An image of hands with battery indicators superimposed over them is used to illustrate the concept of burnout and overwhelm.

Feeling overwhelmed and achieving business success aren’t the best of friends. The time period since the COVID-19 pandemic began to necessitate shutdowns and other changes has been (understatedly) a challenging time for the massage industry. Some massage therapists have left the field during the past almost-three challenging years—meaning many other massage therapists are juggling too-busy practices.

Who knew too much business could be so challenging?

Many massage therapists are busier than before, leaving them physically exhausted, mentally depleted and emotionally flat. In the end, they are so busy meeting the needs of the huge demand of clients that there is no time or energy left to focus on developing business—or living life with ease.

It is no secret that when you feel overwhelmed you tend to shut down. Intellectually, you know what needs to be done and what the impacts of neglecting those tasks are, yet you simply cannot muster the strength to take those actions. If you feel guilty for not giving your business the attention it needs because you’re overwhelmed, please know this is a normal human response and it’s OK to have these feelings.

The bottom line is that overwhelm results from overwork—and puts the financial health of your business at risk. All is not lost! As dreadful as overwork sounds, it’s absolutely possible to pull yourself out of its grasp. A wildly successful business is just a few steps away.

Three Ways Overwork Damages a Business

Let’s jump in and clarify how overwork and overwhelm are keeping you from growing a massively successful massage practice, what signs you need to be on the lookout for, and some easy solutions to get you back on track to feeling like the powerful business owner I know you are.

Overwork affects the success of your business from three primary angles: financial, experiential and related to your policies.

First, financial effects of overwork are two-pronged: You miss out on potential revenue when your prices don’t match your demand. When your schedule is overflowing, it’s a prime time to re-evaluate your service prices and adjust accordingly.

Also, your revenue is strong until physical exhaustion takes over (or causes you to injure yourself) and you’re forced to take time off. This leaves you with undependable, roller-coaster income that adds an additional layer of problems.

Second, your customers’ experience suffers. It’s difficult to give 100% when you feel like you’re drowning in work with no lifeline in sight.

Small things begin to get pushed to the side, or forgone completely, in an attempt to lessen your workload and gain some ground. When the underlying problem isn’t addressed, one little thing can quickly turn into a subpar service experience. Clients will be less likely to rebook or recommend your business to their friends and family if they see a decline in service quality.

Third, burnout affects your policies. Again, this is a two-pronged problem: You’re so drained that you don’t have the energy to enforce your policies, and when clients aren’t held to your policies a host of problems can crop up.

Also, you become mentally over it and get hyper-focused on how policy violations make you feel. This leads to anger-laced reactions where you create even more policies to try and regain control, only to fuel your frustration.

Signs of Overwork

Now that we’ve clarified how overwork is keeping you from growing a massively successful business, let’s take a look at the signs of overwork you may be missing:

• Maintaining a waitlist. Having a list of clients waiting in the wings for a cancellation to pop up is a great way to help manage demand—until it isn’t. If there’s no chance you’ll get through your waitlist in four to six weeks, it will only create negative client responses and add to your overwhelm. If this is something you are currently dealing with, I recommend eliminating your waitlist option and freeing up mental space to focus on other areas of your business.

• Expanding your hours. I’m a big proponent of working only the hours you want and not bending to client demands. After all, a big perk of being a business owner is being able to control your schedule, right? If you feel the need to increase your available hours or work on your days off, it’s time to tell yourself it’s perfectly OK to only work when you want—especially if you find yourself missing out on important experiences.

• Your body hurts even more than usual. Filling your schedule with more service hours than you are comfortably able to handle puts you at greater risk for injury. Regularly check in with yourself and adjust your schedule as needed.

• You do not have the energy to enjoy your life. Being mentally and physically drained makes it difficult to fully invest yourself in and enjoy your life. If you find yourself too tired to take part in things you love or complete normal life tasks, it’s time to take a look at your schedule and refer a few clients out.

When you start paying attention to the early signs of overwork, you can make the necessary changes to revive yourself and your business.

5 Steps to Stop Overworking

How can you ensure a happy, healthy, massively successful practice and avoid any inkling of overwork? Here are five steps you can take right now:

1. Decide exactly when you want to work. What days and hours allow you to serve your clients while honoring your life? Once you decide, stick to it!

2. Know when you need a break. Don’t wait until you notice the signs of overwork popping up; schedule out long weekends, short holiday breaks and even longer vacations. Get them on your schedule as early as possible—and schedule them often! Having dedicated time off to look forward to does wonders for your mental health and ensures your body can get the extended rest it needs.

3. Get clear on whom you really want to work with. When you know exactly who your perfect clients are, it’s easy to say no to people who aren’t those clients. Vet everyone! When you accept anyone and everyone into your practice, you are opening yourself to burnout.

Instead, start having conversations with potential clients before they schedule to ensure they are the right match for your practice. Clarify to clients and yourself what you do. The more clearly you communicate exactly what you do, beyond simply “massage,” the more you’ll attract the people you want to work with and repel those you don’t.

4. Iron out your policies. Policies serve to protect the financial health of your business by creating an even playing field for all clients. Outline your cancellation and late arrival policies, how you handle sickness and unexpected time away from your practice, when and how clients pay you, scheduling guidelines, and any other policies you deem necessary to protect your greatest asset—your business.

5. Evaluate your prices. If you are dealing with a too-full schedule, it’s time to raise your prices, perhaps significantly.

Time and Space

With these new too-much-work challenges facing so many therapists, it is more important than ever to take a deep look at your practice and make any necessary changes to control feelings of overwhelm. Overwork is real, and it can prevent you from growing and sustaining a massively successful massage business.

With the tips you’ve learned here, you’ll be well on your way to managing your work life in a way that allows you time and space to enjoy life—and the results of your massage practice.

Melinda Hastings

About the Author

Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, has practiced massage therapy since 1996. She holds active licenses in Washington and Texas, and is also a Texas Massage Therapy Instructor. She is a Nationally Approved Continuing Education Provider through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.