Stress Management for Health and Exercise Professionals During Difficult Times

Most of us are faced with managing previously unheard of stressors during these difficult times, including both personal and economic challenges. For most exercise professionals, running a training or coaching practice successfully requires nearly constant focus. On one hand, we are trying to provide as much quality engagement with our clients as possible while also maintaining social distancing. On the other hand, we are challenged with managing the stresses and potential burnout associated with running a service business that is dependent on human contact. During the best of times, it is a balancing act. Now, this act likely must shift in some fashion to pay the bills and maintain some degree of business productivity. Not to be trite, but this is a significant challenge that presents an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

Even under normal circumstances, stress and burnout are common concerns among those working in health and helping professions. Both can happen when people try to reach challenging goals and end up feeling burned out and unmotivated. This, in turn, can cause them to lose touch with themselves and others in the process, including their clients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by (1) feelings of exhaustion; (2) increased mental distance from or feelings of increased negativism toward one’s job; and (3) reduced professional efficacy (WHO, 2019). Burn-out can be seen in highly committed, conscientious, and hard-working people and can be experienced by those who care passionately about the work they do.

Let’s consider the low-hanging fruit in terms of coping during tough times. Keeping this simple, there are two basic coping shifts to consider:

One involves the self-management practices that are easy to put off even in ideal circumstances.
The other involves the shift (or shifts) that have to do with your business and work in the health and fitness field.
With self-management as the top priority, let’s first consider the foundational challenges that most successful trainers and coaches are faced with even during “normal” times.

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