If you’re on the fence about participating in a summer ballet program, one of the major things you may be wondering about is burnout. Burnout is real and is not something to take lightly. Burnout can mean that you’ve lost motivation to progress and can completely eliminate your desire and motivation to continue dancing. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent dancer burnout while still reaping the benefits of a summer ballet program.
13 Steps to Reduce Ballet Burnout
Below are some steps you can take to continue progressing in your training through lessons and through supplemental training such as summer programs while reducing the risk of dancer burnout.
1. Rest & Good Sleep Habits
One of the most important things you can do to prevent ballet burnout is to ensure you give your body time to rest. Rest is when your body strengthens muscles and physical fitness while repairing the microtears that occur through strength training and flexibility training. It’s what gives your mind time to relax and reset and what gives your emotions time to rebalance before the next period of training and competition. In short, rest is integral to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
First and foremost, make sure you develop good sleep habits. Ensure you are getting at least 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night. It is incredibly helpful to have a sleep routine that includes going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning. If you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep, develop a nighttime routine that includes dimming the lights and taking time away from screens (phones, tvs, computers) for two hours before going to bed. Consider journaling, meditation, a relaxing bath, or a short nighttime yoga routine to signal relaxation to your body and mind and prepare it for sleep.
2. Time Away
Even though training, including summer ballet programs, is important, it’s also important to give yourself designated breaks during your training. These work best when the breaks are something planned and looked forward to (e.g. “I have two weeks between spring classes and my summer ballet program. During that time, I am looking forward to a week-long beach vacation with my family and reading my favorite book series.”), as opposed to being a last straw “I can’t take this anymore, I’m not going to class today,” break, which can lead to feelings of guilt and frustration.
Plan your time away and take time to consider exactly what will be most productive and healing to your body and mind during that time to help rejuvenate you before your training restarts.
3. Give Time to Other Interests
One of the reasons we can experience burnout as ballet dancers is that it can take time away from other things that are important to us. If you like to paint, write, play basketball, swim, or do some other hobby, make sure you’re planning time each week to participate in those interests as well. Conscientiously planning and setting aside time each week to do the (other) things you love means that you can look forward to your time doing them instead of feeling like ballet is detracting from your time to do what you love.
4. Change Up Your Workout
There will be times that you have a break between your ballet training. For instance, you’ll have time after spring classes end and summer programs begin, and between summer programs and fall classes. During that time, it’s important to keep your body active so you don’t lose your physical fitness, but it can also be helpful in preventing dancer burnout to do so in a way different from your traditional dance training.
Ballet is a multifaceted sport, requiring balance, flexibility, strength, and aerobic fitness. That means basically any other physical workout is going to help maintain the gains you’ve seen during your training season—as long as your new workouts are well-rounded. During your training downtime, pair swimming (aerobic) with yoga (balance & flexibility) or jogging (aerobic) with strength training.
5. Find Variety in Training
Similar to changing up your workout, it can be great to change the way you train as well. This is one way in which summer ballet programs can create a nice change of pace for ballet students after the spring dance season. Summer ballet programs have a different routine, different instructors, different students, and different guest instructors, which can create variety and much-needed novelty to an otherwise predictable routine.
6. Eat Healthily
Another way to prevent burnout in ballet is to eat healthily. Physical burnout can be greatly reduced or prevented if you’re eating a healthy diet. If you’re not quite sure what a healthy diet looks like for you, consult your ballet instructors, your doctor, or a dietician to help.
7. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude, and doing so often, is a tried-and-true practice for improving your mood and emotions. If you start to feel burnout coming on, try keeping a gratitude journal where you write 3-5 things each day that you’re grateful for, with an open mind (but not forced attitude) toward your ballet training. Most studies suggest you’ll start to feel your mood begin to lift within a week!
8. Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal is also a great way to reduce your risk of burnout in your ballet training. It’s okay to have days of frustration, low motivation, or reduced confidence. It’s completely normal and acceptable not to be totally excited about ballet all day every day. Keep a journal to work through these thoughts and to give them a place to be acknowledged and accepted. Psychologists attest that giving space for these emotions, acknowledging them, and being gentle and accepting with yourself for having them, helps the negative feelings dissipate faster than pushing them down, refusing to acknowledge them, or feeling negatively about having negative emotions in the first place.
9. Practice a Growth Mindset
There will be times your training will plateau, and that’s okay! Again, it’s completely normal in ballet training to reach a point where you’re not feeling as much progress as you were during other times, or to hit a skill that you have difficulty mastering. This is where it can be important to have a growth mindset. If you’re not sure what, exactly, a growth mindset is, check out this article. Instead of the mindset of, “I can’t do this,” or “I give up,” try, “I’m working hard on strengthening this skill,” or “I know that with more time and practice I can master my ________.” “I can do this. I got this.”
10. Keep Good Company
We are significantly impacted by the people around us. In fact, research shows that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If you spend the most time with people who are negative about ballet or easily give up on things, you’re more likely to experience ballet burnout. If, instead, you spend time with resilient people who don’t give up when things get difficult and have healthy habits when it comes to processing their emotions and thoughts, then you’re more likely to do so as well.
11. Listen to Music
Music can also be a powerful tool in reducing ballet burnout. Keep in mind that burnout is physical, emotional, and mental. Music is scientifically proven to impact our emotions, especially softer, low music, which helps to slow your heartrate, reduce blood pressure, and soften the stress response. If you feel the adrenaline of burnout and frustration begin to surge, take time to find a quiet place to listen to some music. For extra points, find music you can sing along to, which further increases the positive benefits.
12. Spend Time in Nature
Maybe it sounds a little new-agey, but there’s no doubt that spending time in nature has a direct impact on mental and emotional health. As little as 15 minutes outside in the sunshine per day increases your levels of vitamin D, which is imperative for maintaining muscle strength as well as reducing fatigue and depression.
13. Be Easy on Yourself
Last but certainly not least, be easy on yourself. Remember that your thoughts have a powerful influence on your mental, physical, and emotional health. You don’t hear anyone’s voice or feel anyone’s criticisms as much as you hear and feel your own. Try to be kind to yourself, even when you’re going through difficult emotions. Remember to acknowledge the emotions and be gentle on yourself for having them. Know that every person, even if they don’t show it in front of you, has difficulty staying motivated all the time and you are most certainly not alone in your struggle.
Preventing burnout in ballet is all about balance. By attending to your physical, emotional, and mental health, you can help to prevent burnout while still being able to participate in important training periods such as summer ballet programs.