts and inspiring young artists is what you live for and it is so rewarding.
But one day you may discover that you don’t love it anymore.
Fear washes over you – what if, deep down, you just aren’t cut out to be a music teacher? You’re exhausted all the time. You dread teaching. You feel frustrated, cynical, and negative. Even teaching your favorite students doesn’t bring you the joy it used to.
The bad news: You’re experiencing music teacher burnout.
The good news: You can bounce back and love teaching again – even more than before.
And you don’t have to take a long vacation. Although burnout may seem worst during busy times, these methods allow you to combat burnout while maintaining a full, active life.
Music Teacher Burnout
Everyone has down days. Whether we like it or not, feeling tired, anxious, or angry once in a while is pretty normal. But if you wake up every day feeling exhausted, anxious about teaching, and generally negative about your work, you may be experiencing burnout.
Researchers first used the term burnout to describe the experiences of human services professionals – health care workers, police officers, social workers, and therapists. They have since realized that professionals in every field experience burnout. That includes music teachers at all levels, including independent studio teachers, high school and middle school fine arts teachers, and music professors.
Among music teachers, burnout symptoms fall into three categories: emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced teaching efficacy.
You’re so tired that you float through lessons feeling like you have nothing to give. You can’t muster the energy to offer your students musical inspiration and you have zero desire to spend any time correcting major technique issues. You can’t shake the desire to just stay home or quit teaching altogether.
You feel detached from your students, maybe even negative toward them. You’re overwhelmed by the feeling that there is no real point – you can’t help your students anyway.
Reduced Teaching Efficacy
Convinced that you aren’t successfully helping your students, you begin to believe that you are failing as a music teacher. This belief undermines your ability to teach with skillful confidence.
These symptoms often seem to increase during times of extraordinary stress: right before recitals or other performances, toward the end of each semester, or periods of career insecurity.
But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through burnout when things get tough.
Nothing lasts forever, burnout included.
However, if you are currently experiencing burnout, it can seem like a never-ending cycle. If that’s you, these 6 burnout-ending habits will get you back on track:
For most people, this means removing yourself from the constant demands of your digital life. Take a break from checking your work email when you’re not at work. Or at least set firm personal guidelines for when you can use work-related digital devices.
Go outside for a walk, read a book, get coffee with a friend. Try unplugging your headphones and giving your ears a break. As musicians, many of us never take a break from listening to music. Just a small break may allow you to rediscover your love for listening to music (and thinking critically about it).
2. Develop a relaxation habit
Find or rekindle an activity that allows you to relax or focus on something other than music teaching.
Read, meditate, cook or bake, go bird watching, or try gardening. Find what works for you and give yourself permission to relax a bit each day.
3. Cultivate a diverse non-music-teaching life
Get involved with your community. Go to the farmer’s market, art gallery events, food festivals, or whatever else pops up in your community each week.
Discover a new hobby: practice yoga, go for a hike, go kayaking, try your hand at woodworking. If something interests you, why not try it out? The stimuli of learning something new may even boost your creativity.
Research indicates that sleep plays a crucial role in burnout and burnout recovery. If you’re getting less than 6 hours each night, it’s time to make sleep a priority. What activities would you be willing to give up to gain energy, memory, and creativity?
If your schedule doesn’t allow a change in your sleep schedule, see if you can find a 30-minute break in your day to take a brief nap.
5. Tune in (to your body)
Keep a log of how you feel before, during, and after periods of burnout. Paying careful attention to physical manifestations of stress such as muscular tension and stomach upset. You may discover that meditation, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can prevent burnout symptoms before they arise.
6. Put things in perspective
Nothing is permanent. That includes your experience with burnout. Observe the unique (perhaps unpleasant) experience and feel at ease knowing that it will pass.
At the end of the day, you are still a beautiful, unique, and loved person. And you have a huge positive impact on your students’ lives.
Be persistent with your new habits and give your body and mind a chance to adjust. Trust that by allowing yourself to reconnect to your non-work life that you will ultimately rediscover the joy of teaching. Your students will thank you.
Have you experienced burnout? Leave a comment or send me an email – I’d love to chat about it.
Ready to Maximize Your Efficiency in the Practice Room?
Join the 5-day Mindful Practice Mini Course! Develop the deep awareness, focus, and calm you need to reach peak performance starting today. Sign up for FREE!