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Dancer’s Burnout: De-Energized or Dissatisfied?

Are you losing your motivation to dance? Skipping practice sessions? Snapping irritably at your teacher? Maybe you feel your coaches aren’t appreciating what you’ve accomplished so far. Or maybe you’re just really chronically tired. 

Yep, that’s burnout all right. And it totally sucks.

Burnout can be defined in a number of ways, but here’s two key ones:

“A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations.” – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.

“A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward.” – Herbert J. Freudenberger.

Notice the difference? In the first definition, you’re working yourself so hard that your body and mind start to quit on you; that’s no picnic, but at least it offers a simple solution: Stop working so darn hard!

The other one however, is more serious: It indicates that you aren’t receiving the expected reward you hoped for when you started dancing. This doesn’t mean you need to quit altogether, but it might indicate a major pivot (pun intended) is required with your approach – or perhaps your instructor’s – towards your dance lessons.

As for how to tell the difference between the two, let this table guide you:

Symptom

De-Energized Burnout

Dissatisfied Burnout

Pessimism…

About my expected ability level

About where I expected to be when you started dancing

Overworked…

Because I are pushing yourself too hard

Because of my instructor’s expectations

A strong sense of…

Exhaustion

Disillusionment

Missing classes/practices…

Because I’m tired

Because I don’t feel like they are helping

Symptoms are…

Primarily physical

Primarily mental/emotional

Feel like your accomplishments aren’t being recognized?

No

Yes

Recently took on a larger-than-normal workload? (Doesn’t have to be dance-related)

Yes

No

Finding class/practice boring or uninteresting?

No

Yes

Feeling overwhelmed?

Yes

No

My enjoyment of dance is…

Holding

Waning

When it comes to my practice regime, you…

Expect too much from yourself

Feel others expect too much or too little from you

I want to take a break and try some other dance styles:

No

Yes

CAVEAT ONE: Honestly answering the questions above requires you to have some ‘real talk’ with yourself. Be aware that many of us cover up our burnout symptoms with self-rationalizing arguments: “I’ll feel better once I get this done”. Pay special attention to this if you are a perfectionist.

CAVEAT TWO: There’s some overlap between the two types of burnout, and often one can lead into the other. Pick the responses that fit the best, and add up the scores from each to find out the type of burnout you are experiencing.

So what happens now? Well, if you are experiencing de-energizing burnout, it’s time to slow down, maybe even take a short break from dancing to give yourself time to relax, heal, and remember why you love to dance so much in the first place.

If you are feeling dissatisfied with your dancing, spend some time figuring out exactly why you feel that way. Have you lost sight of your original dance goals? Is your instructor pushing you in a direction you don’t want to go? Have a heart-to-heart with your teacher, and let them know how you’re feeling. It might be a little awkward, but it’s your best chance at making the changes needed to recapture your joy of dance. 

As I said earlier, burnout sucks. But it IS something you can recover from. Next week, we’ll take a top-down approach on burnout, how it manifests for us dancers, and what we can do to stop it before it hits us.

Works Cited

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/pressure-proof/201306/7-strategies-prevent-burnout

https://time.com/collection/guide-to-happiness/4860105/work-burnout-prevention/

https://www.workplacestrategiesformentalhealth.com/managing-workplace-issues/burnout-response

https://www.themuse.com/advice/13-ways-the-busiest-people-ever-avoid-burnout

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/avoiding-burnout.htm

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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