It is an exciting journey for massage therapists to go to and graduate from school, pass licensing exams, and start working. But for some massage therapists, work can become overwhelming over time and they may experience massage "burnout". This can cause some therapists to abandon their career due to fatigue and frustration. While this is infrequent, it is important to adopt some healthy habits in order to stay well and love your career year after year! While massage therapists want to work to help their clients and further their practice, every therapist also needs to take time to relax, rejuvenate, and avoid massage burnout.
Receive / Trade Massages
Too often, massage therapists forget to take the time to receive massages, as they tend to always be busy giving a massage! Burnout can be prevented by frequently getting massaged, and while it is sometimes difficult to make time in your busy schedule for your own well being, it is critical to receive massages as a massage therapist. This not only keeps your body well and feels amazing, but it also reminds you how it feels from your clients' perspective to receive massage and helps you grow as a massage therapist.
Some massage therapists report experiencing "massage burnout" when they do not receive massages at least once or twice a month (at the very least! More is always better). When massage therapists receive massages from either a co-worker or another massage therapist at a separate practice, it helps to refresh the reason behind the desire to become a massage therapist, helps you recognize the benefits of the therapy, and gives you energy and new ideas to bring back to your own clients.
If you work in a practice with other massage therapists, it is important to block off your schedule once a week or once every two weeks to relax, stay centered, and trade a massage. Burnout can truly be avoided from even just one or two monthly sessions! These sessions do not have to be long or intensive, but should address any specific areas of concern, adhesions, or tension.
Exercise, Eat Well, and Rest
For many massage therapists, performing several massages each day or week is exercise enough! When utilizing proper body mechanics, you should feel like you have just had a great workout after a massage session, but if you are feeling exhausted and worn out instead, things like strength training exercises may be the key to building endurance and giving a better massage. Burnout happens to many massage therapists when they start feeling fatigued and exhausted from work. While infrequent, this can be due to a combination of things: not enough exercise, sleep, or food...and can also possibly result from simply overbooking yourself and burning the candle at both ends. Most therapists know to take care of themselves, rest, and eat well, but some people are naturally inclined to be workaholics, and it is important to get some well-deserved downtime!
Burnout, for many massage therapists, occurs when it becomes difficult to rely on your own power and strength to perform a massage, your immune system to keep you healthy and able to work, and your mind and emotions to keep you grounded and aware while focusing on your client and his or her needs. If you find yourself becoming too overwhelmed by balancing work, family, errands, school, or any other number of things, pause for a moment and make sure you are nourishing yourself with a healthy balance of good food, plenty of water, rest, vacation, and social time.
Too often, massage therapists remind their clients to stay hydrated, but forget to drink water themselves! It is important to stay well hydrated throughout the day to perform at your peak ability, and maintain your body's health. For this same reason, it is important to eat regular meals, and not compromise breakfast, lunch, or dinner by scheduling a back-to-back day of massage. Burnout can be also exacerbated by fatigue, and whether you are a self-proclaimed "early bird" or "night owl", you should maintain a consistent sleep schedule and receive enough sleep each night to perform at your best ability.
Avoid Massage Burnout with Vacations / Downtime
One of the benefits to being a massage therapist is the non-traditional workweek. Many therapists work only when they have clients scheduled; others may work in a spa and need to be on-call even during periods of downtime. But regardless of your work environment, massage therapists have the ability to leave the "office" without any take-home work, deadlines, deliverables, or meeting preparations. Because of this, it is important to take the time after work to truly wind-down and refresh your mind and body with some relaxation and temporarily forget about massage. For some people, burnout can be prevented by taking time to relax on the sofa with a good movie or a book. For other massage therapists, taking a week or two off and escaping to a nearby beach or cabin in the woods is the solution for leading a stress-free life. Whatever your personal preference, it is important to always take some time to just stop working and enjoy some time off from massage. Burnout can be prevented when you take some downtime to assess those things in life that you love, as relaxing also provides you with an invaluable boost in energy and life that you bring back to your practice, your career, and your clients.
Finally, just remember that burnout is an uncommon occurrence, and primarily happens when massage therapists forget to give their bodies as much focus and care as they give to massage clients! Just like you should in any job, be sure to eat well, exercise, stay fit, and balance your work life with your social life and well-deserved rest. If you take care of yourself you will find yourself among the many massage therapists who have enjoyed their rewarding career for decades, and will look forward to each day of work for years to come.
By Laurie Craig Co-Founder of Georgia Massage School
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