10 Ways to Prevent Physical Therapist Burnout

No matter where you are in your physical therapist career, there can be times when your job is more stressful than usual. Physical therapist burnout is very real, even despite how much you love your job!

Depending on the type of therapy you provide and the kind of patients you see, your responsibilities cover a variety of things, including:

  • being on your feet for long periods of time
  • physically supporting patients and handling patient transfers
  • handling weights, work out equipment and exercising
  • performing massage for multiple hours a day

Even with correct posture, supportive shoes, and ergonomic workstations, you are demanding a lot from your body, which can take a toll on your job performance.

To manage your stress and prevent physical therapist burnout, follow the ten ideas listed below.

1. Determine what your stressors are.

Before you can come up with a solution, you have to know the problem. If you’re unsure of what’s causing your stress, ask yourself these questions:

  • What types of situations make you feel tense at work?
  • Are there specific patients or colleagues that trigger your stress?
  • Are you working with a new database and client app you are not yet comfortable with?

Once you determine your stressors, consider these tips:

  • Learn to count to 10 before responding to a hard patient—and keep in mind that oftentimes, patients are difficult because they are scared and/or in pain.
  • Use the (sometimes brief) time between patients to practice breathing exercises. These exercises can help reduce stress in under 10 minutes.
  • Give yourself additional time if you are having trouble with a new software program.

When you feel the effects of stress setting in, the most important thing you can do is be self-aware.

2. Ask for help when you need it.

It can be difficult to ask for help sometimes, but taking (and providing) support is important for doing your job the best you can.

If you are need more hands on deck, don’t be afraid to let others know.

3. Look after your physical health.

You spend all day helping others work on repairing their body—but you need to be in good health, too.

You should:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat nutritious foods
  • Meditate
  • Do yoga

If you aren’t sure where to start, sometimes the easiest thing to do is take a brisk walk around the block to improve your health and clear your mind.

4. Leave work concerns at work.

“Shutting off” work-related thoughts when the day is over is important for your emotional health.

As soon as you leave the facility, your time is your own—and that means you should focus on your own health and wellbeing.

If you are having a hard time leaving work at work, note that physical activity is proven to reduce stress and increase mental and physical health.

Consider these simple exercises to distract your mind and strengthen your body:

  • Jumping jacks are great for cardio and coordination
  • Wall-sits can be done nearly anywhere and are great for your core
  • Push-ups are often touted as the best bodyweight exercise because it engages lots of muscle groups.

5. Keep learning.

To prevent yourself from getting in a rut, advance your skills and expand your knowledge.

Choose your continued education courses wisely so they fit in your overall career plan, and make sure that the time you spend studying is manageable with your workload.

But education doesn’t have to be limited to only your career. If you have an interest in something like creative writing or art, pursuing classes in your “hobby” will be an equally effective stress-buster.

6. Attend professional events.

Networking with others through seminars, conferences, and workshops is a great way to stay engaged while learning about new developments in your field.

Try to attend a professional event at least once every three months to update your knowledge and maximize your passion for your profession.

7. Make time to do something you enjoy every day.

When your life is wake, work, eat, sleep, repeat, it’s perfectly natural to lose motivation and become stressed.

That’s why you should build time into your schedule every day to do something you love.

For example:

  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Read a book
  • Watch your favorite show
  • Spend some time doing crossword puzzles

Whatever it is, make sure it takes you away—mentally at least—from the daily grind and makes you feel good about yourself.

8. Spend time with friends and loved ones.

Spending time with family and friends can bring you the energy and fun you need. Find an activity or event in your area to enjoy.

9. Keep a journal.

Journaling can release stressful thoughts, increase motivation, and encourage creativity and critical thinking skills. Make it a habit to record the important things that are happening in your life.

10. Consider getting professional support.

If you feel that work stress is affecting your work performance and your personal life, counseling or therapy is always an option.

These sessions can help you determine the cause of the stress, as well as teach you coping strategies to manage it and develop healthy habits that can boost your resilience.

Find What Works for You

The most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and what works for someone else may not work for you – and that’s OK. Try a few different things and take note of what you enjoy.


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