Using Improv to fight burnout

Improv and laughter can be an effective tool to fight the burnout we face as a result of demanding jobs. My senior year of college I was working as a server in a high-end restaurant. I was constantly under pressure to do a good job, despite feeling like I lacked the tools to succeed.  Between that and the courses I was taking in school, I was always stressed out and practically unable to function. Now, years later, I know that I was likely experiencing burnout.

While being in a caring profession is often one of the main careers experiencing burnout, as shown by my experience, burnout can happen to people doing all kinds of work. Work stressors that can contribute to burnout include:

  • unrealistic deadlines
  • unpredictable schedules
  • increased responsibility without increased compensation
  • interpersonal demands
  • challenges with learning new processes or software

Fighting Burnout

These are challenges that almost all of us face at some point in our careers. If we can’t fix them, we have to at least decide how to deal with them. In my case, I requested a change in positions, becoming a hostess instead. Although this meant I was making less money, it also meant I actually had the energy to focus on school. Now I know that I could have used improv as a tool for fighting the burnout I was experiencing at work.

The New York Times lists having an outside hobby as one of the most effective ways to combat burnout. Not only does improv provide that, but it also makes sure your life stays full of laughter, a surefire way to combat burnout and general malaise.

There are plenty of stressors in my life now that could cause me to succumb to burnout. But I do improv every week, with a community of people that encourages me to laugh and to be myself. Dr. Maslach, a premiere burnout researcher, said that community is the most effective way to combat burnout.

“What we found is that people’s health, well-being, everything in life, is way better if you’re connected with other people. That social network, that each of you have each other’s back, that they’re there for you and you’re there for them, that’s like money in the bank. That’s a precious, precious resource.”

Got Your Back

Before every show, those of us performing pat each other on the back and say, “I’ve got your back.” It’s a physical and verbal reminder that no matter what happens, we’re there to catch each other. Having a community like that outside of work helps me deal with the unrealistic deadlines and unpredictable schedules I can face in my career.

Especially for those in caring professions, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself outside of work. And sometimes you might need a community of people to help with that. That’s ok. Just remember, we’ve got your back.