As far as nail tech and instructor Jeri Mallow is concerned, what goes on in your head is just as important to your job satisfaction as anything that goes on in the salon with clients and coworkers. “A few years ago, I was at an industry conference when a breakout session on burnout caught my eye. Like me, many of the attendees lost interest when they discovered the focus was physical burnout, not mental burnout,” says Mallow, the owner of Nail Essentials in Hartford, Wis., and an instructor for Moraine Park Technical College. “As an instructor myself, it hit me like a ton of bricks how much we need to teach techs about the psychological effects of our industry.
“I began to research mental burnout. I thought our industry needed a change, so I started with myself.” Mallow began by evaluating when she was smiling at work and what bad habits she had developed. She noted defeating self-talk and self-esteem issues. “Most importantly, I noticed when I was venting to clients about my negative issues,” she says. “It was my Oprah ‘aha’ moment.” As she learned and grew, Mallow began to incorporate these lessons into her classes.
Here are five tips taken from Mallow’s mental health lesson plan:
1. Unzip yourself. We are underpaid therapists, but our job is not to fix people — just to listen. All that negativity can build up in us. So after a long day of listening, visualize unzipping yourself and letting out all of the mental build-up. Meditating — even for two minutes — will release the negativity you heard, felt, and took into your heart. I sometimes have my students stare at a blank wall for 15 minutes or lead them in a guided meditation. Activities like these calm the mind and the worldly chatter.
2. Know your boundaries. Direct any uncomfortable conversation where you want it to go. If a client is a chronic complainer, talk about something positive. For example, if everyone is talking about something horrible in the news, bring up something light or funny you saw online. You have that control — take it back. Are you a chronic complainer? Find three positive topics to talk about at the beginning of your day and introduce them into the conversations as well.
3. Be kind to yourself. This doesn’t mean standing in the mirror saying you are good enough. You need to truly change your self-talk. “I’m tired.” “I hate this next client.” “I really don’t like pedicures.” These thoughts are self-defeating. Change them to thoughts like, “I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight,” “This client needs some happy juice but she will not suck the energy from me,” and “I need a new pedicure system, and I can’t wait to get something new.” Happy is just as contagious as sad.
4. Avoid gossip. It is a soul sucker for sure. Hearing about someone else’s dirt may temporarily make you feel better about yourself, but in the end it won’t last. Whatever you pay attention to grows. By paying attention to gossip, gossip grows. Instead, pay attention to kindness, compassion, and love, and watch them grow.
5. Don’t mock people, mimic them. Have a coworker who drives you crazy? That can be draining. But who is losing out? You are. She has some good qualities. Find them and learn from them. Compliment her on her positive attributes and try her techniques. Watch how your view of her changes.
“And above all else,” says Mallow, “don’t stop believing in yourself. You may have created a burnout situation, but you can create a refreshingly new life with a few simple changes.”