In June 2023, I attended four days of an online voice teacher training conference, and we had an absolute blast! Classes on vocal technique, performance, Blues, Jazz, Latin, World Music, rhythm, life coaching, teaching each other, getting singers in with vocal tendencies we’ve never worked with before. We practiced teaching on each other, shared strategies to get better at what we do and generally grew our teaching skills with each other.

It was SO much fun seeing all my colleagues and friends from around the world, spending time in a virtual conference together, learning and chatting and generally reconnecting after a long time apart. We’ve actually not seen each other in person since our conference in Austria in 2019, so we are always raring to go and love every minute we spend together.

But…spending 8hrs+ a day online for four days straight gets tiring very quickly.

Since we were accommodating two different time zones, we were starting very early. I was up at 5am for the first two days for our Asia/Australia time zone! Singing at 6am when you are not used to it is quite a shock to the system! Fortunately the second two days were on European time, a far more acceptable wake up call of 8am!

As well as being a certified teacher with the Institute for Vocal Advancement, I also work for them as part of the Support Team behind the scenes. So during the conference, I wasn’t just there to learn, but I was also hosting the classes. Making sure the presenters had what they needed, doing the behind the scenes spotlighting in class, doing real-time statistics, answering questions, generally being on hand to ensure a great experience for everyone involved. And I love it, I really do!

But after those 4 days, I was done.

My body, brain and spirit were so tired I didn’t know what to do with myself.

And I didn’t expect that at all. I know online conferences can be tiring - this is our third one after all! - but I just didn’t expect to be so mentally drained afterwards. Turns out that early mornings are great for some people, but they just don’t work for me (Even though I wish they would!). Plus being online for all that time, being ‘on it’ and generally not able to unwind during the day is also quite a drain on the system.

So why didn’t I preempt this?

Why didn’t I think “Laura, this is a big event and you’re going to be tired afterwards so make sure you take some real time off!”

And more to the point, why didn’t I book that time off into my diary?

Because despite knowing all these things, I just ignored them. I ignored the fact I’d be tired, so I didn’t cancel any lessons or work. I simply took two mornings off and used them to sleep in a bit before jumping back into work. 

I didn’t want to admit that I am not Superwoman and I actually need to step back and have a rest.

Two days after, I still felt the need to keep going because I was afraid that if I stopped, I would lose momentum, and losing momentum means I might fall back a few steps, and falling back a few steps means I’m failing…

Sound familiar?

Not stopping to rest played absolute havoc with my mental health and self-esteem.

Because let’s face it, none of these things are true, but they are taught to us from such a young age that we internalise the narrative and the social conditioning. And when we get emotionally tired like I was, we don’t have the brainpower to fight it! In fact, it embeds even more deeply into our brains when we are in a vulnerable state, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

And yes, even being the person I am, knowing the things I know, and teaching the things I teach, I still succumb to these societal conditioning narratives. 

I know that as people who love what we do, we often feel this way. We succumb to the narrative that our dream jobs shouldn’t be tiring, that showing up should be energising and not draining, after all, it's something we LOVE doing!  We worry if we ever stop and take time off, we'll lose that hard-won momentum.

But what I (and probably you if you are reading this far!) need to remember is

Taking time off doesn’t mean falling back a step.

Having a rest doesn’t mean that we lose momentum.

It just means we pause. 

We pause at a time when we need to stop before we end up moving backwards.

We pause to allow our creativity to bloom again.

We pause to fill up our own cups before being able to give to others.

And most importantly, we pause to rest.

Rest is an essential ingredient in growing and moving forwards. If we don’t rest, then we will likely be on our way to burnout, which is definitely something to avoid!

So here’s my advice, to myself and to you:

Take the pause. The work will still be there when you come back. 

Take the time off. You will gain more than you lose by taking time off that you need.

Take the rest. You will recover faster and be able to gain momentum faster when you come back.

What will you do to honour the fact you need rest?