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
Busy seasons can cause a temporary spike in caseloads that can have you running from one patient to the next.
Even with correct posture, supportive shoes, and ergonomic work stations, you are demanding a lot from your body.
When you are this busy, the physical and mental demands can take a toll on your job performance.
Don’t worry; we are here to help! We’ve created a list of ten ways to manage stress and prevent physical therapist burnout.
Let’s dive in:
Tips for Preventing Physical Therapist Burnout
1. Determine what your stressors are.
Before you can overcome workplace stress, you must have a clear understanding of what is causing you to feel that stress.
Even if the cause comes to mind immediately, consider asking yourself the questions below to dig a bit deeper. You may reveal underlying stressors that you did not initially consider.
- 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?
Everyone reacts differently when stress hits.
Some people experience feelings of anger or frustration, while others might feel anxious or depressed. Regardless of how stress affects you, it’s crucial to nip it in the bud, especially at work.
Now that you can better identify those situations that result in stress, try to practice new, alternative ways to react.
When it comes to physical therapy job burnout, use these tips to beat stress:
- 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.
- If you are having trouble with a new software program, give yourself additional time for computer/admin work.
When you feel the effects of stress setting in, the most important thing you can do is be self-aware.
Recognizing stress before its symptoms take over can help you quash destructive feelings before they affect you.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
Physical therapy career burnout can sneak up on you if you are feeling overworked. It can be difficult to ask for help sometimes, but taking (and providing) support is a benefit of working amongst other PT professionals.
If you are not sure how to handle a specific case, ask a colleague or your supervisor for advice.
Chances are, they have dealt with a similar situation and have some effective tips for you. The act of asking for assistance can help subdue feelings of being overwhelmed.
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.
In order to relieve stress:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat nutritious foods
- Do yoga
If you aren’t sure where to start, sometimes the easiest thing to do is take a brisk walk around the block. Not only is this great for your physical health, it will clear your mind, too. Plus, spending time outdoors is proven to relieve stress.
4. Leave work concerns at work.
This can be easier said than done, but “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.
Remember: if you’re stressed out and physically worn down, you can’t give your patients 100 percent.
So by keeping yourself healthy, you’ll have better output and avoid that physical therapist burnout.
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. Exercise is a keen way to shift your focus when you’re off the clock.
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.
Feeling as if you’re in a rut professionally can make you feel stressed and contribute to physical therapist burnout.
To prevent this, it’s advisable to keep advancing your skills and expanding 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. That way, you will stay motivated without burdening yourself.
In addition, by constantly acquiring new knowledge, you will be able to fine-tune your technique and work on the cases that interest you the most.
Continuing education is an excellent way to stoke inspiration.
If you feel highly confident in your PT skills, but have an interest in something like creative writing or art, pursuing classes in your “hobby” will be an equally effective stress-buster.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Keep advancing skills & expanding knowledge to prevent physical therapist burnout. #alliedhealth” quote=”Keep advancing your skills and expanding your knowledge to prevent physical therapist burnout.”]
6. Attend professional events.
Attending seminars, conferences, and workshops can be extremely energizing. Networking, especially with people who share your professional passion, is a great way to stay engaged.
Want to up your networking game? Use these six tips from Forbes to make the most of your next event.
These events are also valuable because you learn about new developments in your field and meet other like-minded professionals.
Try to attend a professional event at least once every three months to keep your knowledge up to date and your passion for your profession burning.
7. Make time to do something you enjoy every day.
When you feel as if your life is wake, work, 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.
- 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.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Burnout Tip #6: Build time into your schedule every day to do something you love. #alliedhealth” quote=”Build time into your schedule every day to do something you love.”]
8. Spend time with friends and loved ones.
No matter how tired you are after work, don’t isolate yourself.
Spend time with people who accept you as you are and who energize you.
If you want to spend time with your colleagues, it can be advisable to make a deal to not discuss work in your time off. This can be a hard rule to follow!
9. Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal can help you relieve stress by writing about the things that are upsetting you.
It can also help you stay motivated when you describe your professional accomplishments and the good things that happen at work.
Journaling is also an excellent way to increase your creativity and critical thinking skills.
10. Consider getting professional support.
If you feel that work stress is affecting your work performance and your personal life, it might be time to get some professional support.
In the article “Coping with stress at work,” the American Psychological Association advises looking into stress management resources such as counseling or therapy.
This will help you determine the cause of the stress, as well as teach you coping strategies to manage stress and develop healthy habits that can boost your resilience.
In almost any job, occasional stress is inevitable—but the good news is that there are some very effective stress management techniques to prevent physical therapist burnout.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll greatly enhance your chances of leading a long, happy career as a physical therapist.
- Determine what your stressors are
- Ask for help when you need it
- Leave work concerns at work
- Keep learning
- Attend professional events
- Make time to do something you enjoy every day
- Look after your physical health
- Spend time with friends and loved ones
- Keep a journal
- Consider getting professional support
How do you relieve stress from any feelings of physical therapist burnout?
Share with us in the comments below!