After twenty years in the education field, I am surprised at how many therapists have revealed to me they are completely burned out and prepared to leave the massage field due to feeling this way. The purpose of this article is to provide perspectives and ideas on how massage therapists can avoid burnout.
Physical Demands of Massage
Massage therapy is physically demanding work. Even with the best body mechanics, the physical exertion of performing strokes repeatedly will tax muscles if we exceed our physical capacities.
Keep in mind the following body position ideas as you utilize your body during sessions to deliver deeper pressure application:
- Set your feet firmly
- Bend your knees
- Have your hips facing the work
- Keep spine erect
- Keep shoulders down
- Wrists aligned
- Keep head/neck long
Keeping body mechanics intact allows the therapist to use their body weight more so than arm and hand strength when applying deeper pressure upon a client’s body. This will improve career longevity, prevent injury and avoid feelings of physical burnout that too often lead people to leave the massage field.
Energetic Demands of Massage
Massage therapy can also be energetically demanding work. I presume all entry level schools present to students ways for massage therapists to ground themselves prior to sessions beginning. This will avoid excessive energy transfers and therapists feeling drained after sessions.
Here are some means I have taught entry level students to center and ground prior to treatments.
- Visualize a golden light emanating from your core and grows larger with every deep breath taken.
- Imagine tree roots exiting your feet, entering the earth, rooting you firmly as you take deep breaths to center and ground.
- Picture hundreds of tiny mirrors surrounding you which may reflect away negative energy as you take deep breaths to center and ground.
- State aloud or silently within your mind a favorite mantra, prayer or affirmation as you take deep breaths to center and ground.
Boundaries are beautiful.
Boundaries are physical and nonphysical limits determined by individuals to ensure security, safety and well-being. Therapists must be conscious of boundaries when interacting with clients. Awareness is crucial in understanding boundaries created by clients. Equally as important, therapists need to be conscious of how clients may be interfering or pushing limits with their own boundaries.
“No” is a complete sentence.
It is acceptable to enforce policies, encourage proper client decorum within the treatment room and hold professional space regarding communication. Do NOT feel guilty if you need to hold professional and personal boundaries with clients. You have a professional responsibility to facilitate a healing space, both for yourself and your clientele.
If a client challenges boundaries repeatedly, this can create emotional angst and mental distress that can wear down a therapist, contributing to feelings of burnout. Maintaining boundaries is a professional step towards holding your power, which revitalizes your energy and strength in your massage practice.
11 Self-Care Activities to Avoid Physical Burnout
Self-care is paramount in avoiding burnout. Developing healthy habits will ensure career longevity.
Here are 11 suggestions of self-care activities to avoid physical burnout:
- Light Jogging/ Running
- Light Gym Workouts
- Playing with Pets
- Mild Stretching
- Qi Gong
- Tai Chi
Try any of these ideas that resonate with you; select those that are easiest for you. Consciously carve out 10-20 minutes daily to devote to your self-care practice.
In addition, reading uplifting books, journaling your thoughts and engaging in spiritual or faith-based practices can help keep your mental health balanced. Since we know the physical and mental health aspects directly relate, engaging the mind in healthy manners will supplement the physical body’s well-being.
Wellness Models for Self-Care
There are many examples of wellness models that a therapist can consider when planning a self-care regimen. Many business-themed manuals used in entry level schools will contain a chapter on self-care importance and wellness models.
One that I find useful is featured at the National Wellness Institute, a six dimensions of wellness model. Their six dimensions of health highlighted are: physical, emotional, spiritual, social, occupational and intellectual. (1)
An effective self-care regimen may include focusing on one of these six aspects of wellness each day. Simply applying ten minutes daily towards a healthy habit bolstering any of these dimensions will yield positive health results in the long run. Commit to a consistent time daily for best results in maintaining wellness in all areas.
Avoiding Burnout By Sticking to a Budget
Practically, creating and sticking to a budget will help you remain on track to maintaining healthy boundaries needed to avoid burnout. Many people feel pressured to work extra hours and seek additional clients because of the need to make more money.
When people make a budget, they can understand where they are spending their money to make choices on how to limit spending. This change can ease the anxiety around needing to “make more money” to make ends meet. Review this budget weekly to ensure your spending habits match your intended business goals and needs.
One significant way to avoiding burnout is remembering why you became a massage therapist.
- Why did you begin school?
- How have you grown since you enrolled years ago?
- What makes this field fun and enjoyable for you?
Providing yourself these introspective moments will return your mind and heart to the reasons you love this noble work.
I wanted to write this article to express ideas and perspectives to help my colleagues and peers in avoiding burnout. The healing arts provide tremendous opportunities to serve the greater good. Please never forget this as you hone your craft and improve your skill sets with your continued effort, education and spirit of service.
Remember that self-care is never selfish; rather it is an act of self-love.