Mental health

When We Burn Out

Posted by Unison on September 27, 2017
Image depicting a tired person

It’s a challenge nearly everyone committed to a life in the music industry is going to face sooner or later: Burnout. From the young person practicing a new skill to the professional working every angle and event, our passion for our work can push us past the breaking point.

Working in the music industry presents the perfect conditions for burnout. The line between your free time and your working hours is blurred. Your social life and professional life are often deeply intertwined. The loyalty and passion you feel for your band or your team can push you to attend every show, take every opportunity, and just not be willing to stop.

Are you Burning Out?


Your Body is Telling You to Stop
Are you experiencing common physical symptoms of chronic stress like fatigue, insomnia, headaches or stomachaches? It’s easy to write these symptoms off at first, but they often point to the build-up of tension and stress. Stress manifests physically as well, and it’s helpful to know what signs your body uses to tell you it’s had enough.

Nothing Feels Very Good Anymore
Are you feeling pessimistic and cynical about your work, or like nothing will ever be good enough? Are you critical and impatient with those around you? If you’ve lost your sense of accomplishment or your passion for your work, you may be burnt out. When you feel strongly that you do love your work, as many of us in the music industry do, the instinct is too solider on—but that won’t address the burnout and the stress continues to accumulate.

The Point of Diminishing Returns 
Do you live to work? In most cases, working more won’t produce better results and this becomes especially true when you are suffering from burnout. If you feel you don’t have the energy or focus to be consistently productive, it’s time to take a break to recover.

Cool Down and Reignite


You Really Do Need a Break
When you are burnt out you are not just stressed out; you are also truly over-burdened. It’s not possible to always work at your most-efficient, maximum level. It’s tempting to try to defy burnout by throwing yourself into a new project or passion, but that is not a guarantee of your energy returning. Recovering your strength first puts you in a better position to make changes as needed, solve problems, find more fulfilling work or move beyond a stressful period.

Fill Your Tank
The standard advice applies: Good eating and sleeping habits will help you recover your energy and limiting mind/body altering substances like caffeine, sugar and nicotine will help your body not have to work as hard from day to day.

Don’t Compare 
Naturally, you surround yourself with amazing people who are great at what they do! When you start to experience burnout and are losing the sense of personal accomplishment and passion, it’s very common to start comparing yourself to all those talented people instead of focusing on your own strengths. Turning away from social media can help you to break out of that downward spiral.

Find Another Spark 
Cultivate a rich non-work life as well. Find something outside of music that you can be passionate about. It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive hobby, just something that you can genuinely enjoy outside of your work. That way, you don’t put so much pressure on your career and music-making to provide all your feelings of success and enjoyment.

It’s Okay to be Burnt Out
You may feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to have a career in music, but that doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. Burnout and recovery are going to part of most people’s long-term success.

Need Help Now? 

Unison’s assistance hotline is available 24/7 for all Canadian music professionals. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions and eligibility information—or simply pick up the phone and call the hotline right now at 1-855-9UNISON (1-855-986-4766)

Unison’s Assistance Programs are always free and completely confidential. All services are provided by Shepell.fgi