The danger of burnout

For performers, the risk of doing too much and pushing the body too hard is known as burnout. It is a state of consistent or unexplained tiredness, poor performance, negative mood and an increase in illness or injury. It is often seen when dancers’ training, rehearsing and performing schedules do not give them time to rest and recover.

It is the nature of dancers to be highly competitive, working long hours and pushing their bodies in the studio and onstage; they might even be doing additional training outside of dance. For some this level of work may be manageable and for others it can cause great stress for the body and mind. The quality of training must be focused on as opposed to the quantity, however a non-dance focus outside the studio can be beneficial.

Factors contributing to burnout are complex and often interrelated, and can include emotional and physical stress, poor nutrition, low levels of physical fitness, and inadequate rest and recovery. Busy schedules can also result in burnout, fatigue and injury, so it is important for dancers to understand how rehearsal, class and performance scheduling can affect their health and wellbeing, and how to manage this sufficiently. Also important is dancers’ ability to manage high expectations and unnecessary pressure by setting realistic goals.

Due to the complex nature of burnout, there is no one best way to identify the signs and avoid the condition. It is important to remember that each dancer and situation is unique, so awareness and education is the most important tool of prevention. As a result prevention of burnout is more effective than treatment. If it is too late to prevent, rest, reduced training and a change of activity patterns are the most effective treatments.