Transcript: New Harmony 003B – 4 Causes for Music Teachers Overwhelm and 3 Ways to Tackle Burnout & Stress: Part B with Darla Morfin
Transcript for New Harmony Episode 003B – 4 Causes for Music Teachers Overwhelm and 3 Ways to Tackle Burnout & Stress: Part B with Darla Morfin
Welcome to the New Harmony podcast, part of the Music Studio Startup Podcast Network and your connection to thoughtful conversations with music teachers striving to live in wellness and balance as business owners. Here to start the conversation is music school owner, trained counselor and business mindset coach Amy Elmore.
Welcome to the podcast today. I’m really excited to have a special guest today. Her name is Darla Morphin. And I have known Darla since, ooh, like, before my youngest child was born. And he is almost 23. So welcome to Darla. Darla is a therapist, and that is how we met each other. I was working in a…
counseling center and kind of a former past life, I guess, same life, but, you know, a different career path several years ago. And Darla and I worked together. So hello, Darla, I’m so glad you’re here. Hello, thank you for having me. Yes, this is a privilege being here. Well, thank you and for taking your time. I know you’re in between seeing clients today. And so I appreciate you taking your time.
But before any piano teachers tune out thinking, what do I need to listen to this for? Because I know as piano teachers, we like to listen to other teachers and maybe business owners and people who can help us in our day-to-day teaching and skillset. But Darla is going to help us with the mindset, the mental health that we need in order to be a good teacher, to be a good…
business owner to overcome things that might keep us stuck from being the people that were uniquely created to be. So, yeah, first, can you just share a little bit about yourself and what you’re doing now? So we knew each other, like I said, 20 something years ago, we worked in a county contracted counseling center, and we worked with children and youth who were going through crisis. Yes.
Yes. So that’s what we did together. But what are you doing now? Yes. Thank you. Yes. I’m a marriage family therapist and I have been doing therapy almost 27 years now. And so that was a wonderful experience that you and I shared together in our clinic work. And now I’m in private practice and I’ve been in private practice now for a few years and very much enjoying it.
I see teens, I see families, individuals and couples. And yeah, it’s just very fulfilling work. Wonderful. Where’s your private practice located? I am located in Laguna Hills, California, and really close to, if you’re familiar with this area, Lake Forest and Molton. Yes, okay. But since 2020, you’ve kind of pivoted or added
not only in person, but also online and yes. Yes. So I see people in person. I also see them online with video visits, phone calls, as long as the client is within the state of California. My license covers within the state of California. So yeah, but I see people through video phone and in person. Great. Okay. Well,
The reason I thought it would be so great to have you talk about this topic of burnout is because it seems to be kind of a chicken and an egg situation with what comes first. Is it burnout and overwhelm, or is it anxiety and depression? And how are those the same things? Are they different? How do they show up together? Or how would you speak to that? Because I think…
A lot of teachers, we use the term burnout a lot, especially in certain seasons, like the holiday season is really busy for musicians and teachers and the spring season as well, because we’re all kind of gearing up for those end of the year recitals and things like that. So sometimes we can feel that way at certain times in our lives. Yes. But how would you define all those words, I guess, burnout, overwhelm, anxiety, depression? How do you?
How do they all work together? Yes. Okay. So stress, overwhelmed burnout are different from anxiety or depression. Stress, overwhelm and burnout can lead to anxiety and depression, especially if you don’t have good and positive tools to help you with the first three. So.
It’s really important when you feel stress or overwhelm or burnout to really pay attention to those, to pay attention to your body and to put in some really good coping skills for yourself. What would you say would be clues that you might be stressed, overwhelmed or burned out? One clue is definitely in our society today we think that we can multitask.
We think that our brains can focus on many different things at one time. And studies have shown that we cannot multitask. I had a colleague tell me one time, he’s a psychiatrist, and he said, Darla, our brains cannot multitask. And yet, especially as women today, working, having mates, having children, having our careers.
we are put a lot of times in positions where we think we have to multitask. And what ends up happening is we give 20% of our attention to this and 30% of our attention to this and maybe 50% of our attention to that. Nothing gets 100%. And that causes stress and overwhelm in our bodies when we’re trying to manage all of that at one time. Okay.
So because we want to give 100% to everything. Yes. But we realize we don’t have the time to give 100% to everything. So we try to do it all at the same time and nothing’s getting even close to 100% or 50%. Exactly. And what that does then is that causes stress in our bodies, chemicals kick up in our bodies. And so our mental health, a lot of times people
misunderstand that mental health, they think that that’s different than our physical bodies. It’s all connected together. So our physical bodies give off some chemicals that increase in our bodies and that causes more stress and more overwhelm and that can lead to anxiety. Okay, what chemicals are you referring to specifically? Yeah, cortisol, adrenaline,
Is that different for everybody when those chemicals kick up or are there telltale signs? Like are you fatigued or are you short of breath? Are you racing heart? What are the specific signs that you would see when those chemicals? Yes, you can have fatigue, you can have your heart racing faster, you can get sweaty palms or sweaty body. You can start to feel numb.
vision can start to become a little blurred. Wow. Yes. There are many symptoms in your body that can come about from feeling that stress in your body. Also sometimes people describe it as having butterflies in their stomach. Okay. Yeah. And that can turn to nausea. Okay. Even sometimes vomiting and then you can get gastrointestinal issues.
So the stress and the overwhelm can lead to the physical manifestations that could potentially cause mental health manifestations as well as physical health. Yes. So it’s really wise to pay attention to all those things. I think we just discount a lot of that. Like, oh, well, I just have this going on right now. And
That’s normal for me to have butterflies because I’m just about ready to blah, blah, blah, whatever it is, you know? But how many repetitions does it take for something like that before it kind of leads into more of a formal diagnosis? That’s hard to say, but I would say if it’s chronic. Okay. More days than not, you have these symptoms and it’s becoming more and more chronic.
these symptoms, then that’s when it is leading into anxiety and feeling that over and over and over again, day after day after day. It’s so hard to fight that without having positive coping skills and decreasing those chemicals in your body. Okay. If you’re not able to do that, then that’s where ultimately that can also.
lead to depression. Okay. The anxiety would come first and then the depression? Is that kind of in that situation? Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes people just have depression. Yes. Okay. And it’s not led there by this process. Yeah. But if it starts with stress or overwhelm, yeah, it could lead them to anxiety. If you don’t learn positive coping skills.
And then it can also lead ultimately to depression because you’ve been fighting it for so long. It can really work on and give you negative thoughts, hopelessness in your life. And then that’s when depression can set in. Yeah, I remember when we were working at the counseling center that
I think it became a chronic thing for me that every morning I woke up and I just had a stomach ache like from the get go. And this is because I did not deal with crisis well and that was the population we worked with. Darla is incredible in crisis situation. She was so good and just so calm and so attentive to be able to take the next steps.
and help her clients. I think I probably got there too, but it was so, that whole conflictual environment was so challenging for me. I mean, there were so many good things that happened and that came out of that, but there was a point in time where I thought I just, either I need to learn better coping skills or this is just not for me. And it turned out to be the latter for me that.
I could still use some of those skills that I had learned during counseling, but in a different environment, not in that kind of a crisis sort of setting that we worked in. So yes, I know you do. I know you use those skills. Yes. Well, you know, as a parent, as a spouse, as a friend, right, we’re all using. I think it’s so important to tap into how we relate to people.
First, we have to really understand ourselves. So you’re saying with this to pay attention to when you have these chronic things coming up. And so you notice, okay, every day I wake up with a stomach ache or every day my palms are so sweaty before my students arrive or every day I just feeling super nervous about contacting a parent about something or whatever it might be.
What would be some of those positive coping skills so that teachers can be able to move forward and progress through them and not get to the point where it becomes chronic? What can you, if I said every day, every day, I guess that’s what we’re talking about chronic, but how would we address these symptoms that come up in our bodies physically? This is an excellent question.
or a therapist, or a business person, a boss, these are great skills to use all the time. And the first thing that I wanna say is if you’ve ever flown on an airplane, the flight attendants teach us a very good life skill. When they’re up in front telling you how to fasten your seatbelt, and then after that, they say an oxygen mask will drop down in front of your face.
You as the adult put your mask on first, then you assist others. Okay. So these coping skills are about how to put your mask on first. Because if you don’t put your mask on first in that situation on the plane, you could die. Yeah. That’s the reality of it. Yeah. And so if you can remember that in your life.
you need to put your oxygen mask on first. So using these positive coping skills. One positive coping skill is when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, stressed in your body, and these symptoms start to come up, ask yourself if you are safe physically, because the chemicals in your body are kicking up
because your brain, the base of your brain in the back thinks that you are in danger. And that would be physical danger. And if you’re in physical danger, then you need to either fight physically or you need to flee, run away. But if you’re not in physical danger, then you don’t need these chemicals kicked up in your body. Right. So ask yourself if you are safe physically. If the answer is yes.
then immediately deep breathe. And when I say deep breathe, I call them belly breaths. So your belly gets big. It expands when you breathe in. And then when you breathe out, your belly gets smaller again, because when we’re anxious, when we are stressed, when we are overwhelmed,
we take very shallow breaths and they’re from our chest up. And sometimes we hold our breath. We don’t even breathe. Okay. And so what we have to do to calm those chemicals down in our bodies, we need to deep breathe from the belly. So the breath in is real slow in through your nose, fill up your belly. And then that also expands your chest once your belly’s full.
hold it for about one or two seconds, and then breathe out really slowly, all the way out through your mouth. And by doing this, this will calm the chemicals in your body. All the while you’re reminding yourself that you’re safe. So deep breathing is a great tool. Okay, before you get to the next one, I just, I have two thoughts on this. Number one, when you brought up the analogy of being in an airplane,
The older I get, the less I like to fly. And it actually causes a lot of anxiety in me. So when you’re talking about what they say when they come on and the mask coming down and if you don’t do that, you’re going to die. And I’m like, oh, my gosh, I was starting to have anxiety about it. And then the minute I said, am I physically safe right now? Yes. Yes. I just felt this like this exhale.
Yeah. And then I don’t know if you could tell, but I was trying to practice the belly breathing while you’re talking. And for those of you just listening, Darla and I are on a Zoom call together, so we can see each other. But yeah. And then that reminded me that I have had students who I have physically seen holding their breath as they’re playing. Yeah. They’re afraid or, you know, it might be as they prepare for a recital or something. So
These are great ideas for ourselves and for our students because we’re all people, we’re all dealing with a lot of these stresses and pressures. So that deep belly breathing. Yes. Very important. It’s not just a, oh, that’s a nice to have, you know, to be helpful. It’s actually changing the chemicals in your body. That’s right. And in your brain. That’s okay. That’s the second. Yes. Teachers love tips. So we.
Good, good. I love the practical. Okay, second tip. Yes, and I recommend that you practice deep breathing throughout your whole day. Okay. Okay? So that when you do feel stress in your body, that’s your first go-to. Right. That you think of doing. Becomes a habit. That’s right. Asking yourself if you’re safe, and then deep breathing.
I also want to recommend that you spend a little time in a meditation app. Okay. Every day this will help you. And I don’t have any connection to any of the apps. I can give a couple of examples that I’ve used, but I don’t have any connection to any of them. There are many that are out there, but for instance, like the Calm app, there’s another one called Insight Timer.
go through the app, whichever one you choose, a meditation app. And I recommend a guided meditation, which means someone is talking to you. So not just music, but someone is talking to you because remember stress, overwhelm burnout probably means that you are trying to multitask. You’re trying to focus on too many things at one time.
instead of just one thing at a time. Meditation and the guided meditation, what that does is there’s someone talking to you and then you listen to that. Okay, so it keeps you from trying to do too much. That’s right. Because a lot of times we go to our to-do list and we think about that instead of just focusing on one thing at a time.
the guided meditation and there are some out there that are for five minutes, 10 minutes, 20, 30, 40 minutes, where you just sit and they’re talking to you about deep breathing and relaxing your body. And you just focus on that. Okay. That’s very calming. Yeah. That’s another skill that I recommend. Also there’s prayer. Yes. You’re connecting spiritually when you pray.
There’s been a lot of research done on this showing that our bodies, when we are in prayer, we are slowing our breathing down. We are deep breathing and we are going into more of a meditative state, which is just a calming state. Yeah. And when you pray, you’re focused on one thing, your prayers. Yeah. So that’s also a very calming tool to have.
Your voice is very calming. Start your own meditation app. Yes. And I deep breathe. I practice these skills throughout my day. Have you seen a change in yourself after having practiced these skills? Do you have a before and after or a kind of work in progress? Yes. I definitely am still a work in progress.
but I have seen some real positive changes in myself. I can give you an example because I talk to my clients pretty much every day about deep breathing, about calming their bodies. This is on the forefront of my mind now. So I practice this throughout my day. One day when my son, this was years ago, when my son was real young,
He was in the backseat of the car. I was driving down the freeway and someone cut me off really bad. I had to slam on my brakes. The first thing I did was check and make sure that my son was okay. And then I turned back around and I was just flooded with anger at that moment at that other driver. Sure. And a split second,
thinking, okay, what do you want to do about that anger? I wanted to follow him. We can’t do that in California or anywhere. Exactly. It’s not a good choice. It’s not a positive choice. And then in that second, I told myself, wait a second, I need to deep breathe and calm my body.
and I was able to take three deep breaths. And this is while I was continuing to drive down the freeway. I took three deep breaths and that anger was gone. Wow. That fast. In the three deep breaths. That fast. That fast. And at the beginning of my career, when I started, you know, thinking about mindfulness and deep breathing, I wouldn’t have been able to do it that quickly.
Mm-hmm bring those chemicals down in my body, right? But the more I practice it the better I’m getting at that right and I just brought up the word mindfulness also Mindfulness is a wonderful tool. There is a lot of information out there on the internet about what? mindfulness is But basically mindfulness is that you’re thinking about one thing at a time
one task at a time. This is a very positive and good coping skill. I’m sensing a theme here. One thing at a time. That’s right. Multitasking and one thing at a time helps you to stay focused to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed, anxious, burnt out. That’s right. How would you
Okay, so we may think, yeah, that’s all nice and good, Darla and Amy, but how do we actually do that when there are 25 things vying for our attention on a particular day? Like, is it just something we have to keep reminding ourselves of? We have Post-it notes around one thing at a time, or is it something we start to change our mindset around? What would you say to teachers that are like…
like myself right now thinking, okay, yes, I know that in my head, but really not super practical right now because I’ve got this, this and this and they all have to be done today. Yes. What would you say to us? Yes. So this, this and this are usually the list is a lot longer than that. Right. Only three things. Yeah. Okay. So what I would recommend is even with this, this and this, that list.
When you see that list, you focus on only one thing at a time. What’s the priority on the list? You focus on that until it’s done. Okay. And then you check it off your list and you move to the next thing on your list. And if you get distracted, because we do, that happens sometimes in life. And then this all of a sudden becomes priority. This other thing.
becomes priority. So then you switch to that and you only focus on that. Okay. And you don’t beat yourself up because you had to switch. Absolutely not. Other thing done. Absolutely not. Yeah. Absolutely not that beating yourself up that negative critical self talk is what can lead to depression. Yeah. And
Everybody has things that pop up that all of a sudden becomes priority. And that’s OK. That’s a part of life. Right. So you almost have to positively self-talk yourself. So you’re not having the negative self-talk if something comes up that you’re not getting the first thing on your list done. You have to switch because of something that has posed a greater urgency, perhaps.
Yes. You can tell yourself, that’s okay. This is important. Now I will get back to the other thing or that’s right. That type of thing. Would that be helpful? That would be very helpful. And if you remind yourself, I’m safe. Yeah. Even if I put that other thing on the back burner right now, I’m safe. Right. And then you just deep breathe and focus on that one thing. Right. So our themes.
One thing, priority, and remember to be aware of the physical things that come up in our bodies and then assess, am I safe? Am I not safe? What if you’re not safe? And what do you do? Yeah, if you’re not physically safe, that adrenaline and cortisol, that’s a built-in system into our bodies that our bodies will go into fight or flight.
And so that is what you need to do to get safe. And actually there’s a third system in our bodies. It’s fight, flight, or freeze. And if you think of the opossum, you know how it plays dead when it’s in danger. Yeah, sometimes that’s also what we need to do is freeze. But our bodies will do that automatically. So we don’t have to, for those of us who
are worried about doing things right all the time, right? And struggle with perfectionism and whether or not we have the right tools. When we are physically not safe, we don’t have to worry about what we’re gonna do because our bodies have naturally, the way we’ve been created have been instilled with this mechanism so that it will know what to do. That’s right, that’s right. That takes a lot of pressure off too, I think, because you know,
we overthink, we worry, we like wonder what if, what if, what if, and just to kind of take that off the table, like those things happen, it’ll take care of itself. It will. It will. Yes. And what happens is because of previous situations where we haven’t felt safe, there’s something currently that triggers that memory from our past.
And then that’s when our adrenaline and our cortisol kicks up in our bodies. Okay. And yet now we are safe. Yeah. So we don’t need that mechanism. We don’t need that switch to get turned on currently. What we need, would you think therapist Darla, that we need therapy to… Possibly. Yes, possibly. Previous promise or… Yes.
Yes, to figure out what is it that you’re being triggered by today currently? What is it back in your background that’s triggering that? And to really process through that and work with a trauma specialist. Yeah. It’s so good now that I believe and tell me if you’ve seen this as well, that the stigma around therapy is not as strong as it had been in years past, would you say? Yes.
It’s decreasing and I’m so glad to see this. Yeah. It’s becoming more normal to reach out. Just like, you know, mental health is your physical health as well. Yeah, right. And so just reaching out and taking care of your whole being. Yeah. Yeah. So it is becoming less stigmatized. Yeah. And we don’t have to wait until we are feeling
out of control and not able to deal with our daily lives. It can be something that’s part of the maintenance of taking care of ourselves. Yes. There’s just something about having someone who is completely undivided, giving you their complete undivided attention and isn’t gonna judge you, isn’t going to laugh or make fun or. Right.
You know, whatever things that we think maybe we’re afraid of saying to a friend or a co-worker or a family member to be able to have that sacred space with somebody else who is 100% in your corner and just wants the best for you. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be doing that all the time? Yes, that’s right. That’s right. So important to have that in your life. Yeah. So.
As we kind of finish up here, what would you say to a teacher or a business owner, just kind of as some final thoughts of who may be feeling at this time that they’re so overwhelmed, they can’t even make daily decisions to manage even the basic of their life skills and they wake up maybe with a pit in their stomach or nervous all the time or.
You know, all the things that we mentioned that our bodies are saying to us, what would you tell that sweet teacher business? Yeah. I would remind the teacher to put his or her oxygen mask on first and reach out for support, reach out for support to a therapist, to a pastor, to a good friend, to a significant other.
people who can give that teacher the support needed. Yeah. Cause we can’t do it alone. We think we can. And that’s probably part of the problem as well. We’re just autopiloting it. And a lot of teachers are working as solo business owners. So they really are doing a lot of things alone. There’s a lot of isolation already in the community.
you know, if they’re not working with other teachers or in a music school, there’s a lot of isolation there. I think it’s gotten a little bit easier since COVID or at least that’s how I became less isolated since 2020 because we were all going online for everything and then researching like, how do I make these Zoom lessons work? And then all of a sudden there’s somebody there that has an answer and then, you know, you start to connect and that really has been life-saving, I know for me, so.
Put your oxygen mask on first. Yeah. And seek out someone to help. Yes, that’s right. Yeah. Thank you so much, Darla, for being here. It was so great to talk with you again. Sure, you’re welcome. Even though we don’t work together anymore, we still make it a point to get together. You are just a wealth of knowledge and peace and encouragement for me. So I appreciate you and I hope that others have.
I know that others have learned something. I’ve been taking notes myself this whole conversation. So great, great. Tell us where people can find you if they want to connect with you further. Yes, thank you. Yes, and it’s been my privilege to be here today with you, Amy. Thank you. Thank you for your invitation. My website is www.darla.morphin.
My last name is M as in Mary, O-R-F as in Frank, I-N as in Nancy, counseling.com. So again, that’s darla-morphincounseling.com. Got it, okay. Are you on social media, Darla? I am not actually. I am on LinkedIn and that’s about it. Yeah. Okay, okay. So if you have any more.
questions for Darla or want to reach out to her, darlamorphincounseling.com. That’s right. Awesome. And thank you for being here. I appreciate you. I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thank you. You too.