Most of us, at some point in our training, will encounter some level of "burn out." In may case, it may even happen a number of times.
The other day, I wrote out some thoughts on what could possibly cause it (at least as far as I'm concerned). Today, I thought I'd offer a few thoughts on what has helped me deal with it.
What do you do when burn out happens?This may sound crazy, but let it.
Whenever you get hurt or sick, your body has ways of telling you something is wrong. Whether it be pain signals or fatigue, your body is trying to tell you to slow down, that something just ain't right. In fact, I came across a study once that showed arthritis can be directly caused by—not just exacerbated by, caused by—severe anxiety and depression. The brain is essentially crying out for help any way it can!
So feeling burned out is probably your body's way of saying, Hey, something ain't right. Or, for the more poetically inclined, life it out of balance, your yin and your yang are all out of whack. It's time to stop and listen to what's going on inside.
Even professional athletes, who are at the peak of physical fitness, need time to rest, to allow their muscles to recuperate. The also enjoy an "off season" (they still train, of course, but it's not as vigorous or focused, or they engage in other activities).
You, my friend are no different. Your body and your brain need a little recovery time from training, too. So if you're overloaded, attending too many classes and clinics, etc., taking a bit of vacation can definitely help you hit the reset button.
Major life events
As for major life changes, you have to realize that they take much more of a toll on your body—physical and mental—than you'd think. Studies all over the place are showing how major life events, both bad (divorce, death in the family) and good (marriages, births) can place a tremendous strain on us physically.
So in short, take it easy and focus on what's important, for crying out loud. Budo will wait.
If your interest level was never that high to begin with, then the nice thing about budo is that generally speaking (it may depend on the school I suppose) you can do as much or as little as you like. No one said you had to master kung fu, or coach a judo team, or open a tae kwon do dojo.
What is it exactly that you expect from yourself? Maybe one or two one-hour classes a week is all you really need or want. Will that mean it takes longer to advance in rank? Sure, but who cares? Any school who would put enough attention on rank to make you feel like you should be doing more is probably not worth attending.
Or perhaps a different art might prove more suitable. Who said you had to study some high-octane, high-impact art like karate or tae kwon do? What about tai chi, or kyudo (the Japanese art of archery)?
Or, to be perfectly honest, you may be like me and music: I may take time to get into it later in life, but until then I'm content to enjoy other people playing it.
Same old routine
I could write a whole other blog post or two solely on the subject of how to spice up your training. But in short, the main prescription is "do something different." Throw yourself a curveball, make it challenging again, look at it from a different perspective.
You could: attend a different class, work with different people, spend time with a new teacher or even dojo, investigate a different style of your art, narrow your focus to one aspect of your art for a time (such as only kuzushi, or your footwork), take one technique and explore as many possible variations of doing it, focus on your left hand (or whichever hand is nondominant), play only the role of uke (meaning, invest in losing over and over), practice outdoors, practice in street clothes, teach a kids or teen class, practice techniques as slow as humanly possible, do them as small and tight as possible, and so on.
All that being said, is there a way to prevent burn out from happening in the first place? Well, I have a few thoughts on that as well....