5 Signs You’re About to Burn Out (and What To Do About It)

burnout-close-up-composition-626165Burnout claims us all eventually. The uncertain nature of the entertainment industry often means actors are overloaded with day jobs, multiple overlapping projects, and the daily stress of survival with little job security. We’re afraid to say no to any gig in case it will be our last. We take on extra shifts and extra hours to cover for that non-union paycheck that might arrive weeks late…if at all. The problem is, we’re often so busy cranking out careers that we don’t notice we’re burning out until it’s too late. And once it hits, it’s hard to get back on your feet. Here are some signs it’s sneaking up on you, and strategies to keep the wolf at bay.


  1. You’re Artistically Barren. At some point you’re going to hit a rough patch, and nothing is going to work. You won’t feel connected. Notes won’t penetrate. Your internal fire will be wheezing a cold, ashy death rattle, and not a single new idea will occur to your battered brain. Don’t panic. You’re not broken. The muse has not permanently abandoned you. Take Time to Absorb Art. If you’ve been wringing every last drop of artistic inspiration into your work, eventually that sponge is done. You need to soak some back up. Go see shows and films that truly inspire you. Get out into the world and take in some culture. Change up your surroundings and gather new experiences. Fill the artistic well from which you draw.
  2. You’re Depressed and Fatigued. While a side salad of self-loathing accompanies many an actor entree, if depression and fatigue have become your norm, it might be time to Take a Step Back and Reassess. Is it the work that’s not fulfilling you? The people you’re working with? The stress of maintaining a career that doesn’t guarantee rent? If you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for a while–even if you’re successful on paper–it might be time to take a breath and look at the big picture. Consider talking to a therapist or someone who can help you frame your dissatisfaction and navigate your next steps.
  3. You’re Not Having Fun. This is the biggest one for me. Actors thrive on play. When your auditions, gigs, classes have become stressful obligations and you’re not having fun, something isn’t right. Revisit What Drew You to this Path. It’s time to go back to your roots. What siren call seduced you to a life of rejection and strife? It must have been good. It must have been worth it. Go back and rewatch the films and performances that made you decide That’s what I want to do. Go back to the theatres that ran chills over your scalp. Involve yourself in projects that truly express what you love about acting. If you can’t find them, create them. Remind yourself how to play.
  4. You’re Avoiding the Industry. Have you stopped going to opening nights, meet and greets, film festivals? Do you find yourself hanging out more with your non-industry friends? You might be subconsciously hiding, another sign the burnout monster is whispering in your ear. Surround Yourself with Artists that Truly Inspire You. Not the ones you feel like you should hang out with. The ones that really give you a boost of creative energy. The ones that get your gears turning. Bask in the warmth of their brilliance and fire. Let them lift you up.
  5. New Challenges Overwhelm You. If opportunities are starting to look like impossible hurdles, it’s probably got you by the ankle. Check in with yourself. Are you falling apart at the least provocation? Are you viewing new career developments through a lens of the pressure it puts on you, rather than the fulfilment it might bring? Take a Break. Sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that you need a break. Your career will be there for you when you get back. Get out of the city. (Or state, or country or continent). See your family. Do some of the non-industry things that make you happy. Go out in nature and detox. Come back with a clean soul and a fresh slate.


Burnout is real and serious. It deserves the same care and consideration you give the more tangible aspects of your career. Keep an eye on yourself and be honest. No one is going to do this for you, so get serious about taking care of yourself. Your career will be better for it.


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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com