Stress Busting

How to Fight Fatigue and Stress as a Hairdresser

by akesha / last updated May 13, 2021

fatigue and stress at work

The world of work can be peppered with frustrations and demands; sometimes so much so that feelings of fatigue and stress 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.  As part of our Mental Health Awareness Week, we rounded up our experts tips for keeping your mental health in check at work.

“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 genuinely feeling.”

Healthy habits to adopt

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 are enormous.

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.

Maintaining a balanced diet

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 and existing on a string of strong coffees or an endless flow of energy drinks can be the norm, but 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 work performance.

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.”

Here’s Robin’s breakdown for treating 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.

Fighting stress with good posture

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, almost had his career 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 NATO, 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 again.”

Stretching out

Zoe Irwin, session stylist and ghd UK brand ambassador, shares some alternative methods: “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 agrees:“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 long career. 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.”

Getting creative with fitness

Barrie Stephen, managing director for Barrie Stephen Hair, also shares his story: “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 positive attitudes.”

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