The term “burnout” seems to be thrown around so easily (especially now with “zoom burnout”), but what is it really? After emerging as a condition within the workplace in the 1970s, burnout is now commonly recognized as a psychological syndrome centered around general exhaustion—mentally and physically—loss of motivation, and devaluation of an activity. While there are several theories around the causes and framework of burnout, the current widely accepted one comes from the Self-Determination Theory.
The Self-Determination Theory is based on the grounds that all humans have Basic Psychological Needs (BPN) that determine intrinsic motivation towards achievement: competence, relatedness, and autonomy.
Competence is a person’s feeling of accomplishment and ability to complete a task
Autonomyis the sense of individual self and being able to make independent choices
Relatedness is a person’s relationship to their peers and the support they gain from being in a positive environment
According to Grove and colleagues, any detriment or loss in BPN being met can increase a dancer’s risk of burnout. To support this, research found a strong correlation between loss of autonomy-support and an increase in burnout symptoms, especially as a dance training season progressed.
To help combat the risk of burnout, it is up to teachers and dancers to be cognizant of BPNs and other external stressors including performances, high increases in activity, or just too long of a period of activity with no prolonged breaks. There is a strong correlation between BPNs not being met and high levels of cortisol—the stress hormone!
So how can we check if BPNs are being met in the dance environment?
Keep in mind that some dancers are more prone to burnout than others, such as those that tend to be more perfectionistic. Ashley Mowrey recently dove into this topic, which I highly recommend if you haven’t read it already!
With the uncertainty of the pandemic and general state of the world, dance can be a healing and safe space. Supporting our own and each other’s Basic Psychological Needs can help us all stay motived to dance longer and stronger.
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