Many people who choose to go into a career in the arts, do so because they have a passion. And passion often drives us to have an imbalance drive to achieve. We’re taught from a young age that if we really want something has to work really really hard and we might just achieve it. But how much work is too much work?
As is also common in care professions, arts professionals often face burnout after a while of working in the arts industries. You could put it down to it being a ‘passion’ career, as many go into it with the full force of Wonder Woman, driven to make an impact. Passions can often lead us to put their new arts careers above personal life and other obligations. Working in a field which provides a passion and also a sense of identity for many, means that arts workers many never switch off, or look to take on low paid or sometimes unpaid opportunities.
With most areas of the arts industry professionals often have to deal with low pay, low and unstable budgets, long working hours with unpaid overtime and emotional exhaustion from becoming very attached to the project you’re passionate about. Not that I’m trying to put you off a career in the arts. I’ve been working in the arts for around eight years and I still have the passion, drive and ideas to enjoy working in it. I’ve just learned how to have a more balanced approach to my working life, and I want to share these tips with you. Burnout could be seen as an occupational hazard in the arts, but should it be?
What is burnout?
Burnout drains your energy, your sense of calm and can affect your creativity and productivity. It’s important to recognise the signs of burnout before it’s too late. It’s a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion brought on by prolonged and excessive stress. It shouldn't be something we face in the arts, as we're doing what we love, and we should show some love to ourselves too!
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and disillusioned by your career, or you’re just about to enter an art career and want a balanced approach to enable a long and stable career, here are my:
Top five tips to avoid burnout in an arts career:
- Take a good break - Yes, it’s good to work hard. It can show you’re a valuable team member, you learn new skills, you can really make things happen. But those who work hard need to play hard too, or eventually, you’ll come to resent work! So take a break, a real break. The Christmas holidays are a great time to take an extended balance, or easter, or bank holiday weekends. The public holidays are there for a reason. Use them to find time to relax, recuperate and come back to work refreshed.
- Find a balance - Don’t work all day and all night, every day. Don’t smash in the unpaid overtime hours, or if you have to, make sure you’re taking time off at other points to recover. And take lunch breaks. You need to step away from that desk sometimes! Don’t feel guilty.
- Remember what you love - Why did you join the arts in the first place? If you feel yourself getting bogged down in workloads and pressures, remember what makes you passionate about the arts in the first place and why you entered your chosen career.
- Play happy families - Support each other (other people in your arts industry), help each other out, be positive. Take time out to help de-stress each other and decompress together, whether it’s a lunchtime game of Bananagrams or an after work drink, find time to support each other and have downtime together.
- Recognise your limits - I find that it helps to think about what I want to achieve in a role. I make a list of three to five bullet points of what I want to get out of something and try and focus on this when I’m at work. If I find myself taking on more and more work that doesn’t help me achieve this, or is outside of my job role, I take a step back and reassess the balance I need.
That said, the arts industry can be really rewarding, supportive and inspiring to be involved with. I know I love it :)
What to do next?
If you’re looking for more careers advice, check out this piece on how to be a self-employed creative.
Head over to Voice Magazine for more views from young people passionate about the arts, culture, politics and tech.
Stay in the Arts Award on Voice Gold Hub for more ideas and inspiration if you’re doing your Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards, or careers advice is you've recently finished.