Burnout 2.0 in the fitness and wellness industry

80% of yoga teachers and fitness instructors report an increase in burnout rates

As a yoga teacher or fitness instructor, how many times have you heard people say to you “Your job must be so fun and relaxing, getting to workout and practice all day”? 

And while we can certainly admit that working within Wellness comes with more perks than pitfalls, we would be kidding ourselves to deny that it is without challenge. 

Recent conversations with fellow fitpreneurs have got us thinking about a new type of burnout, one that is linked to the vast changes we have had to make to adapt our lives and businesses to the ongoing pandemic. 

Let’s begin by defining burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, if you can still remember what the world looked like, we were running from one studio to the next, hopping between the houses of private clients, surviving on protein bars and the buzz we got after a good class. We always knew our jobs could be incredibly exhausting yet deeply rewarding at the same time, and we tried to find ways to preserve our energy. Nevertheless, there were times when we didn’t prioritise our own wellbeing and we wound up feeling stressed and burnt out. Unsustainable commute hours weren’t the only cause of burnout. Our clients and students often use their time with us to offload or escape their own issues or to reduce stress, adding a different dimension of pressure to the work we do. Energy can transfer between individuals very quickly and I’m sure we have all found ourselves at some point changing our mood in reaction to those around us. Furthermore, how many cover classes have you taken on to make sure that you had some extra cash to pay for your next training, new equipment or a much needed  vacation? We’ve all been there. The result? An accumulation of stress and pressure that could all too easily boil over and lead to feelings of overwhelm and ultimately burnout.

When we take a look at the story behind Kuula and understand why it was created, it  paints a pretty good picture of how stressful the situation could be at times even before Covid.
Kuula was co-founded by Mariel Witmond, a yoga teacher,  mum, Lululemon Ambassador and entrepreneur, who strongly believes that instructors like herself should be able to earn what they deserve. But more than that, she wants to empower teachers and practitioners to grow and nurture their audiences in a way that working within fitness and yoga studios makes it difficult to do. Yoga has been part of Mariel’s life since she was a teenager but it wasn’t until she had spent a draining decade working within the  entertainment industry that it became her passion. She took the difficult decision to leave the secure yet toxic corporate world and embarked upon her teacher training and life coaching qualifications, g. ultimately leading to the creation of her yoga and coaching business, Mindful Sonder

Funnily enough, she noticed that burnout rates were also high in the yoga and wellness industry. Running from one class to another, giving out free content and always being available for her community, led her to realise that this way of conducting business wasn’t sustainable in the long run. With digitalisation and consumer trends shifting, also pushed by 2020’s pandemic, Kuula came about to respond to a growing demand both from yoga and fitness teachers, as well as their students. Our ultimate goal is to give teachers all the tools they need to professionally engage with, and grow, their online communities, whilst making the experience for the students simple and straightforward. By bringing together a wide variety of fitness and yoga experts on one platformie, we make it easier for students to find us and practice with us. 

As a company, we try to make life easier for all the teachers and students out there, but this doesn’t mean burnout will cease to be an issue, on the contrary. After interviewing many of our teachers and  industry peers, we’ve come to the conclusion that there is another form of burnout on the rise, let’s be ‘on trend’ and call it 2.0!  

Burnout 2.0 can be caused by a multitude of things, from tech-related stress issues – “Can you hear me”, or “Your connection is unstable” ring a bell? – imposter syndrome, financial struggles, loneliness, lockdown life , and so much more. 

Let’s break it down and see what we can do to cope. 

Tech-related issues

Most of us have somehow found a way to deal with tech issues when they arise, but we can certainly help reduce risks significantly. Kuula offers you a complete solution for your online wellness business. On Kuula, you can stream your classes, both live and videos on demand, you can take bookings and collect payments. Furthermore, you have the ability  to gather student information, engage with your community and manage your pricing options (including subscriptions and class packs) all in one place.
No matter what stage you are at in your career, we’ve got your back! From the early days of stepping into your role as a new teacher  to becoming an industry expert, we have the tools to support you on the journey. Running a business online can be an isolating place at times but you don’t have to do this all alone.
Mindful of all the questions and issues that crop up around this topic, we have set up a special Kuula circle session with our Technical Director. This will be a great opportunity for you to ask all your questions regarding teaching online, click here to join.  

Imposter Syndrome and comparisons

In a world where we have been forced to be socially distant, we have come to rely more and more on our phones and particularly social media to stay connected. We find ourselves endlessly scrolling with the hope of finding inspiration or perhaps motivation, but all too often we feel deflated and disheartened. Social media gives us the constant opportunity and perhaps compulsion to compare ourselves to the apparent success of others. It might surprise you to learn that an estimated 70% of people struggle with imposter syndrome, though most of us never talk about it. Within the wellness industry this is somewhat counterintuitive. Healthy living is as much about having a positive outlook on life and yourself, as it is about exercise and eating well. Impostor syndrome makes us feel as though we don’t belong or that we are somehow less qualified than our peers, or perhaps only where we are because of a mistake. We often feel terrified of being ‘found out’. Of course, this is not true. To stop feeling like an imposter, you need to train your brain to stop thinking like an impostor. As with all things, this takes practice and patience.
We put together 5 steps that will help you to work on overcoming these feelings:

1. Focus on facts: just because you feel a certain way, it doesn’t mean that is who you are. Everyone will feel silly or out of place at some point, but focus on the things you have accomplished.

2. Look at the bright side: as teachers we want to offer the best class experience to our students, or even the most perfect. Shall we remind you that there’s no such thing as a perfect class? Whatever you do and whatever you say will always have a different impact on different people, you can’t control that. But you can look at the positive things that come out of situations, half glass full all the way! 

3. Humans make mistakes. So do yoga teachers: unless you have forgotten, you are still human after all. Mistakes will happen, but until we can really own up to them and move on from them, they will haunt us. All we can do is plan our actions from a place of kindness and authenticity, and when we do make mistakes, embrace them, laugh it off and move on to the next big thing. Our mistakes and failures so often give us more opportunity for growth than our successes.

4. You don’t have to know everything: you really don’t! Should we just agree with this and move on? Okay, we’ll give you a bit more insight to this. You have worked really hard on your qualifications and you probably have a lot of hours and experience under your belt, which is great! But unfortunately there’s only so much you can learn in a certain amount of time, so if a student or a client comes to you asking for help with a specific injury or why the sky is blue, feel free to answer “I don’t know, but I will look into to it” or “I don’t know, but perhaps you should see a specialist for this”. You may not agree to this right now, but trust us when we say, you can’t be everything for everyone.

5. Last but not least, visualise success: dream, plan and conquer. Go big, think of your wildest dreams and make a feasible plan to get there. And like we said earlier, spend time on working on the things you actually need to, removing everything else that’s holding you back. 

Financial struggles

The multiple lockdowns and closures of gyms and studios have certainly had an impact on our financial situations. That said, the vast majority of us have found ways to remain  financially stable even throughout this incredibly difficult time. How? Possibly a mix of mindset, determination, great marketing skills and a bit of luck. Whilst we’re talking about money, something that comes up time and time again within our community is the subject of pricing. Isn’t it interesting that we were doing the same job before, albeit with less admin, but we had no issues asking to be paid by our studios or gyms. Yet since moving online, we seem to have found it so hard to charge appropriately for our classes and ask for money from our students directly. There are a number of factors involved here and of course we are all mindful of the financial struggles of others. But that said, the majority of our students were paying fairly significant membership fees to studios or gyms prior to the lockdowns. We must feel confident to value our skills and the service we are providing and get better at setting  boundaries. We will delve into this topic in more detail in the coming weeks with our money mindset coach  on Kuula Circle. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on the schedule page, by clicking here.

Loneliness and coping through lockdowns  

It’s incredibly important to engage in honest conversations about loneliness and how we can help each other as a community. One in every four adults in the UK expressed feeling lonely throughout the pandemic and numbers are only on the rise. Even though an online class cannot replicate being in a studio, there’s definitely ways to feel connected to the people that show up on the screen. At Kuula we have created functionality within our player to help students build relationships with each other and their teachers; our pre and post class lobbies are a great way to socially interact before and after a class. As teachers and instructors ourselves, we recognise that the business of online yoga & fitness can be a lonely and isolating place, and we are trying hard to create a supportive network within our private Facebook group. It’s a safe and welcoming space for teachers and professionals, where we can learn from each other, support each other or simply feel connected. We recognise how important it is to have someone else to talk to during the most challenging times.

Having looked at some of the areas that might lead to a feeling of ‘burn out’, why is it so important for us to avoid it and how might we go about preventing it?

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. Furthermore, the negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life—including your home and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it’s important to deal with burnout right away, or better still, prevent it.
First of all, figure out what your one big goal for this year is in terms of your career. It can be anything you really want for yourself and it doesn’t have to be set in stone, but try to visualise it and write it down, as it makes it more “real”.
Then look at your daily, weekly, monthly schedule, and notice if there’s anything you can remove or modify to make sure that your daily actions and activities reflect your end goal.
Make sure you set out a moment every week, or even better, every day, to do something you love for yourself. Something that brings you joy and fulfilment, and that makes you feel proud of yourself.
Prioritise your wellbeing first, because that instruction you used to hear when you would get on a flight “put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others”, still applies, even if you are not currently flying.