Working Healthy

Managing Your Stress

Lessen anxiety and maximize job enjoyment by overcoming five basic stressors.

Suzanne Lees went to take her state boards. Despite acing the theory portion of the test with a perfect score of 100%, she Med the practical because she accidently packed product remover instead of monomer into her test kit. “At this point, I couldn’t do my sculpts or make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” she joked ruefully. (She did pass the test with flying colors the second time.)

She headed home from the test only to have her brand- new van die right in the driveway. “The alarm system was improperly installed, so it drained the battery?’ she explains. She paid to have it towed to two different dealerships before it could be fixed. Meanwhile, back at home, her oldest son arrived home from the dentist with expensive news: he needs braces. A phone call from her husband soon after informed her that he had been diagnosed with acute tendonitis in his left shoulder and must begin physical therapy.

It seems that when it comes to stress, when it rains, it pours and nail technicians, like everyone else, have to deal with stressors in their personal and professional lives. “I know when I have to travel, I get wired from juggling my schedule and rushing to see everyone during a trade show,” says Debbie Doerrlamm, a nail technician who travels to promote her website business at trade shows across the country. “Others say they are continually stressed simply from being overworked and overbooked.”

If you structure your schedule so that you walk a tightrope every day to fit all of your clients in, it is easy to fall out of schedule. Even though some nail technicians feel that booking time for lunch, exercise, or bathroom breaks is a waste of time and income, it may be necessary for your health and well-being. Doing nails requires patience, skill, and a steady hand — all things that can easily elude the technician if she’s overtired, sick or overwhelmed. Because you deal directly with the public, you must be careful to give clients your full attention and have a positive, upbeat attitude. You must also be able to contain the stress in your own life and put your clients’ needs first—hard to do when you’ve got friends and family making demands.

You can control the negative effects of stress in your life by using simple stress management techniques and practicing relaxation exercises. It also is important to realize that often it is not events that cause anxiety, but the way people perceive them. One stress management expert likens this theory to a roller coaster ride. While some riders will “white knuckle” the retaining bar with their eyes closed, others will raise their hands and relish every steep plunge. So the roller coaster ride itself is not stressful, but what the riders make of it can be.

When you minimize your own stress, it benefits your client as much as it benefits you. On the whole, nail technicians seem to be plagued by five major agitators, and how they handle them will dictate their success and happiness with their career:

Stressor #1: Disorganization

If you often have trouble finding client phone numbers or can’t remember when you scheduled your vacation, you may already know that you need to adopt time management habits like keeping a “to do” list, becoming a slave to a calendar, and faithfully recording information in client files. You should learn to delegate tasks if you can and keep an eye on how you use time throughout the day. Focus on one task or client at a time and try not to be overwhelmed by a list of projects or clients to service. Also, accepting that you will always have a certain level of disorganization makes you easier on yourself. Do your best.

Stressor #2: Worry

Helen Lerner, author of the book Stress Breakers, writes that, “Forty percent of our time is spent worrying over things that never happen; 30% is spent fretting about things that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world; 12% is spent misinterpreting feelings of others; and 10% is spent worrying over your health, which only gets worse when you worry.” A certain amount of worry is normal, even healthy. If worry takes over, it can be bad for your work and clients, and detrimental to your health. If you are afraid that slow business might mean that you’ll be laid off, talk to the salon owner and express your feelings. If you are troubled by the fact that a new salon down the street will lure clients away, concentrate on improving your skills and services so that they won’t give it a thought. Counter every worry with a specific action. “Nail technicians should try to keep things that they can’t control from stressing them out,” says Karol Singleton of Centre Salon and Day Spa in Clearwater, Fla. “The things we can control are our books and our clients. If you book clients back to back or don’t give yourself enough time to finish a service, then you haven’t booked properly and that will generate stress for you.”

Stressor #3: Tension

Nail technicians sit in the same chair every day for long periods of time. Use simple stretches and deep breathing exercises to perk yourself up and keep your body healthy. Sitting m your chair (maybe while a client’s picking out polish colors or washing her hands), stretch out your legs while remaining sitting. Contract your leg muscles and hold them in place for a few seconds. Release, relax, and then repeat several times. Do the same for your arms, by stretching them out over your head or out in front of you. Tense and relax your shoulder muscles. Proper breathing during these exercises is even more essential. If you are familiar with yoga, you know that proper breathing is the key to relaxation. Take a few minutes alone, especially after a difficult client experience. Stand tall and inhale in deep breaths. Inhale as much as possible and then exhale even more. Roll your neck gently in circles along your shoulders to release tension. Taking tension out on coworkers or family can cause even more stress, so try to commit yourself to relieving it in other ways.

Stressor #4: Lack of Time

If everyone is demanding your attention and you have none to give yourself, you may have to look at how you schedule your day. Do you give yourself enough time in between appointments? Do you book a lunch time for yourself? Do you book enough time to complete certain services? The only way some nail technicians can find time for themselves or to accomplish a certain task, is to plan it in their daily schedule like a nail appointment. Re-evaluate how you create your schedule and decide where and how it is best to pad it with some time for yourself or to attend to personal business. On some days the extra time will allow you to pick up supplies or run an errand, but on other days it could save you from getting too far behind or having to turn away a regular client with a nail emergency.

“Even though I try to schedule a lunch break before mid-afternoon, I can’t always take it,” says Mindy Borrego of Mindyfingers in Granby, Conn. If the extra time in your schedule is still not enough, learn to delegate or trade favors with fellow nail technicians. If the neighboring nail tech can remove polish or prep the client for a service when you’re overwhelmed, you can return the favor some other time.

Stressor #5: Decisions

Many of us have a terrible time making decisions because we are afraid to make mistakes. Realize that we all make mistakes and bad decisions. But do you learn from yours? If you try to sell polish to a client only to be turned down, don’t give up on retailing — examine your sales approach. Then take a class at a trade show or ask another nail technician how she achieves sales. After you feel like you’ve bettered your skills, try selling to clients with whom you are comfortable or are more familiar.

When you make a particularly hard decision that goes wrong, learn to accept it and let go. Acceptance is the key to reducing stress. Roll with the consequences, good or bad, and learn as much as you can from the results.

Other anxiety producers, like perfectionism, dieting, love, loneliness, dealing with failure, plague nail technicians all the time. Learning to deal with basic salon stressors can help you tackle bigger issues and maintain your health and your enthusiasm for your job and personal life. Remember, it’s never as bad as you think it will be, so tackle issues head on and learn from the result.

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