Kathy Jager: Journaling Toward Health
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Her story wasn’t unusual—a single mom struggling to support two daughters—but what was uncommon about Kathy Jager was her intuitive understanding that she had to take care of herself if she wanted to be there for her children and her clients. She started out working at a salon and trying to build a clientele, and before long she was also doing some education for ISO/Zotos, which required local travel. Money was the goal, since her husband had left her with not only the kids but also a mortgage.


“I was on the road three days a week in my 1987 Cavalier with no air-conditioning or cell phone,” Jager remembers about those days so long ago. “But it got me over the hump, and I was able to keep my house.” She paid a price, though, in her emotional health.


“By the end of each day I was completely depleted,” continues Jager, now the owner of Pro’s 151 Salon as well as Kathy Jager Educational Solutions, both based in the Chicago suburb of Oak Forest. “I didn’t have energy left for anybody. Having to be positive for clients all day didn’t tire me physically, but I felt a terrible mental drain. Making sure other people felt good was a huge struggle for me. I couldn’t tell anyone, either, because I didn’t want to bring negative energy into the salon. I had to fake it until I’d make it, and I finally did make it through journaling and praying to get through each day. Journaling helped me release my stress and process what I was going through. Taking care of myself healed me and allowed me to provide an upbeat, fun environment for my clients.”


In the late 1990s Jager remarried, and professionally she grew more and more in demand as both a stylist and an educator. But about 15 years ago, she revisited her coping methods. Computers were beginning to dominate people’s free time. Jager noticed that going online was the first thing she did in the morning, and it was taking over her life. Even worse, she was smoking.


“I stopped smoking,” Jager says, “and at that point I started a routine that I still do today—get up at 6:30 a.m., journal in the morning, work out for 30 to 45 minutes, take a handful of vitamins and get myself mentally prepared for the day. I read only things that inspire me! I don’t let myself touch the computer until 10 a.m.”


While making these other changes, Jager also took a look at what she was eating. She decided to switch up her diet, and she has kept this up as well.


Kathy Jager


“Changing what I eat has made a big difference in how I feel,” she says. “In the morning I eat some yogurt and a banana; my snack later in the day is veggies and hummus, and I eat healthy food all day long. I used to gain weight and lose weight, and now I’m stable. I’m not fanatical; I’m conscientious. When I go to a restaurant, I might have a roll, but I don’t have three. As you grow older, you have to be wise about your body. The end result is that you feel better, and that helps you be the best you can be to your clients. If I’m thinking about how hungry I am, then I’ll try to hurry up and get this service done so I can go eat. Instead, I excuse myself to go grab a handful of nuts. I know that my client’s experience will be better if I ask her to wait 30 seconds than if I’m trying to do her hair while I’m starving. Before, I would never think that I should put my hunger first like that.”


Although she used to go to a workout program, it became very expensive and now Jager walks and lifts weights on her own. During summertime, she’s outside; in the winter she’s on her treadmill.


The emotional drain hasn’t lessened, but Jager has learned to let go of the stress from it. “What really drains a hairdresser is listening, consoling and not knowing what to do with that information and emotion,” she says. “The longer you work, the more hard stories you hear. A pivotal moment happened for me when my cousin’s wife, who was my client, got a brain tumor at age 38. She continued to come to me during her chemo treatments even though she’d lost her hair. She came for the conversation and the time in the salon that made her feel important, and her life felt normal while she was here. I tell that story to students. You can be just a haircut, or you can be so much more.”


Just as she couldn’t fix that client’s illness, Jager now accepts that she can’t control clients’ lives. “I silently bless the client, and then I move on,” she says. “When the client goes out the door, so does her story. I know I have no control over what’s happening in her life, so I save my energy for my own life. It’s the best thing I’ve done! I love my job more now than ever, because I’ve found that balance. I relish my time with clients. We laugh, we cry, we console, we hug. They leave better than they came in. Some have been coming to me for 20 or 30 years. But I know I can’t control their lives. It’s just one continuous good story for me.”


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