Stress Busting

How to Fight Fatigue and Stress as a Hairdresser

by akesha / last updated May 5, 2022

fighting stress hairdresser

A demanding career can often make fatigue and stress feel like a way of life, something many a hairdresser can relate to. In small doses, stress can help you perform under pressure, but when it’s constant, the effect on your mind, body and health can be harmful. So we’ve rounded up our expert tips for keeping your mental health in check at work.

“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.

A dramatic change in performance; loss of motivation; difficulty concentrating; always getting to work late; taking days off sick; reoccurring headaches and pains; or being short-tempered and irrationally angry – do any of these sound familiar? These are common signs of high-stress levels.

In this article we’ll look at:

Fighting fatigue and stress as a hairdresser

Healthy habits

We have to look out for ourselves as much as we do for others, and spotting the early signs that you might be flagging is essential. There are simple methods you can introduce to reduce its impact.

Breathing: It sounds obvious, but the power of regulated breathing is underestimated by many. A great pattern for calm the body is to breathe in for a count of four, hold the breath for seven seconds and breathe out for eight. Repeat this as many times as you like, or until you begin to feel settled.

This can be great first thing in the morning, or even whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil!

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

The working day of a hairdresser is anything but routine. Often, lunch will 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.

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 prevents good brain function, essential physiological processes and reduces the ability to remain focused.

Beginner’s tips

Take an Omega 3 supplement

The Mental Health Foundation UK has suggested that 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.

Stay hydrated

“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.”

Limit intake of sweet treats

“Sweet treats should be the exception not the rule. It isn’t necessary to completely cut these foods out, as you’ll be unlikely to maintain this.”

Here’s Robin’s breakdown for treating food as healthy fuel: 

Breakfast: It’s better to eat something rather than nothing. However, a selection of complex foods with protein/fat/carbohydrates will be slowly processed within the body, helping to keep the blood sugar level steady.

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.

Good posture

Hunching, slouching, straining – poor posture can feel inevitable when you’re on your feet all day. It’s not all about your age either; youth is no protection against persistent pain, as two accomplished hairdressers explain. Becoming aware of your posture is a great place to start, ensuring it isn’t slung on the backburner throughout the working day.

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, but an elite fitness training programme rehabilitated him within 11 months. But he wishes he hadn’t let it get to that stage!

“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 who deliver in-salon fitness seminars and core advice, and as a team, we all now participate in multiple disciplines and sports.”

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 an injury. I also do 15 minutes of stretching every morning, which really helps.

In my ghd masterclasses, I teach students how to properly distribute their weight and how to hold the hairdryer and brushes. I’m also 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 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.”

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. 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 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.”

Are you caught up with our Mental Health Awareness Week? Here’s how to avoid feeling lonely and isolated as a hairdresser.

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