LARP at Play: The “B” Word

This article is covering a topic that I’ve found many LARPers if not all suffer from at one point or another: Burnout. It’s a topic I’d thought about covering, but after a post on the LARPers community blog, “How does a well-travelled LARPer handle burnout and creative recharging?,” I knew it was a topic that really deserved to be covered.

I’ve known plenty of LARPers, particularly those who are on the staff of a game or involved in other aspects of the hobby (though I’ve known players to suffer from burnout too), who end up burned out from the amount of energy and effort they’ve poured into their efforts. As I shared in the LiveJournal post mentioned above, “I think a lot of the burnout happens because we get so wrapped up in LARPing we forget to get out and enjoy other things or spend time with friends just for the sake of spending time with friends.”

Before getting into how to prevent such, I think it’s worth looking at what burnout is. Burnout (according to the Random House Dictionary entry on Dictionary.com) can be defined as, “fatigue, frustration, or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.” An article from Brass Magazine entitled Beating Burnout: Combat stress and overwork provided a handy list of symptoms to watch for (just replace anything school/student related to LARP and LARPing related):

Emotional, mental & physical exhaustion
Your school and activity load weigh on you like the world on Atlas’ shoulders. It’s time to put down some of that weight, or ask for help carrying it.

Cynicism and sarcasm
Walls go up as you become bitter toward your teachers, friends, coaches and parents. Can’t they see that you’ve got more than you can handle already? Probably not, so you need to let them know.

Poor health
Stress and burnout can cause health problems like headaches, neck or back pain, weight gain or loss, skin diseases, insomnia and emotional distress. Make sure to consult your doctor if you notice any symptoms.

Failure and hopelessness
Instead of trying to catch-up with everything, you shut down. Knowing you’ve taken on too much isn’t a weakness. Strength is recognizing it and adjusting your workload.

So, how does a person prevent burnout or recover from it and keep that creative fire alive? In the symptoms above there were some good suggestions already given, but there’s so much more.

Beating Burnout

  • Take care of yourself: Make sure you eat well and eat regularly, take care of yourself if you’re sick, see a doctor if you need to
  • Ask for help and unload some of your projects to other willing people
  • Take a break or vacation from the activity burning you out
  • Limit obligations, it’s okay to say “no”
  • Remove as many stressors from your life and your hobby (this includes out-of-character drama)
  • Exercise out side of things like fighter practice or actual LARPing. Go for a run, bike ride, swim or participate in some other non-LARPing exercise activity
  • Take some time for yourself to slow down and relax: a long hot bath or shower, meditate, reading a good book in a quiet location or such activities
  • Communicate with others and make sure others know how you feel and how you’re doing
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep
Preventing Burnout
  • Set limits, you can’t do everything on your own
  • Give yourself “me” time and then use that time for yourself, and don’t let other things crowd into it
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Remove unnecessary stimulations: it’s good to put the iPod away, turn the TV off while you’re cooking dinner or step away from the computer and that MMORPG
  • Create a list of activities to turn to if you lack inspiration when you do need to recharge
  • Play, and not just other LARPs, find “some activities that you can turn to and a retreat you can look forward to” (from Recharging Your Creative Batteries by Maria Piscopo, Communication Arts)
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep
  • Exercise, again, not just LARP fighter practice or some other kind of LARPing.
  • Keep a balance of different activities in your life. Don’t let any one thing crowd out the others.
For more ideas on beating or preventing burnout I suggest a visit to these sites. They deal with burnout in the workplace, however the tips and ideas they share are just as applicable to LARPing.
77 Ways to Beat Burnout!
Beating Burnout: Combat stress and overwork
Quiz: Are You Burning Out? (It’s geared for employees, but can also work for LARP, just substitute “coworkers” with “fellow LARPers,” “work” with “hobby” or “LARPing,” and etc.)
Beating burnout: five keys to coping in difficult and uncertain times. (you may need to look up the URL through Google to get the full article)

But burnout is only a part of the equation, you also have the creative recharging. Much of what applies to beating burnout also applies to creative recharging, plus a few other tips:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Get plenty of good quality sleep
  • Exercise, if you like getting out and enjoying the physical part of LARPing, why not try some Geocaching for example.
  • Take a break or vacation from the activity burning you out
  • Make or do something else creative that’s not directly related to LARPing. If you like to sew, don’t sew up more garb/costuming but perhaps some sort of new item for your own, mundane wardrobe. Leatherworking, don’t make more bracers or greaves, but how about some fun keychain fobs or bookmarks to sell at the local farmer’s market. If you love to draw or paint think about going out to do some artwork that isn’t directly related to the game you’ve been participating in.
  • Read a book that you’ve had on your “I want to read this list” and have yet to get around to, and make sure it’s a book that you’ll enjoy.
  • Get out and spend time with friends in a non-LARPing environment (a museum, art gallery or such) and not talk about LARPing or gaming, but other topics of interest that you share with them.
These sites had some very good ideas on how to creatively recharge and are worth the read (even if they don’t deal directly with LARPing):
How to Recover & Recharge from Creative Burnout
Top Ten Ways to Recharge Your Creative Batteries
Recharging Your Creative Batteries from ArtistsAnon
Recharging Your Creative Batteries by Maria Piscopo

I’d like to hear from you. What do you do to beat or prevent burnout? How about creative recharging? How big of an issue do you think burnout and the need to creatively recharge is to the LARPing hobby?

The next column will be on the dangers of entitlement and instant gratification. As always I love to hear feedback and suggestions for further articles. Feel free to leave a comment here at the Mortalis Games site, write Amber at webmaster [at] mortalisrpg [dot] com or once this goes live on RPG.net, visit the article’s forum thread (there should be a link below the article to it) to see what else has been shared or to leave a comment there.

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