Totally Avoid Compassion Fatigue & Burnout for Soulprenuers
A Guest Post by Amy Lasseter
LPC, Holistic Therapy and Counseling Founder, practice building maven and founder of BreakThrough
Amy's words came across our screens at just the right moment. We'd recently spoken to several up-and-coming therapists who launched solo practices in the past year and experienced struggling for bandwidth. They pointed out that the highs and lows of managing a practice, from waiting for the phone to ring to suddenly finding yourself without a moment to breathe, were all too real.
Sometimes, on the heels of highs and lows, burnout follows. Reading through Amy's article on avoiding that cycle, we could tell her practical and reassuring advice would be helpful to anyone managing their own practice. We loved her excited and passionate point of view, and felt that she reminds us all how to stay centered when the realities of starting a practice feel a little... too real. We invite you to get to know Amy and her energizing ideas on her website and blog here or read the original post here.
Running and owning your own practice is exhausting, no matter what stage and cycle you’re in.
That's why it’s so important to talk about how to care for and nurture yourself: so you don’t get burned out, start to struggle with compassion fatigue, and end up shutting down. This happens all too often when your practice is an extension of yourself, as it is for all the soulpreneuers I know. There are many different signs and symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue. I’ve struggled with them, and so has every single one of my colleagues.
Some of the most prevalent symptoms are:
- Struggling to connect with your clients
- Zoning out when working on your biggest challenges
- Wishing a client would cancel an appointment
- Not wanting to be at work
- Being short and angry with loved ones over inconsequential things
The world needs more helpers and healers in the world -- you and I both know it.
You and I have both been on the front lines, and still are, helping people learn to fight for themselves. There need to be more people on the ground, showing up fully and authentically as themselves to serve those they are called to serve.
This means you have to show up every day in your practice, even when things are HARD.
Every practice and business experiences the ebb & flow of life and seasons. This part of the natural life cycle (it always seems crazy to me that practices and businesses have life cycles!)
You’ve witnessed (or are hoping for) times when inquires and intakes are on the upswing; times when client session ends only to discover 5 new client emails and 4 missed phone calls. Only to then experience the deafening silence of the slow seasons.
The reality is: there's a benefit and cost to each season (high and slow) and the key to moving through them is managing your energy.
Benefit & Cost of High-Hustle Season
High season in my area was always August-September and January-February, with a small jump again in October and March.
This is the “high season” of business. Demands on your time and energy are, well, high. It can feel like everyone wants something from you — and I haven’t even started talking about the demands in your personal life!
Honestly, I no longer call it high season; I call it, “High-Hustle Season.” This season has you going full throttle and you’re hustling all the time, working hard to make sure that everyone is getting what they need, when they need it.
It’s a lot, friend.
When it feels like every person in your life needs something from you it’s important to be going slow enough to say, “Yes, they do… and I need something from me too. I need to space, time, and rest.”
You have to be able to reach for what you need and what is going to help you settle your mind and get you grounded. Often times, you’ll say, “I’ll rest during slow season… things will slow down and I’ll breathe.”
Transitions & Slow Season
Your practice is like mother nature: there are seasons, and when in full bloom, they require your attention, energy, and focus. This is when you pour into people with your heart and mind as you nurture them.
As with all things, there is a need for balance. Without it you’ll burn out, right? This is when the transitional season, the ebb & flow, or slow season, comes into play. This is when you start to stress about why the phone isn’t ringing. When you start checking your professional profile to see if it’s still working.
Starting Slow Season
Most people know when their slow season is… ours is in the hot, heated days of summer, May-August in Georgia. You don’t really want to do much of anything in July because even stepping outside at 6 am, you’ll start to sweat and melt.
If you’re anything like the soulpreneuers I love to work with, you’re thinking about:
- Trips with your family
- Visiting friends you haven’t seen in too long
- Spending time with your kids at a mountain or beach house
This always sounds amazing… like such a treat after the high-hustle season! Beautiful rest. Relaxation. Letting go of all the things.
Yet there is a quite a large hiccup in your plan… the goals, projects, and tasks you couldn’t get to during high-hustle season? They get pushed to your practice’s “slow” season and your tasks often become:
- Client onboarding systems
- Contractor & employee onboarding systems
- Online booking & payment systems
- Worksheet development & organization
- Workshop ideas
- Networking and marketing (these never end)
You’re starting to see it now, I can tell. You’re starting to see the problem because the…
Reality of Slow Season is Hitting Home
You can’t actually relax, let go of #allthethings if you have all these goals, projects, and tasks left to accomplish. You’ve pushed them off until now.
So, the slow season you were so looking forward to doesn’t really exists anymore… it’s turned into an in-house, work-on-my-business slow-hustle season.
Burnout Comes Full Circle
Remember earlier when you and I were talking about how you were going to slow down when “slow season” came around? Now it’s not happening because you’re hustling to get more systems into your practice. The longer you do this, the longer you put your heart, mind, body and soul into your practice and the faster and closer you run to getting burned out. Then, you can’t serve anyone.
When you're scaling, growing and maintaining your practice, you have to be able to manage your energy flow. There is always going to be more.
1. You Need to Move Your Body!
Physically moving your body is really important, particularly if you’re a mental health therapist where you do a lot of sitting. Sitting for long periods of time can really mess with your muscles. It can change the way you hold your body, create changes in your hips, and numerous other things.
Let’s talk about all the ways you can get physical…
- Walking or running outside
- Yoga or dance class
- Kickboxing or martial arts class
- Swimming or water aerobics
2. Talk to People that Aren’t Your Clients!
It seems to almost ridiculous to say this. But, if you an introvert like me, when you get home after a full day of sessions, you don’t want to talk or listen to anyone. You’re wiped out emotionally and your energy is drained. Being social is the last thing you want to do! However, it’s critical component of being able to show up in your business and life! There are lots of ways to be social without being “social’…
- You can usually find classes for the activities I mentioned above. They're a great way to connect with others (that have nothing to do with work!) and are a great way to get out of the house and try new things while meeting new people. (I now have a great friend because I took a ballet class when I was 36!)
- Talking to others when you get to be you and don't have to be “on” all the time is necessary to function at your highest level.
- Being social exposes you to new things and people, giving you a broader experience of life. If this doesn’t sound interesting to you maybe this article will help!
3. You’re Not Immune From Life
People still come to you when you’re stressed, hurt, in pain, and struggling. They look to you to be the expert… I get it. There are so many ways you ARE an expert that I can’t even begin to count and you probably can’t either.
You’re still human and humaning is HARD.
Where do you go when you’re struggling? When you’re trying to take your business to the next level? When all the personal chatter in your head forces you to confront the imposter syndrome, fear, worry, anxiety?
Who do you talk to when you are struggling with work and life balance? Who supports and encourages you when you start should’ing all over yourself?
You cannot pour love and courage into other people if you have nothing left to give.
You need someone to help you pour love and energy into yourself -- we all do. There is no shame in that. Maybe it’s a dear friend who can hold space, a therapist or energy healer, or a mindset & business coach who helps you care for yourself…
For you, maybe it’s all of them -- no matter what: managing your emotions is a really effective way to manage your energy. When you manage your energy you live a happier, more joyful life.
4. Let’s Talk about the S-Word
When I say, S-word, I don’t mean a four-letter word… I mean spirituality.
I see many in the healing and helping fields set this notion aside in their lives, fearing it's divisive with clients and even our families. (You and I both know religion and spirituality can sit right alongside politics and gun control in terms of touchy topics.)
However, if you ignore this, you're also missing a key way to heal yourself and manage your energy and emotions.
I’m the person who believes that spirituality and religion can co-mingle and also exist separately (But that's a bigger a topic for another day…). You may have experienced some deep wounds from your religious upbringing and going back may cause too much pain. Or maybe you were never exposed to it and you have lots of negative connotations to it (this was so the case for me!).
No matter what your background or experience may in this area, it’s important to explore and an opportunity for healing to occur. And that is always a beautiful thing!
One book I want to take the opportunity to point you to if you’re curious (and a little nervous) is this gem right here. Chapter 5 presents a powerful exercise and -- let me tell you -- the picture I hold in my mind from it is absolutely stunning.
Up-ing Your Self-Care Game
You know a lot of this stuff -- I know you do -- yet the one thing I learned in building my solo and group practice is: if you want to push the needle forward in your practice you're going to have to up your game in the self-care area.
The passion you have for your work will carry you far; but, it will only carry you so far. If you don’t start using your muscles to practice self-care while you’re building or scaling your business, you will be drained of energy and left with compassion fatigue and burnout.
There is always going to be something on your to-do list. ALWAYS.
Since there's always something on your to-do-list, you're going to have to find a new way of working if you're going to continue to serve and support the people you’re here to support.
If you loved what you heard in this week's post stay tuned for next week AND…
I 'd love you to go ahead and grab your Self Care Success Plan Workbook! This is what will help you move your practice, and yourself to the next level!
Keep going friend, you’ve got this!