Burnout can be a very dangerous thing for a growing park and is often the cause of a general decline in mood and motivation within a park structure. One of the biggest misconceptions about burnout is that it only happens to the leaders or officers of a park. This is untrue and it can and does happen to everyone in the game despite their level of personal involvement towards the politics or leadership of the game. Each type of burnout is a little different, so we will look at each one and attempt to identify the causes, as well as some possible solutions to help combat burnout.
It is important that we learn the early signals of burnout to help prevent it because often burnout is contagious and can affect more then just one person. You can help a person who is tittering on the verge of burnout and help them heal faster and get back to doing what we all love to do: playing the game!
What is Burnout?
Burnout is exactly what it sounds like. When one is affected by burnout, they often stop coming to play for weeks or months in a row - or sometimes quit the game completely.
There are often many causes for burnout and they include: over-ertion while in an officer role, stress while in an officer position, feeling like you’re “not important”, feeling like you “can’t make a difference”, dissatisfaction with an aspect of the game, dissatisfaction with individuals in charge or who play the game. These are only a few of the many reasons that can cause a person to burnout.
This is perhaps the most common and widely known types of burnout present in our game. This type is caused by someone who puts so much into the game personally, passionately, and physically during the course of service that by the end of it they have nothing left. The average Amtgarder doesn’t really have an understanding of what it means to be an officer in this game. As an officer, you are not only expected to motivate and keep other people excited about coming out, but you are also expected to solve everyone else’s personal problems and squabbles with other individuals in the park. This creates large amounts of stress and can make six months seem like a lifetime.
This type can also affect people who are not directly involved in the officer roles of a park. These are the people that folks often look to for guidance - the “old crew” from the park. They have been officers and are widely influential throughout the park. Often times, where there are personal problems with individuals in the park, the people will take it to these folks, expecting them to be able to give them guidance on how to handle the problem. Also it can become frustrating and stressful for these people, who are so used to being able to directly have a hand in the direction of a park, when they are not listened to or ignored. It sounds petty, but show me someone who has been a good or influential leader in this game who doesn’t have at least some kind of ego. These folks get frustrated and often feel the effects of burnout.
This type of burnout is not as commonly talked about, but happens all the time. This is perhaps the biggest and most detrimental type that can happen to anyone. The reason this type is so dangerous is because these people are often not noticed when they leave, and they never come back. It is easy to see the tells or symptoms of burnout in people who are often in the spot light, but by the time you notice the symptoms from a normal player it may already be too late to avoid.
This type of burnout is often caused by dissatisfaction with some aspect of the game. It’s caused by the individual not getting out of the weekly game day what drew them to the game in the first place. It could be not enough battle gaming, ditching, fighting, role playing, social interaction, feeling included, or being involved. This is rough because most people who are effected by this don’t say anything about how they are feeling. They just keep coming out each week hoping to be satisfied and are often disappointed time and time again until they just quit coming all together. Drama is another killer, and will cause most casual Amtgard players to quit and never come back. Despite how good the game may be, a little bit of drama will get old fast and wreck the whole thing. Other causes can be that a person has tried to communicate what they want from the game but feel that their requests have been ignored or are not even considered.
Again, these are only a few of the causes for burnout. No matter what drives a person to this state, it is important that we as recognize it and reach out to save a person from burning up and losing them on the field.
Just like many other mental and physical states, burnout has some symptoms that show signs prior to the final outcome of a player taking an extended vacation or quitting the game completely. These are only a few and there can be others as well, so keep your eyes and ears peeled and be willing to step in and help out a friend in need if you see these. Many of these can also be caused by other reasons from home life, personal problems, or other things, but it never hurts to see what you can do to help.
1. Bad attitude: A player who comes out and is generally in a bad mood on a week to week basis is not getting what he or she needs to make them happy at the game. It could lead to some serious frustration and eventual burnout.
2. Depressed behavior: A player who comes out and mopes around the field or is stand-offish may be experiencing some type of frustration with the game or with things that are happening on the field. These people are crying out for attention without saying a word and, unless they get some level of recognition or resolution, they will end up walking away.
3. Short temper: A player who is super defensive or overly aggressive on or off the field from week to week is often not getting what they need out of the game. Unless dealt with quickly, they will drive other people away and will eventually burn themselves out.
4. Change in playing style: A sudden change in playing style or social style is also a good indicator of possible burnout. It could be not wearing garb on the field anymore, fighting less, playing less, or less social interaction while out during the weekend. This is often the easiest one to spot if you know your players well enough. Agai, they are not getting some level of satisfaction that they are used to out of the game.
5. Because I said so: Leaders or officers on the brink of cracking often revert to this one. They get so fed up with the stuff that they are dealing with that they eventually just get to the point where they just start rudely and abruptly laying down the law in some manners.
6. Sideline player: A player who alienates themselves from the game and from the group is looking for an excuse to disappear. Don’t let them! The people are again not getting what they want and so begin to distance themselves more and more each day until they just disappear.
7. The invisible amtgarder: This is the person who normally shows up all the time but for some reason begin to show up sporadically from week to week. They may not stay the entire time when they come or may just stop in and then leave. Again, they aren’t getting what they want and just stop coming or participating like normal.
8. Stops coming: This is the worst symptom of all and is often the true last consequence of someone who has burned out. They just stop coming completely. At this stage they have given up and it’s hard to get them to come back out again.
What to Do if it is You?
The best way to fight this is to recognize it in yourself and battle it before it becomes an issue that takes you out of the game. Take a second each time you get ready to head out to the field to reflect on your last time out. Ask yourself if you displayed any of those symptoms of burnout. If you did, here are some things you can do to help yourself.
1. Recognize a symptom and do something about it. Don’t let it progress time and time again until there is nothing left for you to be able to do.
2. Remember why you play! This is perhaps the most important thing to help you recover quickly. Think back to what it was that got you playing in the first place and that one thing you love to do in Amtgard - and then do it! Let everything else go for a while and just do what you love.
3. Take a short break: If you find yourself displaying a bad attitude or being generally negative on the field, that could hurt or detract others from coming out and could start a downward spiral of the general attitude at the park. The best bet if you feel you need a break is to take one, but don’t be gone too long and make an effort to get back into it.
4. Talk about it: Here’s a fact: no one is going to read your mind, nor are you a mind reader. Unless people know there is a problem, you cannot expect them to help you fix it. If you have an issue with someone, don’t go complain to someone else. Try and work it out with that person.
5. Try something new: There are so many different aspects of this game that you have no excuse to become bored with it. If you find yourself stalling out, then try something different. Try reeving instead of fighting or play a different class. Get involved in the arts and sciences. There are a lot of things you can do to help make the game fun again.
How to Help a Friend
It is important to understand that you can’t expect a person to change if that person does not realize that there is a problem. First of all, don’t be afraid to go and talk to a friend who may be in trouble. In turn, if someone comes and talks to you, be constructive.
1. Talk to ‘em: Remember you want to help them, not criticize them. Most people who are close to the edge of burnout are also very sensitive and thusly defensive. They will not easily want to discuss what’s bugging them, so be careful about how you approach them. Be nice, be courteous, and use some tact.
2. Offer to lend a hand: Relate to them. We all do something together that we all love to do, and that is to play this game. And face it: if you have been along for more then a year or so, you have faced some level of burnout already. You know how you felt, so it is likely that they are feeling the same way. Offer to help them on their terms.
3. Make them a part of what’s going on: Get them involved. Help them to find what it is about the game that they love doing, and then nurture it! Everyone started playing for one reason or another. Even if its not the most fun thing for you to do, suck it up so that a friend gets back into the game quicker.
4. Be patient: Some people honestly just need some time. Often officers coming off long periods of being in charge need a couple of weeks to reboot their Amtgard computers and remember how to play the game. Being overly in their face about playing can just drive them away, so be nice and don’t be rude.
How to Recover
Recovery after burnout is important. The biggest mistake people make is rushing back into things. This will lead to more burnout. Take the time you need so that, when you come back, you come back with the right mind set and are mentally and physically ready to play. You want to ease back into the game as gently as possible. Avoid getting wrapped up in any drama or decision making. Think about what it is about the game that you like the best and focus on doing just that. Make a pact with yourself that, when you do come back, you will not get involved in anything for at least a month.
There are a couple of very important things that I wish for you to take with you from this. Take care of yourself physically and mentally when it comes to this game. Be ready to have fun and be careful to watch for the signs of stress and burnout so you can recover quickly! Also, be a good enough player that, when you recognize the signs and you feel yourself beginning to slip, you do not become one of those people that detract from the game. Lastly, do not be so callous or egotistical to think that you can’t help someone else. We have at some point in our lives experienced burnout. The support of friends helps to extinguish the flames of burnout faster then anything else.
I leave you with this: above everything else, make sure you are having fun!
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