Work-Life Balance for Massage Therapists: Our Top 8 Tips
Finding a Middle Way for Massage Therapy and Work-Life Balance
According to a recent survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), roughly 82% of new massage therapists enter the field with massage as a second career. In fact, many of those who jump into massage therapy are moms who are looking for more flexible work hours, along with a better balance between work and home life. There’s no doubt about it: massage is an exciting, engaging, and incredibly rewarding career. Any massage therapist will tell you this. However, a number of professionals within the field might scoff at the idea that massage therapy offers a great work-life balance, simply because the hours are flexible. In fact, the issue of finding a middle way between the demands of work and home life is something that routinely crops up for massage therapists. Many think that simply wrapping up their MBLEx preparation and passing the national exam will bring an end to the stresses that they associate with massage therapy. Sure, spending hours and hours studying MBLEx practice tests can be exhausting — but running a massage practice will be a walk in the park by comparison. Right?
In reality, that’s not the experience that many massage professionals end up having once they’re out in the “real world” of massage. They find themselves overworked, overstressed, and feeling scattered in the face of conflicting demands. On the one hand, they have to provide their clients with focus, attention, compassion, and quality massage therapy. On the other, they’re tasked with running a business — something that many massage therapists won’t have had any prior experience with. Regardless of which massage career path you choose, keeping your business afloat can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.
With this in mind, the question of how to find work-life balance in massage therapy is something that regularly crops up. We have massage therapists talking about it all the time. That’s why we decided to put together this blog post, in order to discuss some of the challenges and solutions associated with balancing your professional and personal life as a massage therapist.
Once you’ve read this post, you’ll understand how to:
- Set hours that maximize your efficiency
- Mix things up to prevent boredom and dissatisfaction
- Prioritize mental health and self-care
- Set appropriate boundaries
- Keep track of tasks to reduce mental fatigue
- Set aside personal time each week
- Take care of your body
- Journal for improved personal satisfaction
We hope that these suggestions can assist you in growing both personally and professionally in the years to come. Now, let’s get started.
Set Working Hours to Maximize Your Personal Efficiency
All too often, we see massage therapists ending up in some variation of a “default schedule.” What do we mean by this? Simply put, many massage therapists are so bent on bringing in as many clients as possible each week (particularly when it comes to signing up new clients), they’ll fill slots wherever clients want them. For example, a therapist might tentatively decide that they need Wednesday mornings off for some reason. Then, a client calls to book a new appointment and asks for a 90-minute session beginning at 9:30 AM on a Wednesday. Rather than ask the client if they could do a different time, the therapist simply agrees immediately, and subsequently attempts to shift their schedule.
This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to self-care. When you set up your schedule, take into account your own personal strengths and weaknesses. For example, someone running their own massage practice will need to handle paperwork on a regular basis. Do you find yourself getting to the end of the day not having done your paperwork? Maybe you’re slower to complete it at the end of the day, too, given that you’ve been working all day. Why not schedule out a two-hour block in the morning to give yourself time to take care of paperwork? Your clients will benefit from the fact that you’re not stressed about finishing up extra tasks later on in the day.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
As the popular saying goes, variety is the spice of life. It’s essential to mix things up if you’re going to keep yourself interested and engaged with your massage practice. On the one hand, occupational burnout can be due purely to working too many hours. Oftentimes, though, people experience burnout because they’ve been doing the same thing over and over without any variety.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to mix things up a bit with your practice. Continuing education is a great opportunity to broaden your horizons. Learn new techniques and work to put them into practice. Take a course on massage laws and regulations to brush up on changes to massage laws, both in your state and at the national level. Learn cupping, sports massage, or deep tissue. The more variety you have in your day, the more excited you’ll be about your career.
Put Yourself First
There’s no doubt about it: caregiver burnout is real. People in caregiving professions — massage included — tend to have personalities which put the needs of others before their own. That’s why many people are attracted to an allied health profession like massage in the first place: they want to help people feel better. Unfortunately, putting the needs of others before your own will wear your down very quickly. If you really want to provide quality care to your clients for years to come, taking care of yourself is incredibly important.
Self-care can take many forms. One area where massage therapists tend to neglect self-care is in the realm of mental health. When you spend so much of your time focused on the aches, pains, and needs of other people, it takes a toll on you. Seeing a therapist on a regular basis to discuss your experiences with clients can go a long way towards improving your outlook on the job.
Set Healthy Boundaries
In the same way that massage therapists are prone to caregiver burnout, it’s also not uncommon for bodyworkers to find themselves failing to set proper boundaries.
This can take a couple of different forms. Some therapists find themselves going out of their way to assist clients, whether it be bending over backwards to rearrange their schedule, lending a sympathetic ear to their complaints, or empathizing with the pain they’re experiencing. Others will stay too late to fit in an extra client who’s injured themselves and needs a last-minute session.
These sorts of scenarios are all too common amongst massage therapists. Remember to set healthy boundaries: as mentioned above, self-care has to come first if you want to continue offering quality massage for years to come.
Use a System to Track Tasks and Reduce Mental Fatigue
Does this describe you? You get a call from a client in between sessions and make a mental note to cancel their appointment. Another client texts you about a new appointment next week, and you make another mental note that you’ll have to put that in your calendar later. Then, you remember that you need to register for a continuing education class sometime this week. Another mental note. Before you know it, you’re trying to hold a thousand different things in your head — all while staying present during a massage session with a client.
Attempting to keep track of tasks in this way simply doesn’t work. Aside from the fact that you’re prone to forgetting important items on your mental to-do list, trying to hold so many things in your mind at once contributes to major mental fatigue. Come up with a system that works for you. A master to-do list can be incredibly effective, particularly if it’s ultra-portable. For example, a tiny notebook that you keep in your pocket or a notes app on your phone is a great way to keep up with your daily and weekly to-do list.
Set Aside Time for Yourself
This goes back to self-care and avoiding burnout. Take a moment to look at your schedule for the entire week. You’ve probably scheduled in a certain number of appointments on particular days. Maybe you’ve penciled in specific times for things like paperwork, following the advice above. Here’s a question, though: where have you scheduled out your personal time?
It’s not just massage therapists who fail to set aside enough time for themselves. It’s something that a lot of self-employed professionals struggle with. When you work for yourself, there’s technically always something you could be doing. If you’re not at work, you could be organizing your weekly schedule. Or, you might be taking a continuing education course, or helping a friend study for the MBLEx with an MBLEx practice test. Maybe you’re trying to increase your client base by focusing on advertising when you’re supposed to be off from work.
If you don’t schedule time for yourself, you may find that you fail to take it. This doesn’t have to be complicated: just write down some of your favorite things to do on a regular basis, and pencil them into your schedule. Maybe it’s a coffee date with a friend. Maybe it’s a nice dinner out with your significant other. Or, maybe you go to a movie by yourself for some “me time.” Whatever it is, be sure to stick to it once it’s on your schedule. Treat these items the same way you would a client appointment: you can’t just arbitrarily cancel them because you get busy with something else.
Take Care of Your Physical Body
The above suggestions are negotiable, and more or less open to personal preference. If you’re not into coffee, don’t set up a coffee date. If you don’t like going to the movies, then don’t put that in your schedule for the week.
One thing that’s not really negotiable or variable from person to person, though? Taking care of your physical form. As a massage therapist, you use your body all day, every day. Proper body mechanics are essential, but you’re bound to find that massage takes a certain toll on your shoulders, arms, hands, back, and so on. If you want to stay healthy for years to come, it’s very important to stick to an exercise regimen that keeps you in good physical shape.
Do your best to put together a balanced exercise routine for yourself. Focus on both strength training and cardio: don’t prioritize one over the other. Yoga is an excellent way to stay loose, flexible, and fit.
Journal for Improved Life Satisfaction
Have you ever taken a moment to review your day and reflect on its ups and downs? We often hyper focus on the negative aspects of our lives, whether it be something that happened to us earlier in the day or something we’re anxious about in the days to come. Rarely, though, do we take the time to balance out these feelings with positivity, gratitude, and optimism.
One of the best ways to improve your overall satisfaction in life is to simply be more conscious of the things that bring you pleasure, and the things that you’re grateful for. Simply reviewing these things mentally can be helpful but writing them down is even more powerful. If you find yourself focusing on too many negatives in your work or personal life, consider taking the time each day to journal about the things that you’re grateful for. This doesn’t have to take long: you can literally make a quick list in a minute or two at the end of the day. Going back and reviewing these lists later can also provide you with a major pick-me-up at the end of a long, otherwise difficult day.
Finding work-life balance in massage isn’t easy, but it’s definitely possible. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to finding the “middle path” between your professional and personal lives.