by Deborah Flanagan, M.A.
Center for True Health
Deborah Flanagan, the founder of the Center for True Health, addresses the importance of self-care as a professional practitioner. She provides strategies and ideas to help practitioners personalize their own self-care to ensure a sustainable and thriving practice. Specifically, she offers questions to reflect on regarding work schedules and time off, as well as examples of how different practitioners handle their own self-care.
Self-care is vital to becoming a strong practitioner. I’ve excerpted some things to consider from my book, Building a Powerful Practice: Successful Strategies for Your Wellness Business, to help you with your own self-care. I’ll address work/leisure balance, how to handle sick days and vacation, as well as questions to ask yourself to figure out what works best for you
Figuring out ways to take good care of your energy so as to avoid getting burned out is a common concern among wellness practitioners, and figuring out a schedule that works for you is key. Your schedule will evolve over time as you grow as a practitioner and gain clarity about your needs.
When I had a full-time office job as a fundraiser, the set workday of 9:30 am to 6:30 pm gave me a solid structure, even though I often worked longer hours.
Having my own practice, my schedule is much more flexible, which is a huge plus, and something I really love about having my own business. But it’s much harder for me to end the work day, and I often work weekends and early mornings on administrative tasks and upcoming projects—this is a huge downside. I’m still working on finding balance between work time and downtime.
If you’re first starting your practice, especially if you have a bridge job or some other kind of work to support yourself, it will take extra time to get your new business up and running. This is something to take into consideration as you’re getting started. And if you’ve had a wellness business for a while, you are probably seeing more clients/patients than when you first started your practice. In both cases, here are some suggestions and things to consider when figuring out your schedule:
- Consider having a set time when you “turn off.” For example, maybe you don’t do work in the hour before bed, or maybe Sundays are reserved for downtime.
- Figure out when you work best. For example, I prefer doing administrative work and writing in the morning, and like seeing clients later in the day.
- Figure out what you need to take care of yourself (e.g., meditation, yoga,
walks in nature, soul movement, reading, fun time with family or friends, etc.).
- Whatever your belief system, do spiritual practice to ground yourself and align your soul, heart, mind, and body to receive guidance for your business and tune into your intuiton. Oftentimes the best guidance does not come from our logical mind.
- Some people find it helpful to schedule in their downtime on their calendar as if it’s a real appointment.
Here’s one of my favorite ways to ground and center myself. This is a simple, yet powerful practice from Dr. and Master Sha to heal and prevent burnout:
Daily Lower Dan Tian Practice
The Lower Dan Tian (also known as the hara or tanden in Reiki practice and Japanese martial arts) is a fist-sized foundational energy center in the body. It is located a couple of inches below the navel inside the body.
- Sit up straight with your back away from the chair. Even better, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place both hands over the navel, one on top of the other. Raise the tip of your tongue so that it almost touches the roof of your mouth.
- Say: Dear soul, mind, and body of my Lower Dan Tian, I love you. You have the power to boost yourself, boost your energy and power. Develop the highest quality. Do a great job. Thank you.
- Visualize a ball of bright golden light filling the lower abdomen. At the same time, chant repeatedly: light or jiu (pronounced joe, this is Mandarin for the number 9, which vibrates the lower abdomen). Chant and visualize for 3-5 minutes.
- Conclude the practice by saying Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Do this practice 3 to 5 times a day. You will have more energy, stamina, and vitality. Your emotions will be more balanced. Your mind will be clearer. You will be more grounded and centered.
You can read more about this key energy center and find other healing meditation practices in Master Sha’s book, Soul Mind Body Medicine: A Complete Soul Healing System for Optimum Health and Vitality1.
This is definitely one I’m still working on, but it is oh-so-important. Truth be told, I used to feel guilty if I even took an hour to read a novel instead of doing something to move my business forward. A couple ofyears ago, I finally realized that if I read a novel for an hour, I usually feel a huge shift in my mood, and it’s such an easy (and fun!) way for me to revitalize. Going to a yoga class or taking a walk outside are other ways for me to take a break from my business, and my body and mind feel better for it.
An astrology coach and spiritual counselor I know puts it this way:
“This can be hard when you first start out, but I think it’s vital to set aside time to do something you love that’s unrelated to your business—even if it’s once a month, or every other week. For example, I do pottery, which has nothing to do with my work. And it’s so wonderful—I’m not answering phones or checking emails for three hours once a week, and it really gives me time to decompress, relax, and connect with myself.
“It’s part of your own wellness. It’s you. If you don’t take care of yourself, then how good are you going to be to your clients?”
Similarly, a Thai massage therapist and teacher shares what helps her avoid burnout:
“Clearly recognizing how many hours of work I can do physically and emotionally has been my most effective way to stay healthy and avoid burnout. I also have a daily meditation practice, and I spend a lot of time in my garden. It is the most grounding and healing part of my day (apart from working with clients). Attending classes like yoga or Pilates has never much appealed to me. I dance in the living room with my son (who is eight years old) to wacky music like “Rock Lobster,” and we air-guitar a lot. Keeps me normal-ish!”
An integrative hypnosis practitioner and trainer finds ways within
her work to avoid burnout:
“Even now, after fifteen years as a practitioner, I still go to at least four trainings a year. I think the most exciting thing about this mind field is that it keeps expanding. With every new research study,every shift in neuroscience and mind/body medicine, we get to create new interventions. I think we areso lucky to be at the cutting edge of consciousness. I actively seek aha moments in my work every day. And I’m happy to say, I usually find them.”
And a cranial sacral/polarity teacher offers another perspective:
“Any time you do the same thing, it becomes repetitive after a while, so I think burnout is part of the cycle of life and not necessarily something you need to avoid. You want to go through it and honor the end of a cycle and pattern and move into a new one, a new way of doing this work. Life is a series of adjustments and it will make your work better.”
Taking personal days
Being a self-employed wellness practitioner, the first time I had a cold and had to cancel client sessions really threw me. It brought up a big issue for me—the lack of financial stability in having my own business. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Coming from a full-time office job, this was something I hadn’t dealt with before. Also, I felt keenly the uncertainty of not knowing how many days I would need to take off.
I also had a belief that because I help people find balance and take care of their health, I shouldn’t be getting sick. I’ve heard from many seasoned practitioners that this is a huge trigger for them, especially when they’re faced with bigger health challenges, like cancer. This is something you’ll work through in your own way, and a good reason to develop a strong support network of friends, family, and colleagues.
Action item: Finding balance between work and leisure
- Write down three steps you can take to set parameters for your work and leisure time as you find the right work/life balance for you.
- Name three things you like to do for fun that you can schedule in your weekly or monthly schedule.
- Think about how you want to handle time off.
Vacation is a more fun version of a similar situation to being unwell—not getting paid if you’re not working. In the past, I’ve tended to see more clients than usual in a week before and after a vacation to make up for lost income while I’m taking time off.
Other practitioners set money aside each month to cover time missed during vacation as well as vacation expenses. It’s a consideration to include as you put together your projected budget of income and expenses for the year.
Again, these are some ideas and examples of things to consider as you develop your own self-care in terms of work/leisure balance and taking time off.
Dr. and Master Sha teaches that to serve others is to make them happier and healthier. Everything we do should make us healthier and happier, too. When we are in balance by taking good care of ourselves, our business and other aspects of our life will be in balance, and this will help us feel healthy and happy. Below are some additional questions to consider to help you find balance. Here’s to your successful practice, doing work you love, helping people heal and transform!
- Sha, Zhi Gang. (2006). Soul Mind Body Medicine: A Complete Soul Healing System for Optimum Health and Vitality. Novato, California.: New World Library.
About the Author
Author of Building a Powerful Practice, Deborah Flanagan established the Center for True Health in New York City in 2008 and has since guided thousands of people through major life changes using Reiki, hypnosis, and reflexology. Her unique approach has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and in O, the Oprah Magazine.
Find out more at www.centertruehealth.com