We could assume that those working within the health and wellness industry are immune to burnout. Surely those of us who are advocating the dos and don’ts of healthy living to our clients know better than anyone how important self-care is, right?
But such an assumption would be incorrect. Having worked in the industry for over ten years, I have come close to it myself and have seen many colleagues’ crash and burn over the years.
It is a strange situation because yes we do know what is right and wrong for good health. This is our passion. Personally, I could open a bookstore with the number of books I now possess on this topic. I thrive on learning as much as I can for myself, my family and my clients.
Being in the health service industry means we really care about people. So when you see a client really needs that extra session that they’ve requested, you often say yes – even though that was originally a scheduled rest day for you. I’ve been known to totally reorganise my own plans to accommodate a client before. We often put the care of our clients above our self-care.
If you continue to say yes, it becomes the norm. If you schedule one client, you may as well schedule a second or a third. What was a day to recharge becomes another working day. Rest days become fewer, creative and planning times become infrequent which means you start to feel overwhelmed. Tasks build up and you simply do not have the energy to deal with them. I know some instructors who are working 7 days a week. On top of this, the hours can be irregular – early 6 am sessions before work or as late as 10pm after work. That takes its toll after a few years.
The sad part is that those once passionate, enthusiastic teachers become so exhausted that they simply give up. Running your own business can be tough. Careers are put on hold or simply stopped altogether. Put this working pressure on top of the emotional need to look and appear at your healthiest best at all times just becomes too much.
My rule to avoid burnout – it’s taken me 10 years to get here – is respect your own time. Being fresh and engaged is such an important part of taking care of others. If as a therapist you are not in the best shape physically or mentally, it’s really hard to give to other people. Keep those rest and creative days blocked out in your diary. Write it down in pen and don’t rub that out for any extra sessions or requests. It’s the only way to keep building a sustainable practice. If you really love working with your clients, love yourself first.