As students, interns, and music therapists, I think it’s safe to say that we are a passionate bunch. And when you love what you do it can be very difficult to take a step back, even when it is absolutely necessary. This is something I have been dealing with for the past month, and it has been a great learning experience that I would like to share with you.
The week that I came back from the holiday break, I began to have back pain which soon made it difficult to even get out of bed. After a doctors visit I learned that this is not a quick fix, and that it would be at least a few months before I would begin to feel the relief I was searching for.
Now, this was all fine and dandy because I was entirely convinced that I could go full speed ahead and be just fine. Except the fact that it hurts when I play guitar. When I realized this, panic ensued and I felt the worry sweep over me… No, you cannot take my guitar. I understand that to other people, the attachment I have to my guitar might be odd, but I’m sure that I am in good company here.
Soon thereafter I noticed that I was getting behind on my work, and that sitting in a chair and standing all day was not helping in the least. I began to feel overwhelmed and disappointed in myself. I had just passed the mid-point of my internship and I wanted to be able to do everything as planned so as to make the most of my short six months. It wasn’t until my supervisors Rachel and Katey spoke to me that I began to understand.
They expressed to me the importance of knowing your capabilities, and knowing your limits. Playing to your strengths and understanding when your body has had enough for the day. Katey compared this to having a bad cold, flu, or losing your voice for an extended period of time. It is true of anything. This is how I have been working effectively in the midst of everything…
- Simplify. One of the first things my supervisors did for me after I returned was to list my weekly responsibilities in level of importance so when I sat down to work I knew what was most important to complete and what could be done another time. Simplifying also means accepting that I don’t have to use my guitar at every session. I have been strengthening my other accompaniment skills even more in the process.
- Streamline. Use your time practically, and effectively. I have been doing this by going to bed early and getting up early, because I have minimal pain in the mornings, and utilizing the bean bags at work versus a chair because they are much more supportive than an upright chair. These things increase my longevity, energy, and drive throughout my day.
- Self-Care. Here’s the big one. Stop, and self-care. It is essential. No questions asked.
What I have found is that working this way feels good. It is productive and the work I do gets done faster. What I have found is not just a way to deal with an illness, pain… it is much bigger than that. This is the recipe for burnout prevention. Working with this level of simplicity, and a “make the best of your situation” attitude has been very effective for me. These are tools that have been so helpful to me, I wanted to share them with you.
Have an amazing week!