Self-care for Massage Therapists: You Know What To Do

By Jennifer Shaw, Austin Massage Therapist and Guest Blogger

It happened. I managed to stuff a massage client in the empty hour between working at my “real job” and a volunteer event in the evening, and I was thinking about Christmas shopping. And I did it. I caught myself slouching mid-effleurage. My very sweet, very chatty client didn’t seem to notice, but I noticed. The other day, I caught myself blowing a bubble with my gum in the middle of a massage session and literally had an entire internal dialogue with myself about what in the world I was or was not thinking walking into as session with gum in my mouth. I did not pop the bubble, no.

What is wrong with me? I am a good massage therapist. My massage clients like me. Where is my brain? Dramatics aside, we all know where my brain was – not on bodywork. I am burned out. “Increased absenteeism and inefficiency at work” is a sign of burn out. And my brain has been absent for a while now, but why?

Where is my Brain?

My brain has been on my “real job.” Let’s be honest, more than 50 percent of massage therapists have other jobs, too. I am one of those – I’m a professionally marketing, church-volunteering, single mom. My massage clients are tucked – and yes, sometimes “stuffed” – into appointment times I make available by manhandling my other obligations. It’s not always pretty, but it works. Since most massage therapists are self-employed, even the massage therapist who is only a massage therapist probably has to manage this “real job” balancing act. These therapists are also bookkeepers, appointment setters, marketers, business owners and professional body rubbers. That’s a lot of hats!

The problem is this consistent balancing act behavior is stressful and does not end. Ever. It’s not like “tax time” or “month end,” happening once every now and then. For most of us, finding time for massage clients can be a persistent battle, and I am tired. I am burned out.

You Know What To Do.

If you experience consistently low energy, emotional exhaustion, lowered immunity, detachment from interpersonal relationships, unusual pessimism and a disinterest in your work, you are burned out. “Stuffing” clients, slouching through a session and gum chewing while petrissaging is inefficient bodywork on my part, for sure. (I’m hanging my head in shame.) But I can’t quit my “real job,” and I am a self-employed massage therapist.

Short of quitting my “real job” and going to work for Massage Envy 30 hours per week, what should I do? How does a massage therapist combat burn out when the number of hats she wears cannot easily be reduced? You know the answer – it’s self-care! Sleep enough, eat and exercise well, get a hobby and spend time doing it, learn a new bodywork technique or two, protect your personal time, take a vacation and, of course, get a massage. So why am I not doing it? Why aren’t you?

Happy New Year, fellow LMTs. It’s time to refocus and send a little TLC your own way. Good luck!