Resources for Hairdressers Struggling with their Mental Health
We’ve been through a lot as an industry the past year, and that means hairdressers struggling with their mental health has become all the more common. On top of it being a non-stop, detail-oriented profession anyway, struggles with lockdowns, business closures and added health and safety precautions has only added to the list of why being in the hair industry isn’t all that easy.
For HJ’s Mental Health Awareness Week, held as we slowly emerge through this third lockdown, we thought it was an important time to check in with the community and help out with those who may be struggling. To do so, we dug through the archives and pulled up our chat with Louise Wood, a practising integrative counsellor (BA Hons Counselling, BACP member) as well as the managing director for LWPR, who had this to say:
“It is very normal to have raised anxiety at a time like this, so it is useful to re-frame the term, which has come to be labelled in a negative way. We all have anxiety- it’s what keeps us safe when crossing the road, or turning off the electricity before you pull a plug out of the wall. These things are helpful fears and are adapted into everyday life. When anxiety spirals, which it can at times of extremity, is when it is worth taking stock.”
With this in mind, we have worked with Louise to assemble and create a number of resources and contacts for you to use in these particularly challenging times. These will be broken down into immediate and long-term actions. We hope these help you in any small way.
Resources for more immediate mental health issues
If you are struggling with intense, negative emotions during this period (or any time), it is important you reach out to someone who can help. This could be a family member, friend, partner or colleague.
As important as the above step is, this may not always be the final solution- the person you try to reach out to could be unavailable, or you may feel uncomfortable sharing this information, or perhaps you may need further help following this. If so, considering getting in contact with the below:
Samaritans – offering confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair. You can contact Samaritans by clicking the link or calling 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline).
Calm – CALM (or Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity that provides a mental health helpline and webchat. You can contact Calm by clicking the link or calling 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight).
No Panic – A voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that offers courses to help overcome your phobia or OCD. You can contact No Panic by clicking the link or calling 0300 772 9844 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge.
Resources for coping long-term with mental health issues
Often, struggles with mental health can be less immediate and instead manifest over a prolonged amount of time. This is especially relevant when considering the current lockdown. Below, we have linked out to a few places you can read-up on specific techniques and developments happening worldwide.
Psychology Tools – As noted by Louise, “Psychology Tools gives practical aids and advice particularly in relation to anxiety.” A particularly relevant guide to ‘Living With Worry And Anxiety Amidst Global Uncertainty’, is an incredibly informative resource for our current climate and was strongly praised by Louise.
NHBF – The National Hair and Beauty Federation has been uploading multiple guides to mentally coping with the pandemic from early last year, which you may find helpful. It is also a great way of keeping up-to-date with industry news, but do so carefully; for some, staying informed helps but for others it may contribute to further mental health struggles.
Hairdressers Journal: Here at Hairdressers Journal, we have also attempted to regularly publish helpful content for those who may be struggling. You can keep up to date with all of our tailored content from HJ’s Mental Health Week by checking out the full schedule here.
As well as helping out with assembling these resources, we asked Louise for her counselling expertise on dealing with these times of internal struggle. Below, she outlines why you may be having a particularly hard time and then details her ‘Four Elements’ exercise, which she often uses in a therapy setting to help ease anxiety.
How to monitor your mental health in times of crisis:
Louise believes strongly in finding a balance for well-being, outlining three key variables:
- Pleasure – getting in touch with the things that bring you joy.
- Achievement – this can range from getting up and dressed to a challenging exercise routine; however small, overcoming a challenge is incredibly beneficial.
- Closeness/connection – humans are born for connection, so this time of enforced separation is unnatural and difficult.
When these elements are imbalanced, your mental health can be affected. Due to the enforced separation of the lockdown, these elements have become more difficult to achieve. Considering this, we now hand over to Louise who practices the below technique as a way of calming her clients regularly.
The ‘Four Elements’ Exercise:
“This relaxation technique is a great way of collecting evidence about your stress levels and finding your own super-power to soothe yourself. It will likely take 2-3 weeks of practice to get the full benefit.
“Firstly, put a small coloured sticker on your phone where you will notice it each time you pick it up.
“Then, notice how much stress you are feeling right now and write it down. Perhaps refer back to the above exercise by considering how much the three elements outlined above are a part of your life currently.”
First Element: Earth
“Place both feet on the ground and feel the floor, then the chair supporting you. Take a minute to ‘land’ and feel the here and now. Then, look around at three things you hadn’t noticed before:
- What do you hear?
- What can you smell?
- How is the temperature in the room?
“Once you have an idea of this, you can ask a few more questions. Do you notice anything else? Is anyone else sharing the space with you?
“Doing this should help with a sense of mindfulness. You are here now, in the present, and you can feel safe.”
Second Element: Air
“Let your attention gently focus on the breath. As you breathe, visualise the air travelling down towards your stomach. Count slowly as you breathe in for four seconds, gently hold for two seconds, and then slowly breathe out through pursed lips (as if you were cooling a cup of tea) for six seconds. Repeat this way of breathing 8 times.”
Third Element: Water
“Ask yourself, is your mouth moist or dry? When you are anxious or stressed your mouth often dries up, but when you are making saliva it is a sign you are relaxing.
“Take a minute or two to make more and more saliva. You can imagine biting into a lemon or you can gently hold your tongue between your teeth. As you do this, you may also notice you have more control over your thoughts and that they may feel less disturbing.”
Fourth Element: Light
“Bring up a place, image or situation that makes you feel calmer and safe, somewhere preferably outside that connects you to a happy memory. This is your “calm secure place”.
“Keep noticing how you feel in your body when you focus on your “calm secure place”, and now give it a name. We can now strengthen the connection with the place and the name through “bilateral stimulation”. This involves tapping the top of your arms or chest with butterfly hugs – where you gently tap your left and right sides with crossed over arms alternately while repeating the name of your secure place.”
“Focus on this for a few minutes, and then look at the sticker on your phone. Take a moment to consider how you are currently feeling in comparison to earlier, from intense to low stress.
“The idea of the exercise is that every time you see it you will notice these things and remember a good place and good feelings. If you practice the ‘Four Elements’ exercise regularly- say, 3-4 times a day- you can monitor your stress level and try to reduce it. After a week or two, you may even be able to get yourself into a calm state by looking at your sticker on your phone by way of association.”