Working Healthy

New Year’s Resolution #147: Reduce Stress

Here are 5 common stresors and ideas on how to overcome them

Managing stress in your life will do more than reduce your chances of getting an ulcer—it will help you become better at your job. Our profession requires a steady hand, which we may not be able to summon if we are overtired, overworked, and overextended. Because we deal with the public all day, we must maintain an unfailingly positive attitude, which is mightily difficult if we are worried, fretful, or anxious. And finally, we have to be able to contain the stress of our own lives so that we are able to put our clients’ needs first and make them feel comfortable.

What better time than now, as we look forward to the new year (and New Year’s resolutions), to resolve to become better stress managers? While there are hundreds of contributors to our daily stress, we’ve narrowed down the agitators that commonly plague the nail technician and salon owner.

Five Common Stressors and How to Overcome Them

Stressor #1—Disorganization. Cure: Time Management—If you’re a disorganized person, you don’t suddenly become organized. Rather, you learn techniques that help you become organized. You’ll need to adopt new habits: writing things down, keeping a calendar, keeping client files, and delegating responsibility. Beyond that, you will also need to learn your limits and accept that a certain level of disorganization is inevitable.

Become a list-maker. Write everything down on paper and have a place to put every piece of paper. You may choose to carry a small notebook with you or use your calendar for these miscellaneous notes. Keep a daily “to do” list and prioritize each task. If an employee needs a day off, write it down immediately. If you hear of a good book or technique training video, write down the name right away. Write down your goals for yourself or for the salon. Check these goals periodically to see how you’re doing. Prioritize them: What must be accomplished first?

Become a slave to your calendar. If you always write things down in your calendar and constantly check it, you are not likely to forget things like appointments, meetings, trade shows, and deadlines.

Use a client file system. Whether you choose index cards or a sophisticated salon software system, record all information about your clients there. If a client complains write it in her file; if she commends your service, also write it down. Keep a detailed history of each client’s service.

Delegate. Do not be afraid to give up some of your responsibilities. If you’re a salon owner, let your employees handle some administrative responsibilities. They will learn what it takes to run a salon and may develop greater pride in their occupation as a result. If you’re a technician, learn to delegate responsibility on the home-front: Have your children help with housework and errands; ask your spouse to handle his or her share of time consuming chores.

Do a time study. One day write what you do for each half-hour period. At the end of the day, go over your list and see where time was wasted. Is half your day spent dealing with client complaints? Let the technician involved handle them. Do you have a disproportionately large number of repair clients? Spend more time on first applications so that you do them better. Are you constantly being interrupted? How can you learn to “close the door”?

Accept a level of disorganization. Accept the fact that your life may never run perfectly smoothly or be completely organized. You’re human, after all, and you’re imperfect. Do your best, and be satisfied with that.

Stressor #2 : Worry

Cure: Better communication and self-acceptance.

In the book “Stress Breakers,” Helen Lerner writes, “Forty percent of our time is spent worrying about things that never happen, 30 percent is spent fretting about things that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world; 12 percent is spent misinterpreting feelings of others; and 10 percent is spent worrying over your health, which only gets worse when you worry.”

Some of the most brilliant and inspirational words ever written on the matter of worrying (and the futility of it) are in a well-known poem called The Serenity Prayer. The message is simple, yet profound: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Like everything else in life, a certain amount of worry is normal, even healthy. It can prevent you from acting foolishly on impulse or from making mistakes. But if you’re constantly fretting about every little thing to the point where you’re afraid to make a move, then worrying becomes fuel for stress and needs to be stopped with a definite action.

If you’re afraid that the new salon owner might be thinking of laying you off because business is slow, talk to her and express your anxiety. If you’re worried that you’ll lose clients to a new salon opening down the street, concentrate on improving your skills and services so they won’t want to leave.

Fight every reaction with an action and you can cut down on senseless worrying and save yourself needless stress.

Stressor #3: Tension due to lack of exercise

Cure: Simple stretches, deep breathing

Exercise tops everybody’s New Year’s resolution list, except maybe Jane Fonda’s. We already know that most of us will never get around to exercising regularly. So instead of promising ourselves that we will do serious leg lifts, how about just resolving to do a few minutes every day of simple tension-relieving stretches in the salon?

Hunching over for several hours working on nails can cause neck and back muscles to stiffen. Relax yourself between clients with a few minutes of stretching, bending, and deep breathing to melt away stress and get your circulation flowing. Try scheduling sometime between appointments so you have time to loosen up. Walk around the salon and shake out your legs.

On a busy day, when it’s hard to leave your workstation, do some stretches while you’re waiting for a client’s nails to dry or while she washes her hands. Stretch out your legs while in a sitting position. Tense leg muscles and hold a few seconds. Release muscles and relax. Repeat this several times. If there’s time, stretch your arms over your head or out in front of you. Tense and relax your shoulder muscles.

Another quick way to relieve stress is to lean against a wall and bend slowly from side to side. Slowly twist your body left, then right. You can do this while following up on client phone calls.

If you’re having a particularly tense day, take a few minutes to go somewhere quiet. Stand tall and take deep breaths. Stretch your arms way over your head and try to reach the ceiling. Roll your head from side to side while inhaling deeply.

Stressor #4: Demands of others (or no time to yourself)

Cure: Daydreaming and delegating

Your clients want your attention, your family wants your attention, your friends want your attention, your boss or your employees want your attention . . . and you could use a little self-attention.

The only way you’re ever going to have time for yourself is to plan it into your day just as you would a nail appointment. Take time every day for yourself, whether it’s just a few minutes spent sitting on a park bench daydreaming or an hour you spend exercising or otherwise pampering yourself.

Allow yourself some time every day to daydream. It can be about your future plans, your fantasy date, a vacation you’d like to take, or about nothing at all.

You do not have to do everything. Delegating will help you manage your time better so you have more of it for yourself. If you have a completely full appointment book and have to sneak a sandwich during the five minutes you’re waiting for your next appointment, it’s time to think about delegating. Plan a free hour into your day, whether it’s for a long lunch, to do promotional work for your business, or to make a personal call.

Stressor #5: Decisions

Cure: Take the plunge (or get off the fence)

What if? Those two words can be deadly. They can incapacitate you and render you unable to make a decision. Most of us have problems with decisions because we’re afraid of making the wrong one. Our inner critic berates us constantly: “What if you ask for a raise and you get turned down?” “What if you pitch a new idea to your colleagues and they laugh at you?” “What if you try to sell a client something and she gets angry and calls you pushy?” Well, turn the question right back on yourself: What if you don’t ask for a raise? What if you don’t pitch your new idea? What if you don’t try to sell retail? The answers are simple: You won’t get a raise. No one will ever know your great idea. And, you’ll never make the extra money that can come with retail selling.

And suppose all your worst fears do come true? Suppose you ask for a raise and you get turned down? Maybe you’ve learned that your income is limited where you are and it’s time to move on. What if your colleagues laugh at your new idea? Maybe you learn that they are just as afraid as you are of trying new things, but maybe you’d rather work somewhere where they are at least receptive to innovative ideas. And what if your client reacts negatively when you try to sell her? Maybe you need to bone up on your sales skills. Perhaps you need to develop a more subtle sales approach.

We are not so optimistic that we think every decision, made with conviction and determination, turns out well. You make mistakes, everyone does. You may make the wrong decision. Let’s say you battled back and forth with yourself about adding a skin care center in your nail salon. Finally you took the plunge, bought expensive equipment, hired an esthetician, advertised all over town. And you realize after a few months that it isn’t working out. Maybe the competition from a nearby salon is too great, maybe your technicians were resistant to the idea of expanding to include that service, maybe the community isn’t ready for this type of “luxury” service.

Time to make another decision. Have you given it your best shot? Have you done everything you could to promote the new service? Have you taught your technicians how to suggest the service to nail customers? Have you advertised or promoted the new service? Well, what will happen if you decide to discontinue the service? Maybe you’ll lose some money, maybe you’ll feel like a failure because you couldn’t make it work, maybe you’ll regret not giving it a better try.

When you make a particularly hard decision, learn to accept it. Acceptance is the key to so much stress reduction. Make your decision, and vow to live with the consequences, good or bad. If you decide to discontinue offering skin care service, accept it as a learning experience. Don’t vow never to try something like that again, but vow to always stay open to new possibilities. Maybe do more research now about how to launch a skin care business. Get a better feel for what the community wants as well. You may not have done enough to educate your potential clients or you may not have created a need for your service. There will always be a next time.

Naturally, our little list just touches on some of the stressors you will face this year. We haven’t even mentioned perfectionism, dieting, love, loneliness, dealing with failure. But if you learn to combat only one or two stressors, you can reduce the number of stress-related illnesses you get this year (headaches, stomach problems, anxiety attacks). As well, you may find that you are more productive at work, more relaxed at home, and more pleasant to be around.

So if this article gets buried under a pile of junk, or your four-year-old takes the scissors to it, don’t get stressed out. Relax, daydream, and call us. We’ll send you another copy.

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