How do you know if you're burning out?

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How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Sat Sep 10, 2011 2:26 am

How do you know for sure if what you're experiencing is burnout, or something else?

For more than three years, I've been having chronic pain, fatigue, joint problems, foot issues, headaches and tension and it all seems to be induced by working on clients. I've been a massage therapist for 12 years, working full-time for the majority of those years.

I've always loved what I do, but I admit that for nearly half of my over all career, I did push myself too hard. I've been to doctors, physical medicine specials and such over the years, even given pain meds and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (which I don't readily accept) an nothing touches this pain and fatigue.

Over the past three years, things have gotten much worse. I've taken several months off, given myself multiple breaks from massage, taken care of myself, started feeling better, and when I think I'm ready to get back into the swing of things and start working again... I hit the wall faster and faster each time I pick up clients again.

It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the number of clients I see in a day, or the depth of pressure I use. I can see three clients and do a very light relaxation massage one day, and feel absolutely horrible when I'm finished. Maybe I just have the world's worst body mechanics???

I saw six clients yesterday at the new spa I'm working at, none were deep tissue. At the end of the day, I'm experiencing pain so severe it makes me sick to my stomach. The thing is, I can work a full day in my gardens and barn and do lots of hard physical labor in the hot sun and I actually feel great at the end of the day, not in pain or fatigued at all! So what is going on with me? Is this burnout? Do I just need to accept it and start searching for a plan B??
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Pete on Sat Sep 10, 2011 10:20 am

I would definitely think this is burnout. Perhaps if you had actually considered therapy, rather than getting offended and castigating me when I suggested it to you a year ago, you might be better off today.

I really do hope you get the help that you so clearly need.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Sat Sep 10, 2011 5:01 pm

It really does sound like you must have too much on your personal and/or emotional plate. It certainly seems like something is going on.

We aren't privvy to your private life (and of course, we don't want to be)... so you may be better off making an appointment with someone who is trained to help guide a massage therapist through these sorts of things. Someone who can help you figure it all out.

You may be burned out from something other than massage and it's just manifesting in your work. Unfortunately, I am not trained to detect these sorts of things. Seeking help does not mean you are a failure.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:33 pm

Its strange. I have good days and bad, as anyone else does. Its just strange that a day with only one or three clients can burn me out quicker sometimes than a day with six or seven?

Its the good days that keep me going, obviously, but the bad days are just unbearable and have me convinced that "this is it, I'm done", then I bounce back??

Its frustrating. A friend of mine went through the same thing, only to find out it was Lyme disease all this time. Who knows? I don't know what part to begin to address at this point, the career aspect or the emotional one?
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Sat Sep 10, 2011 6:58 pm

Maybe you could start by asking yourself if there a reason why you have an aversion to speaking with a professional about it. :undecided:

You've mentioned previously that you live with a depressed family member... could this be a contributing factor in your current situation? Or, could anything you mentioned about feeling burned out in a previous thread be a factor? Maybe reflecting on what you've mentioned to us previously will give you some sort of insight (?).

I also located an interesting article on burn-out. http://www.healthpositive.com/blog/2009 ... y-burnout/


Elliemare wrote:A friend of mine went through the same thing, only to find out it was Lyme disease all this time. Who knows?


If you are worried about having Lyme disease, one thing is for sure, you won't know unless you get checked.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:16 am

Maybe you could start by asking yourself if there a reason why you have an aversion to speaking with a professional about it.


I don't have an aversion to working with a professional. I was going to a counselor prior to this dramatic change in my life and my practice three years ago. I was preparing for the fact that I would no longer be the bread-winner, I was about to lose the majority of my practice (due to relocating), and other issues. It helped a lot in preparing for the transition, but after our relocation and the loss of my practice, I didn't have a counselor nearby nor the funds to pay for counseling anymore, so I quit going. Now I have a job and the paychecks aren't bad, so I could find a counselor again.

I'm currently taking a class on finding your spiritual gifts. They offer counseling services where I'm taking this class.

I do think my heart is no longer in massage. At least not to the extent it used to be. Maybe it could be a very part-time job for me in the future. It can't be my focus anymore. I think if I set some goals, and plan to move forward into something new, I can cope with my current situation a little better, rather than feeling stuck in one place forever.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:43 am

Elliemare wrote: I do think my heart is no longer in massage. At least not to the extent it used to be. Maybe it could be a very part-time job for me in the future. It can't be my focus anymore. I think if I set some goals, and plan to move forward into something new, I can cope with my current situation a little better, rather than feeling stuck in one place forever.


It looks like you have answered a good portion of your question with this paragraph.

Do you know how you plan to accomplish moving toward providing massage on a minimal and part-time basis? Since you aren't averse to speaking with someone, possibly that could be your opening question. Just thinking out loud.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:02 pm

Do you know how you plan to accomplish moving toward providing massage on a minimal and part-time basis? Since you aren't averse to speaking with someone, possibly that could be your opening question. Just thinking out loud.


I think I could work part-time and go to school and pursue something new while gradually pulling away from the massage biz. For the time being, I need the job for the income (to pay for some counseling first, then possibly school tuition). As long as I start to set some goals and feel like there is a "light at the end of the tunnel" I'll be able to fight this burnout for now. Its that feeling of being "stuck" that has burned me out more than anything else.

Its time to move in a new direction. This has been tough to accept and it feels like a loss that I must mourn. Massage has been such a huge part of my life and my identity (and that is probably a bit unhealthy too) that I feel like I'm losing a part of me. But its not who I am, its just what I do. Since accepting that fact, I'm feeling a lot better already.

I'm amazed that I still get such positive feedback from clients and employers, even on my bad days when I'm feeling horrible. Its hard to walk away from a career that everyone else tells you that you're good at. (I'm also a pretty good cook, but that doesn't mean I have to be a professional chef!) I have to stop concerning myself with what everyone else thinks, and make some decisions for myself. I can, and always will be a good massage therapist, it just doesn't have to be the focus of my whole life, and certainly not my identity.
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On Fire

Postby holley on Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:47 pm

"Burning out" is an interesting phrase. Alight with enthusiasm I burn, yearn and am fully alive. When my heart is not into what I am doing. it's the end of living and the beginning of survival. "There is a time for everything under heaven".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CldAGpal-P4
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:22 pm

Great video... love the Leon... :)
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:42 am

Great video!

This was a really good article on burnout.
I also located an interesting article on burn-out. http://www.healthpositive.com/blog/2009 ... y-burnout/
Its clear I haven't been diligent in preventing burnout.

I think I may have figured out the cause of some of this burned out feeling. I have been trying very hard to use proper body mechanics, take care of myself to some degree, stretch etc... Its been working! However, I am now employed at a spa that fills my book for me, I have no control over the scheduling. When the occasion arises that my availability or boundaries are disrespected and disregarded, I feel that tension and fatigue creep right back in almost instantly!

I had already discussed the issue of potential burnout with my current employer prior to taking the job. I explained my needs and concerns and I thought she understood. Everything we discussed is now being disregarded. Not all the time, not every single day, but at least a few times per week boundaries are being pushed. When I encounter these issues, I tense up, feel sore, tired, miserable, angry and just burned out almost instantly!

I intend to keep this job until I decide on my "plan B", I'm not going to bolt just because things aren't always going my way. I understand the nature of the business and no job is perfect. I'm just not sure how firm to be with my needs and boundaries? The other therapists in the spa seem to take anything the owners dish out. The only therapists who's boundaries are respected are those who have another job to go to, kids at home, school to attend. I have yet to observe any therapist who's free time is respected just simply for the fact that they deserve some time off for their own health and sanity.

I just don't want to push the issue too far and seem like some prima-donna? But in the past I have such a history of being a push-over and a door-mat. I think I'd be that way regardless of what career field I'd be in? That seems to be the core of the issue and I intend to work on it. I just don't know how to proceed in this current job for the time being?
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby riversinger on Sun Sep 18, 2011 7:41 am

Elliemare, if your boundaries are not strong others will often try to take advantage of you. It's a fact of life.

My only suggestion right now is that you tell them you do have another job, or even 2 jobs, & are only available for the times you provide them. Be prepared though that once you set that in motion that they may choose to give others more clients & will cut back on your hours there.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:10 pm

I've been thinking about this thread and wondering what books may be out there for those people who would like to better work on their boundaries.

I found the following as possibilities from Amazon (noting there are a few with a "Christian" bias, but the reviews note that they are still pretty on-target as far as the general discussion of boundaries are concerned). If anyone reads one of these and thinks it would be useful for someone in the massage profession, please let me know so that I can add it to my own Amazon store.



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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:52 am

Those sound really helpful. I'll check some of them out and let you know what I think.

I've been taking this spiritual gifts class and done some assessment testing. Turns out the top two of my spiritual gifts are Mercy and Healing. I actually thought to myself "Ugh, no!!" initially, but I guess if those are my gifts, I should try and remain in a healing profession. However, I've got to learn how to interact in a healthy manner, take care of myself too, and set boundaries in order to work in the healing arts or any other caring profession.

**I just ordered a few of those books today. I also had an appointment for an initial intake before scheduling with a counselor. They are going to set me up with someone who will be good at helping me work through these particular issues. I'm so looking forward to it and hope I get on the right track here soon!
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:38 pm

I look forward to what you have to say! :)
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Wed Sep 21, 2011 12:59 pm

pueppi wrote:I look forward to what you have to say! :)


I'm looking forward to it too. I also ordered a book on toxic people or something of that nature. Its about how not to attract destructive or negative people into your life, which is an on-going pattern for me.

(I'm having one of those bad days today. Its been rough at my new job lately. My schedule is scattered all over the place, I'm making multiple trips back and forth to the spa in one day, 16 miles round trip. I have anywhere from 1-3 hours of time between clients most days. Its frustrating. They've recently booked people outside my normal schedule without my permission. I've had to turn away house call business due to lack of time in my schedule since I'm on call 40 hours a week. Most clients have been redeeming 50% off coupons which means I make about $15 a massage, calculate in all the down-time and I'm making about $8.50 an hour. BUT then there are the good days where I do very well and people tip generously. Its still frustrating. I really am experiencing emotional burnout, not physical, that is clear now. I know I won't be quitting this job until I have a plan for the future or better opportunity lined up. I won't be burning any bridges either, but I can't stay at this place forever.)
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:57 am

I've made a decision thus far. I'm making January 1st my official retirement date! I'll be working a lot up until then so I'll be good and ready to retire! I don't know if this will be a permanent retirement or just a very long (like a couple of years) sabbatical. Maybe I'll come back to it some day??

I'm going to focus on my equine massage practice and I'm looking into training in another line of work in the meantime. Meeting with my counselor tomorrow and I'm more than ready to start sorting all of this out.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby squash_blsm on Mon Sep 26, 2011 8:32 am

That's great!

And sometimes when you let go of something, the things that bothered you before will fall away.
But - no matter where you go or what you do, the lessons will keep following you.
So don't stop working on maintaining good boundaries.

Trust your heart and move closer to the things that bring you joy.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:14 am

I'm actually selling off my non-essential massage supplies today. My extra table, my hot stone set, a pile of relaxation CD's and more. I'm letting my sister in law borrow my massage chair until next spring. (I might do chair massage at horse shows to promote my equine practice so I'm not ready to sell the chair yet). I'm condensing things down to just the basics: One table, a few nice sets of sheets, oils and my favorite music... that's it! That's really all I'll need if I intend to do the occasional friend or family massage in the future or if I decide to get back into it again some day.

I feel a huge sense of relief just making some decisions. I have to remember that retirement doesn't have to mean failure. I had a good long successful practice for many years... that's not failure! I just don't have to stay in the same line of work forever.

I saw my counselor today and after laying the groundwork I came to the conclusion that I do have to work through the resentments and the past issues I've had with employers and clients with boundary issues and such before I can even consider a new profession. If I don't address those issues, they will just rear their ugly head in my next job/career. The scenery might change but the problems will remain if I don't take care of this stuff first.

I don't dislike being a massage therapist. I enjoy the work very much. I don't like the little things that are just the "nature of the business", and those things will never go away. Perhaps I'll just be a hobbyist in the future? Or volunteer my services to worthy causes rather than try to make a living at it?

I don't know but I'm determined to get things sorted out!
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby maestra on Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:28 pm

Elliemare wrote: That's really all I'll need if I intend to do the occasional friend or family massage in the future or if I decide to get back into it again some day.


Elliemare,
I recently downsized some of my massage supplies as well. I work full time as an employee at a day spa... and have for nearly 5 years. I finally realized there would be no way I could do 8 massages in a day on my day off from the spa and gave them to a friend in private practice who was very grateful to have some gently used sheets! (In the past I have donated some of my old but nice sheets to a friend who was currently in MT school.) And of course, there is always the humane society, ours is always looking for linens & things for the care and comfort of the animals there.

Elliemare wrote:I don't dislike being a massage therapist. I enjoy the work very much...
Or volunteer my services to worthy causes rather than try to make a living at it?


I think that still having some equipment to work on friends or family sounds like a good idea, and as you mentioned you enjoy doing massage and may want to do some volunteer work in the future. I really think that would be a wonderful idea, as you might still be able to do minimal amount of massage... perhaps enough should you want to keep your national certification up, etc. I think you will be much happier if you're able to give from the heart, rather than having to give for a living. If you know what I mean...
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:51 am

recently downsized some of my massage supplies as well. I work full time as an employee at a day spa... and have for nearly 5 years. I finally realized there would be no way I could do 8 massages in a day on my day off from the spa and gave them to a friend in private practice who was very grateful to have some gently used sheets! (In the past I have donated some of my old but nice sheets to a friend who was currently in MT school.) And of course, there is always the humane society, ours is always looking for linens & things for the care and comfort of the animals there.


I'm basically working full time at a spa too and there is no way I can see clients on my day off either. I was really glad to have passed my supplies on to a new massage therapist, he was very grateful and I'm glad they'll go to good use.

I think that still having some equipment to work on friends or family sounds like a good idea, and as you mentioned you enjoy doing massage and may want to do some volunteer work in the future. I really think that would be a wonderful idea, as you might still be able to do minimal amount of massage... perhaps enough should you want to keep your national certification up, etc. I think you will be much happier if you're able to give from the heart, rather than having to give for a living. If you know what I mean...


I will be keeping up my certification and my state license, I already have a good amount of CEU's under my belt. I worked too long and hard to let those expire, plus PA just passed the licensing law and we waited so long for that to go through I can't let it expire any time soon. I think I will be happier giving from the heart. I always knew since day one that the business end of things sort of took the joy out of the work for me. That is why I always preferred employment to self-employment. However, its really tough to work directly for a spa owner. Its hard to set boundaries. When they ask you to stay late and work on one more client, its hard to say no since its not just lost income for me, its their livelihood too.

I just registered for Nurse Aide training too. I'm not saying that it is what I want to do for a living, but its inexpensive and its education... so why not! Who knows where it could lead? Maybe I'll end up in a hospice job where I could volunteer to do massage once in a while too?? I guess I'll just wait and see where it takes me!
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby maestra on Wed Sep 28, 2011 4:37 am

Elliemare wrote:
I will be keeping up my certification and my state license, I already have a good amount of CEU's under my belt. I worked too long and hard to let those expire, plus PA just passed the licensing law and we waited so long for that to go through I can't let it expire any time soon. I think I will be happier giving from the heart. I always knew since day one that the business end of things sort of took the joy out of the work for me. That is why I always preferred employment to self-employment. However, its really tough to work directly for a spa owner. Its hard to set boundaries. When they ask you to stay late and work on one more client, its hard to say no since its not just lost income for me, its their livelihood too.



Glad you're going to do enough massage to keep your certification up. And i totally get what you're saying about pleasing spa owners...

Elliemare wrote:I just registered for Nurse Aide training too. I'm not saying that it is what I want to do for a living, but its inexpensive and its education... so why not! Who knows where it could lead? Maybe I'll end up in a hospice job where I could volunteer to do massage once in a while too?? I guess I'll just wait and see where it takes me!


I will say that CNAs are usually in demand as far as employment goes. But it is very hard work IMO, both physically and emotionally.
I hope it works out well for you and that you enjoy the work very much. (Hopefully using both your new CNA & old MT training.)
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby pueppi on Wed Sep 28, 2011 10:49 am

Elliemare wrote:Maybe I'll end up in a hospice job where I could volunteer to do massage once in a while too?? I guess I'll just wait and see where it takes me!


Hospice thread: End of Life Massage- hospice
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby Elliemare on Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:06 pm

I will say that CNAs are usually in demand as far as employment goes. But it is very hard work IMO, both physically and emotionally.
I hope it works out well for you and that you enjoy the work very much. (Hopefully using both your new CNA & old MT training.)


CNA's sure are in demand! I know its really hard work but I hope to only work very part time, like 20-25 hours a week. There are a lot of jobs available that allow CNA's to pick their hours, and work as little or as much as they want and that is what I really need right now.

Hospice thread: End of Life Massage- hospice


Thanks so much for the link to the thread! Very informative. I have provided end of life care for family members many times over, including massage therapy and interacted quite a bit with hospice nurses. I think I have a pretty healthy grasp on the realities of death and I hope hospice would be a good fit for me. I used to accompany my mom on hospice visits when I was only about 4 or 5 years old too.
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Re: How do you know if you're burning out?

Postby jyoti on Wed Sep 28, 2011 2:26 pm

Hi Ellie,

Yep, I do think something is going on. You mentioned fatigue, pain, and there also seems to be an emotional aspect as well. Lots of possibilities here. One possibility involves body chemistry, in terms of physical health - imbalances and dysfunction of basic physiology (immune system, neurotransmitters, digestion/absorption of nutrients, etc) can play a HUGE role in inflammation and pain, pain sensitivity, and mood ups and downs. I see a picture very similar to the one you've presented in almost every patient I work with. The underlying culprit is a bit different for each person, though, so it's not the same underlying cause every time.

I burned out of massage therapy myself. I knew that wasn't my life's direction anyway, but it was fine while it lasted. It did get tougher and tougher, though, both physically and mentally/emotionally. I do not do well in physical contact with people. I'm a touchy-feely-huggy person by nature, but I do not function well in quiet rooms for hours on end in a nurturing role, at least not on a long-term basis. I sub here and there for our LMT when she's unavailable, but it's usually about 2-3 patients in a morning for 30 mins of problem-focused massage each, and that's about my limit. I think one of my reasons for burnout was the fact that I just plain wasn't cut out for massage therapy long-term, but this problem was exacerbated by a major food intolerance that actually affected my neurotransmitters. Yes, inflammatory conditions in the body (that produce pain, fatigue, indigestion, etc) can swing brain chemicals and actually induce imbalance. And yes, eating many common foods can cause irritability, brain fog, anxiety, and/or depression (or any combo of those), and sometimes that can be the ONLY symptom.

Another possibility is an energy drain/deficit. If you're living with people whose health isn't up to par, their body energy signature may be siphoning some of your energy away from you. Energy takes the path of least resistance and flows in the direction of greater to less, meaning if you're around people with greater vibrancy, they'll donate energy to you, and if their energy is lower, you'll donate to them. Usually this is no problem but if you're starting to run low yourself, having someone taking your energy may put you over the threshold.

As you mentioned, it may not have anything to do with the number of people you're seeing or how hard you're working each day, but rather, 2-3 people can burn you out faster. I don't doubt that one bit, as it may have more to do with the quality of folks than the quantity here. Meaning, if you work with 2-3 accidental energy vampires who are particularly needy on that level, you'll burn out faster than working with 6-7 not-as-needy people.

And I don't think there's anybody on earth who couldn't benefit from a good licensed counselor. I think of counseling as massage therapy for the emotions. Given the nurturing role that we're cast into as LMTs (whether we're really looking for that particularly caretaking role or not), I think it helps to be able to vent on a regular basis, and a good counselor will also arm you with tools to analyze particular situations and see them for what they really are, put them into perspective, and then to deal with them effectively. Counseling has saved my own family many times over.

Hope that helps!
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