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Bodywork Buddy Blog

Bodywork Buddy: business management software for the solo therapist that keeps you organized and makes tax time a breeze.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Sparking Joy Against Burnout

What do you get when you combine 35 inches of snow, 50 mph winds, three days of rain, roads closed due to: wind, white out conditions, and flooding all in the space of 2-3 weeks?  A Minnesotan who just about has hit her limit! The worst part: I couldn't DO anything with my time off. The roads and stores were closed and it was dangerous to be outside.  Cabin fever is no joke, and it made me feel restless and bored. It started to feel like the burnout I have been struggling with for the last year. 

Last winter, I started to feel like I didn’t know what I was doing anymore or why I was even trying. I had everything that I wanted in my job, but it was starting to feel stale. I know that I see this question a lot on massage boards, and inevitably suggestions for taking a vacation or break will come up. Lots of times they will suggest taking a new CE course to get your mind working again. Even suggestions for redecorating come up. I hadn’t really experience this before, so I didn’t know if these suggestions would really work. 

This coincided with a health issue where I was instructed by my doctor to cut back on my schedule.  With my reduced hours, I decided to try a new and extensive continuing ed experience. I decided to complete a self paced online Certified Aromatherapist course.  I was going kill two birds with one stone and take care of this burnout feeling and stress related fatigue once and for all!

But it didn’t help the burned out feeling. I was taking time off, but the not doing anything drove me crazy. I would pace around the house overthinking everything. The classes were interesting and I did enjoy learning new things, but it didn’t inspire me or a new career path. I was still questioning where I was going and what I was doing. 

Then I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Maybe you’ve heard of the show on Netflix about organizing your things and using your emotions to help you decide what to keep and what to donate?  In the show they use the term “Spark Joy” to describe the feeling you should get when you hold an item you want to keep. If you don’t have that feeling, and you don’t need the item for practical reasons, you are supposed to thank what you’re getting rid of for what it provided you in the past and then let it go.  

Personally, I love organizing and decorating my home. Even though my house is already neat and tidy, I went a shopping spree of organization supplies and was giddy with refolding my husbands clothes to fit in his dresser, sorting every drawer in the kitchen, and dreaming of new ways to make my space tidy.  I felt happy for the first time in a very long winter; I had a goal to accomplish!  

It occurred to me a little later, that I used to have that feeling about my business. I would be giddy about the plans that I had and the classes I was going to take one day.  I needed to recapture that feeling for my massage business (and not quit my job to be a Marie Kondo Consultant). 

I remembered that I used to have short, medium, and long term goals when I started out. When I felt lost, I just had to look at that list of goals and that would give me a sense of direction. Every goal on that list was something I felt was a challenge, or I knew I would be proud of if I accomplished it. I realized in the last couple of years I met a good chunk of those 10-15 year goals that I set up in the beginning, but I forgot to add new ones to work on down the road. The goals left on the list were everyday practical ones (enter expenses by the end of each month) and not exciting ones (become a full-time therapist in your own space)! Even though I had taking a big CEU course that took me a year to complete, I didn’t have an end goal after I finished it.  Even throughout the course I couldn’t think of what I wanted to do once I was an aromatherapist. Not very smart planning on my part. I think I was hoping the act of taking the class would define the goal for me. 

It’s not the end of the world, though. I can still make use of the education in a way that inspires me and my interests. Taking a vacation, ceu’s, or redecorating are fine methods for giving yourself a mental break or new inspiration, but unless it is helping you move toward a greater goal, the results may not be what you had hoped. Setting goals is a continuous process, and they need to include ones that make you excited (and don’t forget to add more long term goals to the list as you progress through your list!) otherwise they are just chores.  

Since the weather is so crappy and I have some time on my hands, I think I’m going to look back at my old list and thank it for what it gave me (a successful career as a solo massage therapist with her own space and full schedule) as I file it away and create a new list with goals that spark joy for years to come. 

Erin Howk Bennett, BCTMB
Therapeutic & Stress Reduction Massage