Chances are, you work for yourself as a small-business owner or freelancer, or perhaps you are employed by a spa, franchise, hospital or chiropractor. Whatever career structure you have chosen, work-life integration should be a high priority, especially when your body is your instrument.
Despite your love for helping people feel better through massage, you most likely will encounter some physical, emotional and financial challenges along your career path. Maintaining a healthy and dynamic state—both physically and emotionally—is crucial to thriving professionally. Likewise, ensuring a positive cash flow decreases stress and reduces burnout.
While there are numerous suggestions on how to maintain balance, we’ve gathered tips from several health professionals to ease your journey.
“A massage therapist must practice what they preach,” says Barbara Payne, LMT, founder of BPayne Free in New York, New York. “Leading by example is not only good for the practitioner’s overall sense of well-being, it’s also good for business.”
The healthier the practitioner is, the more grounded and focused the sessions will be, says Payne, adding, “the better the session, the more likely you will have a repeat client, which is a win-win for everyone.”
Payne also notes that getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods and making sure you are getting regular bodywork are all excellent ways to manage the demands of a career in massage therapy while leading clients by example.
According to Michelle May, MD, CEO and founder of Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program, there is a great deal of pressure on wellness professionals to “look the part.” She suggests taking an inside-out approach to your well-being and to building a healthy mind and body.
“Your body wisdom will guide you to eat when you’re hungry, [so] stop before you are uncomfortably full,” she says. “Instead of eating to look good, make choices to feel good.”
The same holds true for exercise. Choose movement that is joyful and feels good to your body. Make a list of your favorite types of movement, even activities you enjoyed as a child. Or create a buffet of movement by listing a non-gym activity for each letter of the alphabet, so you don’t get bored.
Yes, you’re a licensed massage therapist, but what other business skills do you bring to the business? Are you excellent with customer service? Do you enjoy tracking your money on QuickBooks? Are you good at networking? Are you prompt and reliable? Are you fantastic at public speaking and marketing your services?
Whatever your skills may be, write them down on paper. Know deeply which skills you excel at and identify skills where you are not as strong. Those skills can be delegated out to a virtual assistant or traded for massage if your finances are low. Be clear with your directions and delegation and be certain both parties fully understand the expectations and outcome.
It’s important to also understand what skills you don’t possess, especially from a legal perspective. In today’s health world, the lines of scope of practice may seem a bit blurred. Fitness trainers may offer nutritional advice, massage therapists may add energy work to their sessions, and nutritionists may offer tapping for weight loss.
While individual health professionals may be certified in each of these areas, it is extremely important to keep a clear scope of practice to avoid burnout or even litigation. It is also important for your client to understand what you offer and what you do not offer for services. Create a solid database of health professionals. Listen carefully and decide when the client’s needs are beyond your scope of practice and refer accordingly.
To support a healthy mind and body, “Remove yourself physically and emotionally from people who rob you of joy,” says Valda Ford, MPH, RN, CSE, of High Point, North Carolina, who works as a women’s health and cultural competency expert. While many clients who enter your office may have emotional challenges, the most important aspect is to find the joy to balance your practice, she says.
Take inventory of the people in your life, from family, to friends to colleagues. Rate them on a scale of 0 to 10 for how much joy they bring to your life (0 = no joy; 10 = abundant joy). While you may not be able to fully remove yourself from those who rate low on the joy scale, this exercise will give you a much better perspective on with whom to spend your time.
You are a member of the massage community. You are reading this magazine, you have attended workshops and conferences and you may even belong to an online massage community “Being part of a community is important because humans achieve greatness when they are a team,” says Anna Hajosi, LAc, SMAc, who owns an acupuncture clinic in New York, New York.
It is also important to create community outside of your practice to add balance to your life. Whether it’s a speaking community like Toastmasters or a community to give back like Habitat for Humanity, Hajosi says, “We must make sure to help the less fortunate as well. As the African proverb says, ‘If you want to go far, go together.’”
Tracking your finances will decrease your stress and help you maintain a higher level of vitality. Debt can stifle creativity and leave you feeling depleted. If money tracking is not your strength, learn the basics by tracking income and expenses on a mobile app. Enlist the services of an accountant from the beginning and determine what expenses can be deducted on your taxes.
At the very least, determine several days’ worth of salary for yourself and put the money aside. The money can be used for a sick day, vacation, funeral or some other life event.
Look for the funny in your life and laugh out loud every day! According to research, laughter has proven to have psychological, social, spiritual and physiological benefits, whether it is self-induced or spontaneous, mostly due to the fact that the brain cannot distinguish between the two.
While laughter produces a general, overall sense of well-being, it also improves cardiac health, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases endorphins and activates T-cells. While the actual massage session most likely will not be a humorous event, you could encourage your clients to engage in as much laughter as possible in their daily lives.
A personal vision statement is created for you, by you, and acts as a guide in your life. It helps you chart your days and make decisions about your career path when choices are presented to you. When your time, money and energy are in high demand, referring to your personal vision statement will help you clarify your intentions and support your decision-making.
As author of “Creativity Revealed: Discovering the Source of Inspiration,” Scott Jeffrey notes, when creating a personal vision statement, “Quiet your mind with your breath and connect with your heart.” There are numerous resources online if you do a Google search for creating a vision statement. Take your time, do the research and know the result is worth it.
It may be more challenging to take a day of rest when businesses are open seven days a week or the schedules of your clients are erratic. However, science shows that a day of rest is truly beneficial.
Detaching from electronics on your day of rest helps increase your awareness of your surroundings—most importantly the friends, family, animals and children you spend time with, according to research from the American Psychological Association.
Taking breaks reduces the stress that can create chaos with your physical and emotional well-being. A day of rest improves short-term memory, increases productivity, boosts your immune system and improves your creativity. With a regular day off, your body and mind will have a chance to reset and begin anew.
While there are numerous tips and suggestions on how to create healthy physical and emotional skills in order to maintain a successful business, perhaps the greatest is the ability to implement the skills.
You may “know” what you should be doing, but implementing may be a whole new skill for you. Review your business practice once a month or at the very least, once a quarter. Notice where you are challenged with fatigue, burnout, financial stress and relational strains. Make the adjustments to the best of your ability to maintain optimal health and vitality.
Thrive with your personal vision statement and know deeply that people are in need of your services—but don’t give your entire self away.
Rochelle Rice, CSP, AS, is a nationally recognized speaker, author and educator. She is the only woman in the world to hold both the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association and the Accredited Speaker (AS) designation from Toastmasters International. Her Body-Based Leadership expertise emphasizes the role of the body in effective leadership. Her articles for MASSAE Magazine include “Do You Dread Speaking in Public? Here are 7 Body-Based Actions to Build Confidence.”
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