Common sense dictates that a therapist can only give to their client what is present within themselves. This can present a challenge to many bodyworkers, because many of us are so tuned in to “caretaking” that we neglect our own self care. It can become routine to skip a daily meditation, wolf down a fast food burger and speed through traffic to get to the spa – where eight back to back clients await your services. The “caretaker syndrome” describes the pitfall of putting others needs before our own and often leads to burnout or illness.

In the May 2005 issue of Acupuncture Today, Certified Massage Therapist David J. Razo shares his life changing experience in an article titled “A Lesson Learned the Hard Way: Caring for Patients Means Caring for Yourself”. In this article, Mr. Razo describes his emotional journey as his dangerously high blood pressure (220/120) landed him a trip to an emergency room and subsequent hospital admission.

Mr. Razo’s predominant reflection was on simultaneously fostering the health and well-being of himself and that of his clients. In observing the environment of the hospital and noting its impact, the idea that everything one is surrounded with contributes to the healing process really hit home. His awareness of the used alcohol swabs littering the floor, the institutionalized bluish-green wall color and the burials at the cemetery just outside his window escalated to a broader understanding of the effect a healing environment has on the immune system.

A new zest for creating a healing space was compounded by the admission that he was good at giving advice and poor at following it. In all of this reflection, it became apparent that he had allowed all of the healthful lifestyle habits (the very ones he suggests to his clients) erode. In keeping a busy schedule, being hurried became his norm. Stopping to smell the roses, exercise or eat a healthful meal were just words that he repeated to help others – they were no longer a part of who he was. This groove is easy for any healthcare practitioner to fall into. It requires constant self checking to ensure that the inner self is not only heard, but being joyfully nurtured.

Mr. Razo recovered from his chest pain and high blood pressure scare, and is now successfully managing his health. According to Mr. Razo, “…that TLC we nourish our patients with also needs to be directed toward us…take the time to quiet your mind and feel the wind brush past your face.” Wise words from a bodyworker recovering from the “caretaker syndrome.”