Why Being a Sensitive Therapist is Stressful on the Body
Since we spend the majority of our day being relatively still, most people assume the work of a therapist is not physically impactful. Before entering this field, I would have made the same assumption because therapists don’t have to worry about physical labor or extreme temperatures. We spend the majority of our day sitting, talking to clients or doing admin work at our desks. This appears so simple on the surface, but working as a therapist can create more physical discomfort and stress than one may expect.
Just the fact that we sit all day has health implications. As you may have heard, “sitting is the new smoking”. According to the Mayo Clinic, “an analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.”
On top of the health risks of sitting too much, Highly Sensitive Therapists (HST) are susceptible to the physical effects of overstimulation due to our more finely tuned nervous systems and perceptive brains. We notice more subtleties, feel more empathy and process everything at length, leaving us more stressed as a result. With our more active mirror neurons, HSTs may even feel whatever emotions their clients bring into session, making it more difficult to stay regulated and transition to the next session.
All this brain and nervous system activity shows up physically in our bodies as:
Soothing our nervous systems through relaxing self-care routines is an essential practice as Highly Sensitive Therapists since we tend to get more easily overstimulated than our non-HST colleagues.
Sitting all day is stressful on our physical bodies.
Empathizing all day is stressful on our emotional bodies.
In a recent poll of Highly Sensitive Therapists in my Facebook group, 60% are receiving some type of bodywork at least once per month while 79% are using supplements or herbs to manage stress levels.
These HSTs are soothing themselves with:
massage (hot stone, deep pressure, lymphatic, shiatsu)
reiki or energy work
shirodhara and ayurvedic treatments
exercise and yoga
time in nature
herbs, supplements and flower essences
To thrive as Highly Sensitive Therapists, it’s important to be intentional about incorporating movement and physical self-care practices into our routines. In the video below, I speak a little to my own experience with craniosacral work.