Your salon’s busiest six weeks of the year coincide with the most demanding time in your personal life. To stay healthy, practice “thanks-giving.”
Fight or flight? That’s the choice your body instinctively limits you to in response to fear and stress. But holiday stress creeps up slowly, and you can neither wage war against the holidays nor afford to skip them altogether. This is when you make your most money, connect with your entire clientele and celebrate with your family—so it should be a joyous time.
However, if the season’s high activity creates high anxiety for you, recognize the signs. Obvious symptoms of stress include insomnia, irritability, over- or under-eating, turning to alcohol or drugs, social withdrawal and depression. Stress can arrive in disguised forms, too. Dr. Senora Nelson, a primary care physician with Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, identifies eight more subtle symptoms that can indicate you’re stressing out:
• DIGESTIVE DISCOMFORT: unexplained nausea, vomiting, dry-heaving, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, acid reflux or a flare-up of an existing ulcer. If your digestive system is suffering, at least carry water with you to stay hydrated, because even thirst may increase when you’re under stress.
• SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE ISSUES: less desire for intimacy, a change in menstrual cycle, increased menstrual pain, a drop in testosterone level or impotence.
• ACHES AND PAINS: headaches, back and shoulder pain or body aches.
• FATIGUE: drained energy even after getting a good night’s sleep.
• SWEATING: perspiring even though you don’t feel nervous.
• HAIR LOSS: shedding or, more seriously, alopecia areata causing your white blood cells to attack the follicle.
• MEMORY LOSS: difficulty recalling ordinary information.
• FREQUENT COLDS: a compromised immune system.
Before stress ruins your holiday, go back to the tried-and-true: proper nutrition, exercise, plenty of water and getting to bed on time. Also, make sure you book time to disconnect.
“To decrease the likelihood of burnout or excessive stress, it’s a good idea to have a balance between responsibilities, fun and relaxation,” says Dr. Chémely Pomales, a psychologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago.
“For me, balance in life is achieved by being respectful of the position I have been given, through dedication and hard work, to treat everyone I touch with respect and compassion—and to give more than I receive,” says Lynelle Lynch, president of Beauty Changes Lives and a member of Healthy Hairdresser’s Advisory Council. “This provides emotional balance for me. I keep my mind and heart balanced by working out every morning, connecting with family—and scheduling needed breaks.”
Yoga, a perennial favorite among beauty pros, is another great choice. A recent study found mindfulness techniques, such as yoga and tai chi, can reverse the body’s tendency to use inflammation as a reaction to stress.
“When people get stressed, their breathing often becomes shallow and rapid,” says Ann Pfeil, a fitness instructor and registered yoga teacher at Advocate Condell Centre Club in Libertyville, Illinois. “Yoga focuses on slowing breathing, which induces the parasympathetic response and turns up relaxation, calmness and mental clarity.”
With that mental clarity, you can focus on what matters.
“Practice gratitude” is number seven on a Forbes list of 15 things you can do to stay centered and get in touch with the best parts of yourself. The article quotes speaker and coach Billy Williams, CEO of Archegos: “Most of us spend so much time in reaction mode—responding to emails, voice mails, texts, and more—that we very rarely carve out space to express gratitude for the life we have, the people who are important to us and the simple gifts we take for granted far too often.”
Spending time thinking about what you’re grateful for can even help you sleep better, according to Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, which includes an entire chapter called “Activate a Gratitude Circuit” as one way to turn around a downward spiral of depression. On his website, Korb notes that thoughts about happy memories have been shown to increase serotonin production in the brain, and he cites a Canadian study finding that just one week of keeping a daily gratitude journal provided some relief for students experiencing insomnia by increasing activity in the region of the brainstem that creates dopamine, which helps modulate sleep and wakefulness.
This all resonates with Bo Arnold, speaker at the beauty industry’s recent John Amico conference and author of Mood, Food and Gratitude: Healing from the Way We Think.
“We look at others and compare, and we compare because we’re lacking,” Arnold says. “That can make us jealous—I’m not as fit as my friend, I don’t have anything new to wear, I don’t drive a nice car. That’s our feeling of ‘lack.’ Gratitude is the antidote to lack, because gratitude is about abundance and acceptance. Jealousy separates us from each other, while gratitude brings us together because it makes everyone equally wonderful.”
Think you’ve already faced jealousy and conquered it? Not so fast—that “green-eyed monster” seems to be a moving target. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology found that jealousy triggers evolve as people age. In our 20s we tend to be jealous of other people’s physical appearance, social status and romantic relationships. After age 30, our envy shifts to money and wealth. Whereas 40% of study participants in their 20s said they felt jealous over others’ success in romance, that figure dropped to 15% among participants over age 50.
Arnold points out that jealous feelings can push you toward self-improvement—work harder, or live healthier, for example—but she suggests primarily looking inward rather than outward for self-validation.
“The many faces of ‘lack’—jealousy, judgment, guilt—create massive amounts of stress in our lives, but they’re all just stories we’ve made up,” Arnold says. “Jealousy creates a misperception of reality but also presents a huge opportunity to examine what is really causing us pain and how to move away from that pain. When your friend excitedly shows off her new car, your envy may bring you thoughts that the car is hideous or she overpaid or she should be spending more on her children and less on a fancy vehicle. But we don’t have to react that way. As we observe those negative thoughts, we can think about being grateful for what we have and, at the same time, be happy that our friends enjoy what they have.”