Working Healthy

Don't Stress Out: Controlling Stress for a Happy Workplace

Take control of stressful situations by managing your mood and emotions instead of letting them manage you.

A new client trying artificial nails for the first time mistakes a chip for an infection, returns to the salon in a panic, and starts screaming in front of everyone.

Another client makes an appointment for a fill and comes in with half her nails missing. Of course, you’re booked solid for the day and have allowed only 45 minutes for her service.

Then there is the client who nicks the polish on her first hand four times while you are working on her second hand. And what about the distraught client who shares all the depressing and intimate details of her divorce with you? No one ever told you you’d need a Ph.D. in psychology to do nails. By the end of the day you feel anxious, irritable, and unable to focus on your work. You’re stressed out.

Stress in the workplace is nothing new, but with its wider recognition have come many easy techniques to alleviate it. You can control the stress level in your life by practicing relaxation exercises and stress management or finding assistance from professionals. The important thing to realize is that job stress does not have to interfere with your job performance.

To manage job stress and preserve your career, health, and mental well being, it is important to recognize that no job in itself is necessarily stressful.

“People view stress in terms of some unpleasant external threat,” says Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president of the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y. Often, it’s not the event itself that causes anxiety, but how you perceive it. “Observe people on a roller coaster – some with their eyes shut, white-knuckled as they clench the retaining bar, but thrill-seekers relish every steep plunge and can’t wait to get on the very next ride. So it’s not the roller coaster ride itself that is stressful, but what you make of it. And that’s something you can frequently change or control.”

Mark D. Foley of Mark D. Foley Enterprises Ltd., a salon consulting firm in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, points out that a certain degree of stress can be a positive element in the workplace. Most people benefit from, even need, that extra push to stretch themselves and reach for goals and new levels of achievement. Foley urges salon owners and technicians to keep busy.

“It is during free time when we are idle and allow our minds to wander, that we commiserate on the difficulties in our personal and professional lives, creating problems that aren’t even there. By focusing on productive, meaningful tasks, we can keep moving ahead and eliminate a great deal of stress,” Foley says.

Michael Cole, owner and president of Salon Development Corp., a salon consulting company in St. Paul, Minn., has developed a training module used to help people manage or eliminate stress in the salon. Cole explains, “The objective is to be able to take stressful situations in stride, to be in a stressful situation without being stressed.”

Cole’s step-by-step “personal awareness” program is geared to bring people to a level where they can manage their moods and emotions, take stressful situations in stride, and snap out of negative behavior more quickly.

Program participants are asked to recall past experiences and to analyze their feelings and reactions and the effect they had on others around them. For example, someone may recall that when a client showed up 10 minutes late for her appointment for the third time in a row, she felt over-whelmed, became snippy, and ended up bringing out the worst in her client. A positive situation, such as a fully booked schedule with no cancellations, could make the same person feel exhilarated, bringing her talents out and having a radiant influence on those around her.

Cole’s exercise enables participants to recognize the power of a positive attitude. Of course, no one could be happy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but when people are aware of how different situations affect their moods, they can minimize their negative reactions.

When a technician minimizes her stress, it benefits the client just as much as it benefits the technician. If the technician brings her personal problems to work with her or allows the stress of the workday to build up inside of her, the client will soak up the tension like a sponge.

“The client can sense tension in the salon and she in turn becomes more anxious,” says Estelle Wiersema, owner/operator of The Headliner in Jerome, Idaho. Says Wiersema, “When a client is tense, I can feel it in her hands, which makes it difficult to provide the service the way it should be done. When this happens, I give my client a good massage. This helps relax both of us. It is generally the client’s favorite part of the service.”

Wiersema understands the importance of keeping cool under fire and not letting the client know when she feels overwhelmed or down. “Sometimes I just have to step outside for a minute when things start to build up and I feel like I can’t handle it all,” she adds.

Weirsema has the luxury of a private yard behind the salon and says that just taking a minute to stretch her shoulders, shake her head, and separate herself from the activity inside the salon lets her return to the salon with a positive attitude and renewed energy to tackle the day ahead. “The key is learning to deal with the challenges of the day without taking it out on the client,” says Wiersema.

Linda Hamilton, director of education at Gene Juarez Salons in Seattle, Wash., agrees that a technician’s stress can translate into client stress. Hamilton, a technician herself, instructs beginning technicians to show confidence at all times. Beginners face the difficulty of proving their skill to new clients who may interrupt their service by trying to monitor the technician’s work.

Keywords:   combatting burnout     stress relief  

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