Please Stop – an Occupational Therapist’s Advice on How to Avoid Burnout

Please Stop – an Occupational Therapist’s Advice on How to Avoid Burnout

So, you have found yourself on the verge of a burnout, or already in one, without the tools to stop repeating the cycle. In this text I will, as a newly working occupational therapist, larper, larp creator and two-time burnout survivor, give you some real-life tips and tools to fight back.

Many of us think that burnout is something that only happens at work, when we are doing too much in a stressful environment. But burnout can also happen when we do something we love so much that it consumes us. This is called Passion Burnout. While burnout can happen to anyone, people working with things they love are at higher risk. When we do what we love, we risk thinking that we are not really working. We risk thinking that because we love the work so much, we should actually do more, that because we do what we love we don’t need to rest. When our passion peaks we become full of energy, and that can make us unable to detach from work enough to focus on the things we need to do in order to avoid exhaustion.

Many larp organizers are in danger of experiencing Passion Burnout, because we love what we do.  But if we acknowledge the risk we can work together to prevent it. We can learn to spot the symptoms of burnout, both in ourselves and others: feeling helpless, trapped, defeated or overwhelmed, as well as lack of joy, fatigue, changes in sleep and/or appetite. We can encourage each other by setting an example by taking care of ourselves, setting boundaries, offering help and lowering our expectations. Together we can build a more caring and nurturing community.

Now for the tips and tools.

Burnout is not your fault

You, like everyone else, are a victim of this capitalistic society that lives from our work. In this system you get rewarded, praised, and judged by the work you do, with larps just as much as with every other pursuit. In the capitalist world you don’t get more money or respect by doing less. But if you manage your time better, if you prioritize yourself  instead of the work you are doing, if you stop sacrificing your own well-being, your family, your friends, your relationships and your mental and physical health, there is at least one person who will respect you more: You.

Know where your time goes

Use a time management circle or a similar tool to find out how you spend your time and how you would ideally spend it. Writing things down will help you notice where the time actually goes, and with this knowledge, you can start making adjustments to your daily routine to better fit your needs. When organizing a larp, it can help you to write down larp organizing time into your day so that it doesn’t take over your whole free time. 

Draw two circles and divide them each into 24 slices. The first circle is your everyday life: how you actually spend your time. Think of the last few months or the last time you organized a larp and fill the circle with your everyday occupations such as sleep, work, taking care of yourself, cleaning, cooking, down time, relaxing, hobbies, etc. You can be as specific or as vague as you like, you can fill it hour by hour, or more approximately. Use color coding if that helps.

Now fill out your second circle. Think of your perfect life and fill your dream circle with what your everyday life would look like if by some magic all your hopes and dreams had come true.

Then look at your two circles side by side. Visualizing the differences can help you find the things you can control. Maybe you need more time for sleep, or more time with your loved ones, maybe less work and more time for self-care. See the differences, but remember that you are not a wizard but a mere mortal. So start small, just one change towards your ideal life. Set yourself a goal that is realistic and achievable. The goal can be as simple as “I want to have an hour a week for myself to go outside” or “I need half an hour more sleep a day”. State that goal to yourself and start to find your way towards it by sharing it with a friend – or a stranger at Solmukohta – and asking for help along the way.

Write things down

The following tool is useful while working on a larp project. The version pictured is called the Time Management Matrix. It can help you see what needs to be done in order to manage a project and help avoid burnout by giving you a clearer idea on how to spend your time and where you can cut yourself some slack.

UrgentNot urgent

deadline driven







Not importantinterruptions

some emails or social media activity

some meetings you don’t need to attend


busy work (work that adds a little value, like searching for theme songs for characters)

something someone else should be doing


Fill the matrix with the things you need to do for the larp. Fill it with your responsibilities and burdens. After you have things written down, you can see the actual amount of work that needs to be done and spot the things that are less important. Which are the things you don’t like to do, and which things give you joy? What could you delegate to others? Are there things you don’t have to do at all? To help avoid burnout, I would suggest focusing on the things you like and delegating the ones you don’t.

Look at the amount of work ahead and estimate how much time it would take to complete it. Set boundaries: look at your time management circle and be realistic. When are you going to do this work? Make a schedule and add in breaks and off-time. And if the work feels like too much, ask for help. 

Ask for help

Hard and shameful? For me at least it is. Many of us think we need to be able to do everything ourselves, because we value ourselves mainly through the amount of work we do, be it professional or artistic or passionate work. But try to think of what it feels like when someone asks you for help. Most of us would feel appreciated, and that it would be an honor to be a part of your project. Asking for help is giving an opportunity for others to feel good by supporting you.

Find a way to connect with yourself

This tool is a Green Care exercise. You can do it even in the middle of running a larp, you only need ten minutes. The goal is to find a way to regulate your emotions and ground yourself. 

Go outside, to nature if possible. If you can’t go outside, find a picture of nature that speaks to you, or try to remember a nice view of a landscape. Start by observing your surroundings. What does it look like, what do you hear, feel or smell? Look at the big picture first, then some smaller details. If it’s hard for you to stand still, move. If you find yourself thinking about other stuff, notice that thought and then let it go, shifting your focus back to your surroundings.

After a few minutes, when it feels good to you, start shifting your focus to yourself. With the same attitude of observation, without judgment or evaluation, try to feel yourself. Listen to your breathing. How does your skin feel, where in your body can you feel your heartbeat? If you feel like moving your body, do so. Move in a way your body wants to move. If you feel an emotion, let it in and try to look at it with a sense of wonder. 

When you feel ready, slowly wrap your hands around yourself. Hug yourself and thank yourself for this exercise. Do this exercise when you feel disconnected, overwhelmed or when you need a moment for yourself.

Calendar some Me Time

When I’m in the middle of organizing a larp I tend to view that time as my free time, which has led me to overworking myself. It’s really easy to cut time away from rest and self-care, but taking care of yourself is necessary to avoid getting burned out. This is difficult, I know, but scheduling some Me Time while working on a larp project really helps. How much you need depends on you. If this is hard you can start small? Mark this time in your calendar and make sure not to book anything else over it. Even if larp organizing is your hobby, don’t do that work in this time, make this time your haven, for resting and enjoying yourself.

The change needs to happen with you

Lastly, I must give you the bad news: I can help you with tips and tools, but you have both the power and the heavy burden of actually using them. This is the hard part. You must take responsibility for your time management and set up the boundaries to protect your well-being. And please, for your own sake and for the sake of the whole community: ask for help when you need it.

Don’t be afraid of the amount of tips and tools presented here, these are not “one size fits all.” Pick and choose those that feel doable for you. If something doesn’t work, try something else.

And don’t forget that the community is here: the people who can help you with tools, support and labor. If we reach out and admit that we cannot do everything alone, we can lift each other up. With community, care and support we can achieve magic.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the Solmukohta 2024 book. Please cite as:

Friman, Taro. 2024. “Please Stop – an Occupational Therapist’s Advice on How to Avoid Burnout.” In Liminal Encounters: Evolving Discourse in Nordic and Nordic Inspired Larp, edited by Kaisa Kangas, Jonne Arjoranta, and Ruska Kevätkoski. Helsinki, Finland: Ropecon ry.

Cover photo: Photo by Manfred Hofferer from Pexels

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Taro Friman has recently started a job as an occupational therapist. Previously they worked twenty years as a youth worker and special needs assistant for people with disabilities or mental health issues and with neurodiverse people. Taro has been larping for twenty years and has been part of several Finnish larp productions. They are actively trying to make the community more gentle. (Photo by Viima Strengell.)