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9 Tips to Prevent Burnout as a Self-Employed Health Coach

by: Marisa Moon
Published: June 2, 2020
Updated: June 23, 2022

Health coaches are inherently caring and compassionate people—which is why we’re so good at serving others. Pair these qualities with the hardworking nature of a self-employed health coach, and it can result in giving too much and sacrificing our own health.

Starting a business is hard work. To make a new business grow, many coaches push harder and work more hours to the point of risking burnout.

Sure, it’s easy to spot burnout in our clients…but it’s not so easy to see it in ourselves.

Burnout is a gradual decline in your body and brain’s efficiency which results in a crippling of your vitality. This typically happens after ignoring your body and mind’s efforts to get your attention and find balance.

It’s such a gradual thing that, if you don’t actively try to prevent it, you may not realize you’re burning out until it’s debilitating.

I coached one woman who worked extremely hard to run several businesses at once. The pace and pressure eventually got to her. She was hospitalized with pneumonia for 3 months!

When you nourish your own mental and physical health, you end up being more available and capable. Even though you’re spending less time on work, you will be a better coach, a more productive business owner, and a more fulfilled human being.

Here are 9+ tips to prevent burnout and practice better self-care as a new health coach:

1. Be Realistic With Your Workload

You can’t keep adding responsibilities without taking something else away. Establish a plan to reassess your priorities so you’re not sacrificing sleep or sanity. This includes learning to say “No” so you can say “Yes” to your business and self-care.

Watch out for your ego—the identity-driven voice in your head—that tells you, “You can work 16-hour days.”

2. Step Into the Coach’s Shoes

Let’s say you were coaching a client who came to you for better work/life balance—and that client is you. What do you think of their schedule? What do you think about their balance and stress load? Is this sustainable? Which improvements would you recommend?

3. Set Work Hours (and Honor Them)

Something that goes along with tip #1 is to give yourself specific work hours. Just because you’re your own boss, doesn’t mean you can work all day and night, 7 days a week. Human research repeatedly shows that taking adequate breaks (and adequate sleep) makes us more productive, sharp, and content.

Tell your family and friends your new work hours so that you both honor them. My husband and friends are unknowingly great at this; they’ll remark, “I thought you said you were working half days on Fridays?” I appreciate those reminders.

4. Schedule Protected Time

Experienced wellpreneurs (wellness entrepreneurs) realize how important it is to establish protected time so that there’s space for personal wellness and creative thinking. Here are 3 types of protected time to consider:

Type 1) Me Time: A hormone-stimulating behavior that focuses on activities that build stress-balancing hormones. These behaviors can include social bonding or self-nurturing activities, and it depends on the individual when deciding which behavior will be more balancing. Dive deeper into this famous philosophy in the book Beyond Mars & Venus.

Type 2) We Time: Also from the aforementioned book, this is accomplished with pair-bonding activities that boost oxytocin and reduce stress. Examples include cuddling a pet or romance with a significant other, or just verbally sharing your feelings with a friend or partner.

Type 3) Tiger Time: This is a phrase coined by business coach Amy Porterfield, which she explains as “the part of my day that I fiercely protect (like a tiger and her cub!) in order to give myself the time and space to create my BEST content.”

For all three types of protected time, it is pretty key to tell your family and friends so that you’re more accountable. These types of boundaries take time and diligence because you’ll be constantly tempted to make exceptions (until you burn out).

5. Don’t Rush the Progression

It’s tempting to rush through the early stages of business because you’re following other coaches who are years ahead of you. Trying to keep up with people who have different levels of experience than you is only going to tempt you to hustle harder and deflate your confidence. Remember, your journey is uniquely yours.

If you want to use another coach’s achievements as inspiration, get in touch with them first and ask, “Which experiences and mistakes led you to where you are today?” Then you can see how it compares to your current state and experience.

P.S. This goes for social media accounts, too. If the businesses you follow make you feel stressed, anxious, or insecure, maybe it’s time to mute those accounts for now and focus on your current projects.

6. Use Time Limits for Social Media and Email

Without establishing limits for social media and email, we let others dictate our schedule and we end up living reactively. Try theming or batching your social media and email, or make a rule for yourself like, “No social or email after 8pm.” Utilize new phone features like the iPhone Screen Time menu, or download the Moments app for more ideas.

7. Take Breaks From Health- and Business-Related Content

As a new coach you’re probably obsessed with learning, but your brain really needs a break from the constant barrage of information (and more space for creativity and mindfulness).

My old habit was listening to podcasts and audiobooks every chance I got. I realized, years later, that this habit was taxing my brain’s precious energy. Instead, I now listen to music. In the book Stress Less, Accomplish More, leading meditation expert Emily Fletcher explains the many proven benefits of balancing your left brain activities (like learning and critical thinking) with more right brain activities (like creative things: art, music, meditation).

“For most of us, especially for high achievers, we’ve been taking our left brain to the gym—day in and day out…meanwhile our poor little right brains are in a state of near atrophy.”

She goes on to explain that meditating, or balancing your activities to include right brain expression, means “the communication between the two hemispheres is increased…when you have a strong balance between your right brain and left brain, instead of slipping into fight-or-flight mode [whenever you’re stressed], you find that your mind is able to remain clear and capable.”

8. Reflect and Deliberate Regularly

Getting your thoughts on paper, reflecting on your needs and experiences, has such a noticeable impact on your mental health, productivity, and happiness. Here are two ideas:

1) Try micro-journaling: Make a commitment to micro-journal your thoughts during lunch or some other scheduled time that works for you, and reflect on your daily insights and lessons.

2) Try a self-care reflection once a month, like this one from passion planner and clinical psychologist Dr. Stephanie Wong. Take time to check in and ask yourself what hobbies or releases you might need to nurture yourself and maintain your health and happiness.

9. Work Smarter by Outsourcing 

People don’t pay you to create sales funnels and landing pages, people pay for your skills as a health coach. At first, outsourcing seems like something that’s only reasonable for coaches who make six figures, but that’s not the case. Delegate the responsibilities of technical and repetitive tasks to a VA (Virtual Assistant) and you’ll have more time to teach, inspire, and create (read: business booms!).

Try starting with the directory (and blog) at freeup.net, where they’ll guide you every step of the way. At Freeup, they offer different tiers of service—like VAs that do just what you ask them to do, or VAs who have expertise and can create systems for you and your business.

Meet us in our Facebook group to share which of these 9 ideas you’re going to implement this week.

Now tell us what you think! Leave a comment below to start or join the discussion...

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