• Emma Chow

How to Combat Burnout with Music Interventions

Working in a highly demanding environment will undoubtedly make you more susceptible to burnout. In fact, burnout risk in high occupational stress is 7 times greater than those who experience low occupational stress.¹ This state of emotional exhaustion and cynical outlook will inevitably lead to a decrease in performance.

But there is a simple and fun auditory method that can help you combat burnout.

Music therapy!

What is Music Therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as "the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship."³


The process can include creating, listening, singing, or moving to the music. This form of therapy provides people with a different outlet for expressing their feelings.

Previous studies have shown an increase in neuroplasticity in long-term musicians. This suggests musical training may result in cognitive differences between musicians and non-musicians.This information soon led to the use of musical interventions in therapy.

The exploration of music therapy began as early as 1789. The first recorded experimental musical intervention was in the 1800's.


Now, music therapy is used to relieve cancer, dementia, acquired brain injuries, etc.⁶⁻⁸ Previous findings also suggest several beneficial effects. This includes anxiety, pain, fatigue, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure in people with cancer.


Empirical Evidence

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Sousse conducted an experiment to see the effects of music therapy on burnout risk. Specifically, they focused on stress levels and burnout risk from operating room staff.

Before the experiment began, participants underwent an examination. The researchers utilized the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) and the Maslash Burnout Inventory (MBI). These provided insight to the participants’ characteristics, lifestyle, and stress levels.¹²


Three sessions of music therapy were provided daily during the participants’ working days. Music selection satisfied all the participants by combining an assortment of their preferences. This lasted for a period of five weeks.

The results indicated a significant drop in perceived stress. In regards to burnout, there was also a decrease in emotional exhaustion.


But ultimately, music therapy and interventions offer significant benefits. Besides decreasing stress and emotional exhaustion, there are also physiological improvements. 
Illustration by Nadia Mokadem

Similar results were found with the Research-Program MusicMedicine (RPMM) at Paracelsus Medical University. 

In this study, participants were asked to listen to a designated music intervention twice a day for 30 minutes, 5 days a week or 5 weeks. 

After five weeks of music therapy, both experimental groups experienced less symptoms of burnout. In addition, the results suggest an improvement in heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress) levels.¹³


The genre and type of instrument used in these interventions are specifically delegated by trained music therapists. It all depends on the individual’s preference, circumstance, and goals.¹⁴


But ultimately, music therapy and interventions offer significant benefits. Besides decreasing stress and emotional exhaustion, there are also physiological improvements. 

So next time you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, listen to some of your favorite music and bring yourself back to a calmer state.

References

  1. Khalid. A, Pan. F, Li. P, et al. The impact of occupational stress on job burnout among bank employees in Pakistan, with psychological capital as a mediator. Front Public Health. 2019;7:410.

  2. Anat Ostrovsky, Joseph Ribak, Avihu Pereg & Dan Gaton (2012) Effects of job-related stress and burnout on asthenopia among high-tech workers, Ergonomics, 55:8, 854-862, DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2012.681808

  3. Baeck E. The neural networks of music. Eur J Neurol. 2002;9:449–456. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

  4. American Music Therapy association. [cited 2020 Apr 15 ]. Available from: https://www.musictherapy.org/.

  5. Ibid.

  6. BradtJ, DileoC, MagillL, et al. Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in cancer patients. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;8:CD006911. [Google Scholar]

  7. van der SteenJT, SmalingHJA, van der WoudenJC, et al. Music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;7:CD003477. [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]

  8. MageeWL, ClarkI, TamplinJ, et al. Music interventions for acquired brain injury. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;1:CD006787. [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]

  9. Ibid.

  10. Bianchi. R, Schonfield, I. S., Laurent, E. Burnout-depression overlap: A review. Clinical Psychology Review. 2015;36:28-41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.004

  11. Maratos. A, Gold. C, Wang. X, et al. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;1:CD004517. [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]

  12. I. Kacem, M. Kahloul, S. El Arem, S. Ayachi, M. Hafsia, M. Maoua, M. Ben Othmane, O. El Maalel, W. Hmida, O. Bouallague, K. Ben Abdessalem, W. Naija & N. Mrizek (2020) Effects of music therapy on occupational stress and burn-out risk of operating room staff, Libyan Journal of Medicine, 15:1, DOI: 10.1080/19932820.2020.1768024

  13. Brandes, V., Terris, D. D., Fisher, C., et al. Music Programs Designed to Remedy Burnout Symptoms Show Significant Effects after Five Weeks. Annuals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2009; 1169:1. https://doi-org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04790.x

  14. Ibid.