Any compassion-based career has the potential for burnout. Teachers, counselors, doctors, and massage therapists who do not dedicate time to self-care may find themselves exhausted and lethargic—too tired and stressed out to help others. In extreme cases, a thoroughly burnt out therapist may even consider abandoning his or her practice due to excess stress. Today, we’re taking a look at how massage therapists can avoid burnout through self-care.

Massage schools do not consistently track their graduates’ career paths, so no comprehensive burnout statistics are available. However, various boards have researched attrition and concluded that burnout is a real threat for massage therapists. For instance, The American Massage Therapy Association found in 2005 that the average time in the massage profession was 8 years. Likewise, As Mary Dee Snow writes, the Florida Board of Massage Therapy found that, on average, massage therapists in Florida practice for less than five years. Now, it is impossible to say whether burnout is the primary reason why therapists are leaving the practice. However, as in all caring professions, therapists who wish to continue their work for decades must dedicate time and effort to avoiding burnout.

Burnout may be caused by a variety of factors, including physical injury, lack of sustainable pay, and stress. Those who wish to set up their own private massage practices must face all the difficulties of running their own businesses, including managing space leases, dealing with landlords, investing in equipment, and effectively marketing services. Emotional stress can also play a part in burnout; if clients are unloading their problems during massage sessions, the unprepared LMT can feel just as burdened as a talk therapist.

Of course, no LMT would wish to burnout from this helping profession. When going through massage therapy school, Colorado to Maine, massage students hope to enjoy lifelong, rewarding careers. Yet some people do end up leaving the massage profession after just a few short years. Those who are attending west coast massage schools like East West College of the Healing Arts would do well to study how to avoid burnout as they prepare to enter this healing career.

Toward that goal, we offer the following burnout prevention tips:

Set and work toward long-term goals. Goal setting can help you stay passionate about your profession. Likewise, adding new massage modalities can help keep your practice fresh and interesting.

Take care of yourself while you take care of others. Schedule breaks between massage clients. Practice saying “no” to clients when you are already overbooked. Study correct body positioning for delivering massage. Our northwest massage school provides students with in-depth knowledge on preventing injury through the use of massage tools, and through proper positioning. Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, martial arts, and other mind/body exercises can help massage therapists stay healthy and balanced as well.

Avoid sudden increases in output. While in school, aspiring LMTs may only provide a handful of massages per week. After graduating, it may be tempting to ramp up productivity, providing up to six massages per day. Remember that most LMTs provide 10-15 massages per week. If you increase the number of massages you provide too rapidly, you risk injuring yourself. Add more massage sessions gradually to allow your body time to adjust.

Follow the advice you give your clients. Drink plenty of water. Breathe deeply. Get lots of sleep. Take time to receive massages yourself.

Tap into your support network. Stress is much more difficult to bear if you keep it to yourself. Schedule regular visits with friends to stay energetic.

Learn how to protect your own energy. If you find yourself taking on the negative energy of your clients, it’s important to learn techniques for setting energetic boundaries. Reiki can help tremendously in this quest.

Finally, bring awareness to your own energy levels, as well as your signs of overwork. As you get to know how your own body reacts to stress, you can take steps to offset it. Each day, pay attention to how your body feels, and evaluate your current energy and stress levels. Create a plan to increase and/or maintain your energy across the day. That could be as simple as including ten minutes between sessions for a cup of tea, or as elaborate as signing up for an exercise regimen to keep your body in tip-top shape. In any case, bringing awareness to how you feel can help sustain a long, enjoyable career in the massage profession.