The Turnout for Burnout
By Kyle Ronyecs
As student artists we are expected to live through 4 hours of educational instruction every day. Afterwards, we are expected to study and do homework – two hours’ worth for every hour in a standard university or college course. Once we complete our schoolwork, we are expected to then work three to six hours a day in a part-time job – one paying minimum wage or less – all in hopes to pay off the increasing interest payments of student loans. To top it all off, we are expected to participate in as many extracurriculars as humanly possible so we can compete with our friends and acquaintances in order to add another line onto our resumes. After our 16-18 hour work day, the only reprieve we have is in sleep, and even then we are trained to be ashamed of ourselves for resting and enjoying this time to ourselves.
Simply put, after years of constant mental, physical, and emotional duress, we find ourselves diminished to the wick – exhausted, depleted, burnt out.
Burnout is working ten hours straight and feeling guilty for not contributing more. Burnout is neglecting your own inspiration and passion because your motivation has been drained time and time again. Burnout is wanting to create, to want, to be, but the fire you have lit under yourself has finally caught up with you and has left you used up, scarred, and weak. We experience burnout as individuals by immediately being thrust into a workforce after already giving all of ourselves to an educational or trade institution. We are expected – forced – to carry the weight our responsibilities and our predecessors worries on our shoulders. We as a generation have been expected to do twice the amount of work our parents did, and we’re expected to show ten times the results. We work consistently, we work hard, and we work in many ways that generations holding the power that they stole from us don’t understand. They fault us for participating in society through social media when our jobs – especially in a worldwide catastrophe/quarantine – rely on them.
The cycle of criticism and society-driven mental harm not only takes a massive toll on us as individual workers, but it takes a toll on our generation and the legacy we want to leave behind. When we experience burnout – a lack of motivation to create and work – we are being pushed into a hole of self-doubt, depression, and loss-of-self. This continuing feeling of burnout has led us into dangerous thoughts of imposter syndrome, melancholy, and ultimately a lack of passion.
We as a community of young and emerging artists have glorified stress as a motivator long enough. Using stress as a motivator is the same as drinking poison and expecting yourself to perform better for doing so. Stress only hurts the mind, body, and soul – leaving your mental, emotional, and physical health in turmoil. We have to stop relying on these detrimental methods of overworking ourselves. It is high time that we as a generation change the mind set: overworking oneself SHOULD NOT equate to success. Grinding yourself into the dirt until there is nothing left is not only unhealthy for you, but unproductive for any future endeavor you strive for.
It is time for artists to stand for a productive workforce that regulates their productivity with extensive self-care. This is a burden we must undertake to ensure that artists everywhere can experience a happy life, an inspiring life, and a productive life. It is yet another burden we must carry, but one we can hopefully pass along to our successors with an air of caring, kindness, and personal enrichment. Regulating ourselves in order to guarantee future success and productivity is much easier said than done. We as a society of artists must raise our voices to collectively call out the overworking of our generation and the expectations thrust upon us. We can grandstand all day about burnout and its detrimental effects, but it is up to us as a community to create and work in solidarity, as individuals, we must:
Demand regulation and limitation of work days over 10 hours long (union and non-union alike). Expected work days of that length are unhealthy and unreasonable.
Force institutions of higher education to develop progressive and all-encompassing mental and physical health programs that cater to the students’ needs and schedules.
Encourage institutions (secondary and tertiary education) to limit the amount of out-of-class work that is given. Students are encouraged to not only outperform each other in educational settings, but they are expected to dedicate themselves fully to extracurriculars and/or a part-time job.
Actively regulate the time in your day – say ‘no’ to tasks, extracurriculars, or jobs you have no interest in. It is not up to you to fix every problem, and your time is just as important as the next persons.
Tips for those already experiencing burnout:
1. Use the Gratitude Expression Method – tally up the things that you WERE able to accomplish today. Take pride in what you were able to do rather than what you were not able to do. A simple, yet effective way to combat anxiety or depression over not working as much as you think you should.
2. Build a Safe Space – whether this be a physical spot or a time of day, make sure you have time to yourself. This can be a single day of the week or 30 minutes of your day, every day. Make this your time to not work, make no calls, and not worry about your duties or expectations. Do a chore that calms you, read a book, meditate, watch a tv show – do what makes you happy. I promise that these safe spaces will make your day all the more enjoyable and productive in the long run.
3. Connect with Friends – Sometimes the most effective way to gain motivation and relieve stress is by talking with those your closest too. Family, friends, that neighbor with a dog in the next apartment – whoever makes you happy. Talking with those you're close to not only helps you see new perspectives, but it helps remind you why you create and why you are an artist.
4. Prioritize and Find Balance – While it is hard to do, it is up to you to prioritize your life in a productive manner that ends up leaving you happy and healthy. Whether that be choosing to go to the gym, eating a healthy meal, or simply going to sleep. We can all say from first-hand experience that when we are deprived of the simple things in life that keep us healthy, that work we tried to churn out at 2am is not nearly as good as it could’ve been if we had just taken a nap.
5. Know Your Breaking Point – You need to know how productive you can be. Know when you’re most productive, and know when you’re too tired to be an effective team member. Some of us can work for five hours straight without a lapse in productivity – most of us cannot. Find out when you’re most effective and build your work schedule around that.