How to Handle Burn Out

Tips to support the classical musician's mindset when their inspiration runs low



As musicians we are incredibly gifted at following through, right? We practice day in and day out; we diligently strive for excellence, consistently leaning into the challenges of the work. It is one of our superpowers.


But every so often, inspiration fades. Our motivation dwindles and we just don’t want to do the thing.


Believe me, I get it.


In fact, I am in the midst of it Right Now.


BURN OUT.


Often times our schedules are so jammed packed that burn out sneaks up on us, seemingly out of nowhere. But learning how to identify it early will help you manage it and keep up with your schedule.


Early signs of burn out can look like:

  • Falling into unhealthy patterns: staying up late on screens, drinking more alcohol than usual, pushing off self care practices like movement or meditation, procrastinating.

  • Emotional dysregulation: becoming easily frustrated or angry, low level sadness that bubbles to the surface more frequently, loneliness, loss of a sense of purpose.

  • Numbing: reaching for your phone in an effort to escape, gaming, binge watching tv.

  • Isolation: folding into yourself, feeling overwhelmed socially, not feeling like you have anything to give others.


None of these are bad, and when you are feeling balanced they all have a place in your life. But when you start to notice yourself avoiding the things that nourish you and replacing them with some of these other things, you might want to do an internal diagnostic to see what’s going on.


We live in a culture that values productivity and action. We are told to sacrifice our internal wellness in order to accomplish and succeed. You can sleep when you’re dead.


This is not the way of the artist.


The artist needs SPACE. The artist needs to feel, to dream, to allow time for life-giving inputs to stoke the imagination. The artist, while hard working and prolific, must allow for periods of recovery. The artist is not a production machine who stamps out masterpiece after masterpiece. NO. The artist requires balance. Ebb and flow. Creation and rest.

When you find the quiet voice inside of you saying, “I feel weary,” listen! Honor that voice, tend to it, and give yourself what you need.


A simple list of things you can try when you feel burn out rearing its head

  • Nap: My favorite place in my home is my big, soft bed. I nap, I process feelings, I watch the leaves tremble on the branches outside my window. It is some of the most “productive” time I have.


  • Daydream: Find yourself a patch of grass or a park bench and just sit there. Watch the clouds, listen to the birds, say hi to strangers. With all of the congestion of daily living, give your brain some white space to simply observe and wonder and dream.


  • Consume beauty: Read poetry (you’ll never go wrong with Mary Oliver!) go for a quiet walk in nature, spend an hour or two at your local art museum, sit by a lake with some tea. Artists need beautiful inputs to inspire them!


  • Media fast: Turn your phone off. For 30 minutes. For an afternoon. Or, (gasp!) an entire day. Whatever will serve you to wholeheartedly engage with yourself in the moment in front of you.


  • Create in different genre: cook a new recipe, play around with water colors, try your hand a poetry or make some chalk art. Sometimes all you need is to light up your creativity by allowing yourself to try something new, something you don’t have to be great at. It is liberating!


  • Play: Get back in touch with your inner child. Play Frisbee or hopscotch or hacky sack. Go for a long bike ride or play tether ball or bounce on a trampoline. Anything that lights you up and brings you joy.


You, my dear musician, are worthy of rest. Take an hour or two and tend to yourself. I’m certain you’ll reap a rich, soul-satisfying reward.



Next Steps and Additional Resources

Here at The Musician's Mindset we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.


  1. First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!

  2. Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.



Katie Frisco

Founder of The Musician's Mindset


Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.