You’re on your feet all day.
You’re smiling on the outside no matter what is happening inside.
You’re an expert at solving others’ problems and putting their needs before your own.
You’re an artist trying to make a living in a business world.
You’re the grit behind the glamor.
So how do you keep it up without burning out?
We invited five hairdressers with very different temperaments, businesses, and backgrounds to take a time-out from their work to discuss burnout, a challenge for any professional. Here are excerpts from their conversation which we hope might help hairdressers – and others – keep their minds fresh and hearts happy.
14 years experience
“How do we avoid burn out? It's been really, really important for me to take care of myself over the years by taking breaks. I frequently go on vacation. During the summer months, I reduce my schedule, and I retreat. It has also been really important for me to have self-care practices; I practice yoga, I go to the gym, I’m conscious of how I eat – all of those things have been really important because standing on your feet for 8, 10, 12 hours a day is no joke, and it has taken its toll on my 40-year-old body. Taking time for myself has been really, really important, and after work, I don’t do anything. I go home and stare at a wall [laughter]. That is part of my ritual: just be quiet.”
25 years experience
“Health and well-being are really important. Sometimes you have to get to the point of almost burning out to recognize how you need to pull back and take care of yourself, and without getting there, you don’t really know. Having a good support system – friends, family, or even a group among peers – to be able to talk to about where you’re at and what you’re going through is really helpful.
One of the things unique to our space is that we don't have hydraulic chairs; we sit on stools that go up and down instead. I’ve been working like that for a very long time, and I think it has significantly saved my body from being completely burnt out.
I notice a lot of stylists work really hard, and then they go away for two weeks. What do you need for yourself? Do you need to go away for a month? Great, do it. Just take care of yourself, and be happy. Honor what you need.”
Independent Hairdresser, Creative Director
18 years experience
“I don’t do any of the things that you two just said, to be really honest. I finally took a kind of vacation after years recently, but this is just the way that I run. If I’m in the space where, ‘I’m bored,’ or ‘I can’t do any more,’ it’s less about stopping, and more about picking up something new in a different area – another project that isn’t limited to this little space that I’m working in. To me, all burnout really means is that I’m not creating, or I’m not learning something.”
5 years experience
“Getting burnt out means you’re not doing, you’re not creating, you’re not envisioning, and it happens not just with veterans but also to people at the beginning of their careers: ‘Okay, I’ve been in this amazing salon for a year; I haven’t done a single model; I’ve just been washing hair and sweeping the floor,’ and it gets to you. It definitely got to me. I thought, ‘Okay, maybe these people don't see me as sufficient or confident enough.’ But getting out of that headspace – and out of that workspace – into something more fluid where I can take models, and have room to make mistakes, grow stronger and create, I don’t get burnt out because I’m doing what I love, and it’s fun. And I’m building relationships, which are vital to human existence. We spend so much time on our phones; it’s so nice to be the person who is giving undivided attention.”
10 years experience
“I’ve been at Hairstory Studio a little over a month and a half, and my quality of life has shifted because this is different. It’s not rushed, it’s not crazy, and everybody here has different creative energy. It’s very calming. I love it. What I do freelance is so different than what I do here, and sometimes that can be hectic and crazy and a lot of different energies, and then to come here and create on another level – I love it. It’s calming, but I also box right down the block. Yeah, I go shadow-boxing and it’s a great outlet, I’m telling you. You’re in your space, and that’s it.
I also have a little workspace in my home, so I’m always making wigs and painting something up. Your environment is key. It’s key.”
“It’s interesting: There are a few different things being talked about here. I immediately went to retreat, ‘Get out of here! Take breaks!’ But everything that everyone has said also resonates, and I think that it’s not enough to physically retreat but sometimes it’s important to diversify, to have other interests outside of doing hair. Even when I am on vacation or something, it does inform and inspire my vision for how I see the world and other people, how I interact. It can enliven those experiences.
It can be easy to get bored when you have the same clients, and you’ve been doing them for years, and sometimes they don’t always wanna change things, right? Then I have to ask myself the question, ‘Well, how am I gonna stop being bored?’ And there are so many opportunities, right? I can just reach out and say, ‘Who wants to let me play? I just need to play!’”
“Everybody here is inspiring in their own way. I see Dustin reading, studying French, and I thought, ‘I signed up for French lessons, but I have yet to make it there.’ And that changed to, ‘Let me get to my French lessons!’ I always see Jason sitting, calm, Buddha-like. He’s just quiet. My client is two hours late, but he reminds me to calm down. It’s inspiring ‘cause you feed off of other people’s energy.”