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The Industry

Actor and Musician, Lisa Wright provides her tips and advice on how to overcome burnout as a performer.

By Lisa Wright

As creatives, we know that our careers can often feel like a rollercoaster ride, but whether we’re in work or not, the demands of self-employed life can take its toll. Whilst our schedules aren’t exactly 9-5, they’re not supposed to be 24/7 either, and yet there’s this idea that we constantly need to be seen as doing something.

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘burnout’, in essence, it’s identified as a state of physical and emotional exhaustion caused by long-term stress in the workplace. Since the pandemic, 46% of adults feel more prone to extreme levels of stress than the previous year.

For decades, experts were divided on whether burnout was its own construct or a symptom of depression itself; largely because the symptoms can be somewhat similar:

  •  Feeling isolated
  •  A loss of identity
  •  Feeling cynical towards your industry/peers
  •  Feeling overwhelmed
  •  Lack of motivation for the job

Just before the first lockdown, I was burnt out.

When the government told us that we needed to stay at home, a small part of me felt relieved. I thought I could use lockdown as an opportunity to do things that would help reignite that creative spark. However, as time went on, nothing seemed to be improving… and I couldn’t understand why.

Eventually, I came across a survey carried out by Mental Health UK about the public perceptions of burnout and its contributing factors. Interestingly, their findings suggested that there were nine potential varying factors to burnout and considering the pandemic, all had been magnified. These include: financial insecurity, job security, physical health, relationships, working from home, isolation, caring for others, sleep and home-schooling.

It was then that I realised burnout isn’t solely about the physical toll of a busy schedule, but also the mental strain that comes with trying to live up to the demands of the industry and self-employed life.

During lockdown, when there wasn’t anything tangible that we could hold onto, really, all that we had left to focus on was the worry:

How am I going to pay the bills?

When am I going to work again?

How can others still be creative right now and not me?

How can I juggle home-schooling my child(ren) with my own working commitments?

If you’re reading through this article and you’re thinking: “Yes, this is me!”, the silver lining is that you’re not alone.

There are a number of practical steps we can do to help combat burnout, and whilst the process can look different depending on our individual needs, here are five initial steps that I found to be beneficial:

1) Acknowledge it: Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. Ignoring burnout will cause further harm to your wellbeing that can filter into other aspects of your life, leading to depression and anxiety.

2) Speak up: Let someone know what’s going on and if you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Speak to your GP, a friend/partner/family member or whoever you feel most comfortable with. Opening up that conversation helps us to feel seen and heard.

3) Rest: Take time to do things that allow you to feel relaxed and recharged. What does that look like for you? Going for a walk? Reading? Meditation? Spending time with friends? Limit your time on social media and catch up on that sleep you’ve been missing out on.

4) Structure & Routine: Even if you feel like you don’t particularly thrive on a strict schedule; having boundaries, structure and routine to your day can be a lifeline for managing stress. In this industry where there is so much that is outside of our control, implementing structure can help us feel like we’re taking ownership of the things that we can.

5) Hobbies: What do you do that’s purely for fun? Lockdown helped me realise that every hobby I’ve ever had in life I’ve tried to turn into a career: acting, singing, guitar-playing, song-writing… there wasn’t anything I did simply because I enjoyed doing it. So, I joined a Netball team! I am absolutely rubbish at it but I love it anyway! What will you do? Whatever it is, revel in the joy it gives you.

My old drama teacher used to say that acting was like “playing the best game in the world with your best friends”, and I’ve always loved that phrase…

However, sometimes, it can feel like we’re playing in a game that’s in its second half of extra time and we’re utterly exhausted – desperately hoping the referee blows the whistle so we can all go home and put the kettle on.

This is your sign that you need a break.

Take your time, you can continue the game when you’re ready.

We play better with you on the team.

Your teammate,


Lisa is an Actor and Musician from Essex. Since graduating from Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) in 2014, Lisa has performed all over the UK. As an actor, her recent credits include: Girls Don’t Play Guitars (Royal Court, Liverpool), Sunny Afternoon (UK Tour) and Urban Myths (Sky Arts). Lisa is also a singer-songwriter as has been heavily supported by BBC Introducing and was handpicked by BBC 6 Music to showcase at Latitude Festival, as well as opening the show for a number of major label artists. Lisa was also recognised by the Nashville Songwriters Association as their ‘One to Watch’.

Lisa’s Headshot by Yellowbelly Photo

Main Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash