Rock Stars, Athletes and You: The Yin Burnout Effect

In my practice, I see a number of clients who are musicians and athletes. And while a guitarist might not know how to score a goal, and a hockey player might not be able to play a single note, they often experience similar kinds of Qi imbalance and chaotic Qi. They are always in a state of excess followed by depletion! Their work conditions involve meeting extremely high expectations, without any reprieve for reflection and rest. There’s no room for the necessary recovery and tonifying of their Qi. 

My motto is: You should rest as hard as you play!And while not everyone is a rock star or a pro athlete, we can all learn a little about our Qi from studying them as extreme examples of high-energy, out-of-balance lifestyles.

Too much travel plus high stress on the body means retiring injured!

Athletes are expected to play at their best during the regular season; they travel from one city to the next, playing as many games as the season schedule requires. But who actually determines what a regular season is supposed to be? Money and politics usually play into it, and decision-makers forget that these athletes are human and need time for recovery. Their Qi is constantly taxed and thrown off because there is no routine that coincides with yin and yang regulation. This is why I see athletes approaching burnout at such a young age. 

Instead of being encouraged to slow down and get adequate rest between games, they’re thrown onto a bus or plane as soon as they finish an adrenalin-driven game. Travel is exhausting on its own; it’s worse for athletes who are not given the ideal time to recover from a game. They should have at least two days between travel time and the next game. Three days would be better. Let’s not forget how hard it is for those of us who travel for leisure to decompress and re-acclimate after traveling. Imagine having to basically run a marathon after a 12 hour flight! Yikes!

As well, the season should be stretched out to allow athletes more time to recover. Instead of a five-month season, make it 12 months to stretch out time between each game! As it stands now, when it’s time for athletes to retire, they are in a broken state, both physically and mentally, because their managers never gave any priority to recovery. That means they could never cultivate balanced Qi. Then, they spend their retirement going to rehabilitation physio, having orthopedic surgery and dealing with a whole host of ailments that could have been prevented. After all their hard work and sacrifice, retirement should be the opportunity to live their best life! 

High-pressure performances and toxic coping mechanisms lead to early aging!

Musicians fall prey to the same kind of pressure as athletes, but it can look a little different in practice. They are expected to perform night after night to sold-out crowds, and rush to the next city for another draining performance. With this amount of mental and physical exhaustion, Qi levels cannot effectively be restored in the short period of time between concerts. 

Instead of planning music tours so the musician can play as many gigs as possible, managers, promoters and advisors should give the musician a three-day window to recover after every performance, or even a week, before they go on to the next performance. Rock stars have an immense amount of adrenalin surging at the end of a performance—it’s not humanly possible to shift down in a matter of minutes! It takes days!  

It’s somewhat of an epidemic for musicians to exhibit signs of Qi collapse. With this kind of gruelling schedule, if a musician wants to play and perform at their best, their career will only last for a short period of time because their Qi often runs out, which speeds up the aging process. This is also why so many musicians rely on excess drugs and alcohol—these substances help them deal with the lack of balance and manage the resulting pain by quickly creating artificial relaxation or forced energy and focus. 

The common thread is Qi imbalance.

In these two examples, you can see how there’s an excess of yang Qi being used, and no elements of yin Qi coming into play for healing and necessary balance. Persistent highs and lows in such a short period of time means there’s no chance for Qi to catch up and regulate the neural pathways in the brain to produce more serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. The body often does not produce enough of these mood-elevating hormones during stress. Insufficient yin nourishment predisposes us to the same problems of mental and emotional exhaustion.

The typical symptoms associated with yin collapse are restlessness, dry mouth, thirst, poor concentration and memory, eye issues, hearing loss, night sweats, low back pain and aches, and knee weakness. These symptoms are common in athletes, musicians and other people with high-stress lives. They arise because the kidney essence is supposed to be filling the bone and spine with marrow, but instead it’s continuously exhausted. When the back and knees start to ache, high performers often take painkillers to get to the next show or game. Eventually, the pain worsens and is no longer treatable with strong pain medication, so then they turn to cortisone injections, which minimize the pain but don’t stop tissue damage. Without the ability to feel pain, the person now does continuous damage without even realizing it. Once the cortisone injections wear off, the damage is significant and now they need even more invasive treatment. 

Why does the situation spiral downward like this? Because sports agents, managers and ticket agents, along with the companies that run national athletic associations and arenas, are expecting a profit—sadly, at the expense of these gifted and talented individuals. 

So what if you’re not an athlete or a rock star?

The reasons why I’m using these scenarios as examples is to outline the effects that arise when we forget the importance of slowing down and reflecting. If we want long-term quality of life, we need to find balance. And not only in the moment. We need to guide our life choices with this principle as the norm. We need to avoid staying in a state of constant multitasking and fighting pain and whatever other symptoms get in our way. 

The work you put into your health and Qi balance now determines how amazing your quality of life will be in the next five, ten, fifty years. Don’t wait to start falling apart to learn balance. You can start at any moment. When you make deposits into your Qi bank, you’ll have so much more stored up for future stress and environmental adjustments. 

If we’re not questioning the pace at which musicians and athletes are expected to perform, then we’re doing a disservice to the their talents. Their managers, agents, promoters and advisors should support their resilience and value their work enough to place importance on the need for recovery and Qi balance. Our favourite stars’ retirement years should be their best, not their worst. And the same is true for you!