9 Ways to Beat Burn Out

Rushing through practice sessions? Feeling grumpy and unmotivated? Can’t get your musician to focus longer than 4 minutes?

You might be feeling burned out. I’ve been there.

You’re normal and you’re not alone.

I have felt like quitting-both as a violinist and as a music mom. But—I stuck with it. Here are nine things that helped me, and I hope they help you:

1. Take a few days off practicing and just listen:

Listening to your Suzuki CD/playlist is a very productive part of learning–and it may not be as much of a struggle as actually practicing. Turn the Suzuki songs on while your musician does a puzzle, reads, or even sleeps. Stepping away from the instrument doesn’t have to mean stepping away from the music. Keep the songs floating through your child’s head. To lessen the struggle to return to practicing, make sure you announce when your return will be at the beginning of your break.

2. Kill the monotony:

Keep in mind this will take a little bit of work, but YOU CAN DO IT! Get creative. Play some games or use some visuals (my printables are all free, you can find them HERE). Incorporate unicorns, Pokemon, dolphins, or whatever your child’s current interest is, into their practice.

Just last week, I printed out some Pokemon pictures to teach my twins the song “Happy Farmer.” They were suddenly FAR MORE interested in practicing Happy Farmer than ever before.

Using Pokemon to learn “Happy Farmer”

3. Play only review pieces for a while:

Don’t worry about your new piece. Focus on old pieces. Besides, new pieces are more for entertainment than anything…it’s in playing old pieces where growth occurs. Playing old pieces will polish them up and give them a sheen of maturity. Turn the CD/Playlist on for your little musician and let them play along with it. They will feel like they are soaring downhill, rather than painstakingly climbing uphill. For 20 ways to make review fun, click HERE.

4. List the reasons you started music lessons:

Pretty easy. Some self-reflection on your original motives. Picture yourself at the beginning of your musical journey and recollect why you started in the first place. What motivated you? I listed some of my reasons HERE.

5. Tell your teacher:

Might be surprising, but your teacher could have some good ideas for you! Talk about the burn out. He/she probably sees your situation from a different perspective that you need to hear about. Your teacher wants to support you, and has helped others progress through the heat. Trust them. They shouldn’t take it personally, and if they do…they might be burned out too!

6. Revisit photos of recitals past:

I look at pictures of my kids EVERY SINGLE NIGHT before I go to bed. Something about this helps me feel a sense of accomplishment. Seeing them frozen in frames of happy little moments. The same might happen for you when you see them all spiffed up standing on a stage with their instrument.

One of our first recitals.

7. Take a break to sharpen your saw:

I see nothing wrong with taking breaks…breaks of whatever length you need. My mom raised eight musicians, and there were several seasons (new babies, family crisis, etc.) we took time off from lessons. We gradually came back and recommitted to practicing.

Steven R. Covey told a story about a lumber jack who never took time off from cutting down trees. As a result, his saw was very dull. He couldn’t cut down any trees. If the lumber jack had taken a little time off of work–to sharpen his saw–he would have been able to knock those trees down so much faster.

So, if everything is telling you to take time off-do it. Sharpen your saw (or loosen your bow) it’s OK, give yourself some compassion.

8. Pay a practice helper:

Ask an older student from your teacher’s studio to practice with your child. For me, I’m beyond happy to pay someone ten bucks for one less tug of war with my child! As a teenager, I didn’t have time for a consistent job, but I still needed extra cash. I figured that tutoring younger violinists was a win for me, as well as for them (hopefully). Sometimes, stepping away as a parent, and letting someone else help our children might be the breath we need.

Consider hiring a teen to practice with your child once a week.

9. Re-evaluate expectations:

What’s your expectation? To raise a professional musician or to grow a well rounded child? I am guessing that the majority of us have the expectation to create happy memories and bonding moments with our musicians. If you have started feeling like a drill Sargent, it may be time to adjust expectations. Keeping your expectations in check will be energizing.

Work through those burn outs, it’s worth it!

Good luck beating the burn out! Let me know how it goes!