Opening a gym can often be one of those mental health highs. From the excitement to the anticipation of changing lives, it’s all quite a rush. And when you first opened your doors, the thought of burnout probably never crossed your mind.
‘I love what I do. It doesn’t even feel like work.’
But what about several years down the road? The long hours and financial strain have started to add up. The idea of taking a vacation seems impossible. Your overwhelm is becoming contagious, trickling down to your staff and even members.
And suddenly you realize you’re moving from overwhelm to gym owner burnout.
At this point, it might feel like burnout is just an inevitable part of running a small business. But according to Dr. Christina Migliara, it doesn’t have to be.
Migliara is a licensed mental health professional with TheraFit. She has 20 years of experience in mental health, specializing in relationships, trauma and addictions. She’s also a CrossFit Level 2 coach and owner of CrossFit Tailwinds in Jacksonville, FL. Her gym includes an entire wellness center for everything from nutrition to mental health therapy.
Five Ways To Protect Your Mental Health as a Gym Owner:
As an experienced mental health coach, Migliara has often seen the various stages of sliding into burnout. So in being as proactive as possible to avoid it, she offered these steps for gym owners to protect their overall wellness:
1. Recognize the Need for a Mental Health Hygiene Routine.
Migliara started by explaining that everyone should have a mental health hygiene routine.
“Mental health hygiene is essentially the routine you create each day that you do that helps you to feel your best self,” she said.
Essentially, if your routine is a good one, it helps create healthy and happy boundaries in your life. These keep you mentally healthy in order to avoid unwanted mental repercussions like burnout.
“When we have a bad routine, or no routine at all, we start to feel the burnout, the compassion fatigue,” explained Migliara. “All of the issues creep in, there are no boundaries, and we start to deplete, and essentially crash and burn.”
For the gym owner, this could mean you’re less engaged with your coaches and members. So if this makes them less likely to stick around, it affects your financial bottom line. From there, it’s a downward cycle, which only increases your stress level.
2. Implement the Seven Mental Health Pillars.
So how do you create a healthy mental health hygiene routine? A great place to start is what Migliara refers to as the “Mental Fit Framework.”
This simply means implementing habits around seven mental health pillars. They include quiet time, exercise, nutrition, sleep/recovery, time in nature, socialization and hobbies.
One important note Migliara pointed out is that everyone is unique, and differs in how much they need of each pillar. For example, some might need more quiet time to recover, while others might need more socialization.
The key is to ensure you’re finding your own balance and making time for each of the pillars in the way that feels best for you.
3. Find a Hobby.
It can feel impossible as a gym owner to make the time for hobbies. But doing so can be just what you need to feel recharged. Plus, it might be just the thing you need to force you to work a bit less than you are now.
For example, do you often find yourself saying you’ll limit your work hours or take some time off? Then something comes up and you’re still at the gym at 6pm on Friday.
Committing to a hobby is a great way to make time for something you love. For instance, make a standing tee time at the local golf course on Fridays at 1pm. This will force you to step away from your business and be accountable to your plans.
“The bottom line is, it’s important to figure out what you need,” Migliara explained. Not only for your mental health and life balance but for you to feel energized showing up at your gym. And not just in the first year, but for years to come.
4. Prioritize Time Away and Vacations.
Oftentimes, it’s not that gym owners can’t find the money or time to take time off. It’s that they’re scared to delegate or simply not be present at the gym.
‘But what if the place burns down when I’m away?’
Taking time away (the recovery pillar) is key to keeping you fresh for the long-term, Migliara said.
Having the confidence to take a break, and actually unplug while you’re away, “starts with the hiring process,” she said. It comes down to the gym owner’s ability to put the right people in the right place.
Trust your gut when you’re hiring a team. Find people who align with your mission. Then take the time to train them so your business can run effectively whenever you’re away.
5. Explore Mental Health Education.
Ultimately, the more educated you are about mental health, the better. Not just for you, but also to ensure your coaches and clients are also taking care of their mental health.
It starts with you. If you have the education and skills to prioritize your mental health, you can then help others. Then your staff and clients will be set up for success, both inside and outside of your gym.
First, it’s an introductory course that teaches gym owners how to take care of their own mental health. Secondly, it helps them develop mentally-healthy staff and clients.
Essentially, the course is all about mindset, Migliara explained, and how to build healthy mindsets for optimal mental health.
In Summary: Your Overall Health Matters.
Experiencing burnout doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with being a gym owner. You may have started your gym to help people with fitness and nutrition. But mental health is an integral part of overall wellness, for them and you.
Similar to a workout training schedule, you have to consciously work on creating an effective mental health hygiene routine. Find a hobby and prioritize time off to recharge. Build your team with people you trust and educate yourself about mental health options.
All of these things put you on a path of longevity as a physically- and mentally-healthy business owner. And they allow you, as the owner, to truly make a difference in your community.
ICYMI: Check out Part 1 of the Mental Health Series (Myths and Truths for Your Gym Community) HERE!
Disclaimer: “I am a Licensed Mental Health Professional. However, this is not therapeutic advice. The content of this message is intended for educational purposes only and not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding your mental or physical well-being. Further, some content in this message may be sensitive and cause triggering. Never disregard professional mental advice or delay in seeking help because of something you have heard or read in this message.”