How to Fight Fatigue and Stress as a Hairdresser
The world of work can be peppered with frustrations and demands; sometimes
so much so that feeling stressed becomes a way of life. In small doses it can help
you perform under pressure, but when it’s constant, stress has a negative effect on
mind, body and health. We spoke to a few experts on how they combat fatigue and stress.
“Everyone, from manager to junior, experiences stress to a greater or lesser degree.
It affects us all and can build up over time. As a salon owner or manager, spotting
the signs in your team members is just as important as recognising it within
yourself to avoid and address potential problems ahead,” comments Darren Potter, former
Aveda general manager, UK and Ireland.
“There are of course many obvious signs of stress such as a dramatic change in
performance; loss of initiative, motivation, or drive; difficulty concentrating; always
getting to work late; taking days off sick; reoccurring headaches and pains; or being
short-tempered and irrationally angry.
“Regular chats are the best way to check on someone’s mood, particularly if they
appear casual in tone. Engaging in ad hoc how’s-it-going-type banter in a relaxed
environment allows staff to open up, and you can soon gauge how an individual is
According to Darren, focusing on how you feel is the first step in managing stress.
Once you know you’re beginning to suffer, there are simple methods of managing
the problem which, if practised daily, can significantly reduce stress levels.
Breathing: Take time to do a breathing exercise every morning. Use the Aveda Stress
Fix roller ball and apply it to the palm of your hand, then hold it in front of your nose;
inhale to the count of 10, then hold for 10 seconds and exhale for 10 seconds. Repeat
this three times.
Yoga: Make the time to practise yoga two or three times a week, even if it’s only for
short 15 to 20-minute sessions. The relaxing, mind-levelling benefits of this discipline
Walking: A great form of stress relief, regular walking in an open environment,
frees the mind and loosens the body. If possible, try walking home from the salon; a
marvellous way to wind down after a full-on day dealing with clients.
Meditation: Once home, try candlelight meditation. Simply light a candle and stare
at its flame trying not to blink until your eyes start to water. Sounds weird, but it’s very
relaxing and takes your mind off the busy day you’ve just experienced.
Hairdressers that eat healthily are good for business; those that don’t are less so. During
salon hours, calorie intake can be considerable, not least because lunch can also be
supplemented by mid-morning and afternoon snacks and, if it’s a particularly long day, other meals besides.
Bolting your food between clients, existing on a string of strong coffees or an endless
flow of energy drinks can be the norm and not what the doctor or dietician ordered.
Treating the body like a temple isn’t always compatible with the hairdressing
environment, but a daily diet of junk food and take-aways is detrimental for health and
Diet and behaviour expert Robin Pauc, author of The Brain Food Plan and other titles,
says: “Recent research would suggest that a diet high in junk food – refined sugars and
bad fats – prevents good brain function, and may actually be damaging; preventing
essential physiological processes and reducing the ability to remain focused.
“The Mental Health Foundation UK has suggested that a great many adults have
insufficient Omega 3 in their diets – essential for everyday brain
functioning – and often far too much Omega 6. Daily supplementation with
a quality product can reduce the impact of any junk foods that have been
consumed and ensure that the brain gets these essential Omegas in the correct
dosage and balance.
“Sweets and treats should be the exception and not the rule. Giving the body the right foods at the right time means that you are more likely to be healthy, active and mentally alert. As for hydration, the odd cup of tea or coffee is fine, but it’s very important to make sure you are drinking sufficient water during the day.
Fizzy drinks and sweets containing empty calories or stimulants should be avoided.”
Robin’s recommendations for food as healthy fuel:
Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. A selection of complex foods with protein/fat/carbohydrates will be slowly processed within the body, helping to keep the blood sugar level steady. Cereals or toast will be processed
too quickly, may cause a short-lived sugar high, and then leave you hungry.
Mid-morning snack: piece of fruit. The sugar in fruit helps keep sugar levels
and energy up. Eat fruit that you could grow in your own garden, as the sugar
content isn’t as high as in some exotic fruits.
Lunchtime: try to have a small sensible meal (not junk food), or a sandwich of
protein and salad.
Mid-afternoon snack: fruit, or carrot sticks with houmous.
Evening meal: meat/fish/fowl with a selection of vegetables, and small
potatoes (they take longer to digest). Pasta or rice-based meals should also
contain meat and vegetables.
Hunching, slouching, straining – poor posture can so easily go with the territory when you’re on your feet all day. Stretching is important in standing jobs such as hairdressing and yet we all tend to think that our spine is fine until something goes horribly wrong.
It’s not all about your age either; youth is no protection against persistent pain, as two accomplished hairdressers explain.
Charlie Mann, salon partner and commercial director for Electric Hairdressing, London and Liverpool Charlie’s hairdressing career was almost derailed after he severely
damaged his back doing building work. At the age of 24 he couldn’t walk for a month,
let alone work and the medical prognosis was grim. Sheer willpower, a love of sport,
and some advice from a good friend inspired a full recovery.
“A major in the Royal Marines pointed me in the direction of a fitness training
programme hailed as the most elite in NA TO, and I decided this was
the only target worth aiming for. Eleven months later when I attended my pre-op
assessment I was discharged immediately with no surgery necessary.
“I’m proud that I’ve made a full recovery and five years on I work long and hard days
in the salon with no physical pain, commute to Liverpool once a week, hold seminars and represent Electric the world over.
I also train every day, no excuse. I was a finalist in The Daily Telegraph’s Britain’s Fittest
Business Director competition, and I’ve undertaken and completed loads of sporting
challenges, from marathons to mountaineering.
“I’ve used the lessons I’ve learned to help the team around me with tips and advice on
core strengthening, flexibility and total body conditioning. We have professional
instructors deliver in-salon fitness seminars and core advice, and as a team we all now
participate in multiple disciplines and sports.
At 30 I’m supremely healthy and fit and I enjoy pain-free days at work. It’s nevertheless
been a tough journey and I’ll never take for granted being able to put on my socks ever
Zoe Irwin, session stylist and ghd UK brand ambassador
“Yoga and tai chi have been my salvation since I was diagnosed with repetitive strain
industry (RSI) at the age of 36, and told by three specialists that I’d never be able to do hairdressing again.
My downfall was blow-drying and ironically I learnt of my condition after being dubbed
the ‘blow-dry queen’ by Vogue.
“I still practise yoga and spend two hours a week with a massage and osteopath therapist
who uses a laser treatment designed for repairing athlete’s muscles after injury.
I also go on retreats and have just returned from Thailand after badly dislocating my
shoulder. I did 16 hours of tai chi in a week to speed my recovery and it had amazing
results. I also do 15 minutes of stretching every morning, which really helps.
“It’s been my mission to increase awareness of RSI and carpel tunnel syndrome within
the industry and to communicate how as hairdressers we can help ourselves. In my ghd
masterclasses I teach students how to properly distribute their weight and how to
hold the hairdryer and brushes. The key problem is the way hairstylists stand while
working, and the fact that as they get busier during the day strain in the neck and
upper back increase.
They forget to raise the height of their client’s chair and so lean forward creating roundness and storing up future problems.
“I’ve learnt a simple stretching routine from a Pilates and yoga teacher and I share this
on my courses. I’m advocating the benefits of salon-based yoga sessions
every morning in terms of boosting team performance.”
Regular exercise is the route to health and wellbeing. From the purely physical
to the postural, sporting to the spiritual, it’s all good stuff; burning fat, building
muscle, slashing stress and erasing anxiety.
Yoga is the panacea of many a hardworking hairdresser. Industry icon Errol Douglas
shares his story.
“I first got into yoga almost five years ago. It all began when I bumped into a friend
and barely recognised her due to a combination of her physical appearance and sheer
aura. At that moment, I knew I was going to begin my own Bikram yoga quest.
“I think it’s important to have something outside of work that helps you stay
healthy because this industry can be at times both physically and mentally draining.
Having somewhere to go to maintain health as well as balance is conducive to a
“I’ve also tried other forms of fitness recommended to me by my staff including
boot camps, running, and spinning. Like myself, most of them have actively sought
something outside of the salon to maintain equilibrium and I feel this has helped
me form a strong team.
I strongly believe in my Bikram to the point where I take my staff to classes with
me if they’re interested. When I’m overseas I encourage those travelling with me to
come with me to a session. I did this with the FAME team in Australia.”
The future’s Fit for Business at Barrie Stephen, Leicester: “I think everyone wants to be
healthy, but sometimes they need some help and so Fit For Business was born and it’s
proved an absolute triumph. The team love it, sick days diminish, productivity goes up
and we feel much better.
“Being fit and healthy isn’t just important for your staff’s wellbeing, it’s also vital for
balancing the books and maintaining morale. Team members taking a lot of time off
sick inevitably spell cancelled appointments, increased pressure on the rest of the
workforce, disgruntled clients and possibly a damaged reputation.
“As part of our health-kick we’ve brought in a personal trainer who’s introduced
‘easy exercise’ to the teams in each of our four salons.
“As well as encouraging things like walking, and eating five pieces of fruit and veg a day,
we’ve incorporated anti-stress lessons from a life coach, self-defence skills sessions,
sport, and even hypnotherapy to stop smoking, the list goes on. “It’s a great motivator
and improved personal health has a natural knock-on effect on a happy salon life and