Most days I come in to work knowing what to expect, in reference to environment, client behavior, songs I may use, staff member conversations, etc.. I think this is true for most people who have maintained the same job for an extended period. I think there is something in this comfortable frame of mind and space that allows us to burnout.
About 5 or 6 months ago, I was directly in the middle of burnout. I didn’t feel like my interventions were the best my residents and clients could get from me, I felt there was more repetition in interventions than there should have been, I didn’t feel like I was learning enough new music to bring in every week/month/session depending on the group/individual, something was missing and it felt like there was too much of the same. What causes burnout? I know that my colleagues have written about burnout, and maybe in this same way, in their own blogs, but I haven’t explored this in my writing. Let’s start from the beginning with that comfortable frame of mind I mentioned before.
When you know what to expect from your day everyday, even the events that take place that are, at first, unusual begin to become the norm (so-to-speak). You’re flowing through the motions. Sometimes this is a good feeling, and you know what I mean. When you’re really tucked into the groove and work seems like a breeze and everything is going great, your clients are progressing toward their goals, everyone at work is actually working as a team, etc…this is all a great way to be in the groove. What happens when you fall into this groove-of-expectation and things aren’t as positive? Maybe you’re feeling not-so up-to-par. Everything feels the same. Its burnout. The difference between being in the “awesome groove of super productiveness” and the “kind-of everyday is the same groove of just productive enough” is burnout.
So, to keep myself far, far away from burnout and keep myself in the land of being in the “awesome groove of super productiveness”, I stay self-aware. How? I breathe…and when I breathe, I take in all the wonderful things around me that I may not be paying attention to because of paperwork, or a co-worker talking to me about personal things, or a resident just can’t get the hang of the tone chimes, etc. I take in new music when I am self-aware and breathing. I take in new literature. Whatever feels positive and is productive, I take it in. Don’t cut yourself short of living a life away from your work. If you really feel like you SHOULD be reading more research literature when you’re in burnout-mode, try reading something for your own recreational purposes before you read the research article, textbook, blog, etc. Part of the reason you’re in burnout-mode is because you’ve lost the balance between work and play…and part of the reason you feel like you should be reading more research is because reading new research can be play as well.
Even though I love getting in my new copies of The Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives, sometimes I have to make time for recreational reading. I have to make myself read something else. Variety is an equally important key to avoiding burnout.
Variety + Breathing = proactive approach to avoiding burnout.