Supporting mental health in the salon: Tips from an expert

By Jo Irving on May 17th, 2024

With Mental Health Awareness Week taking place this month, it’s crucial to shine a light on anxiety management and support, particularly in the workplace where stress can often be amplified. Salon Owner and ICF Qualified Life and Business Coach, Jo Irving, specialises in empowering hair stylists and creatives to reach their potential. Here are some of Jo’s top tips on how best to look after your mental health and that of your team.

Identifying Anxiety in the Workplace

Recognising anxiety in colleagues can be challenging, as many people are adept at hiding their struggles. However, there are subtle signs to watch for:

  • The person being easily scared or jumpy. This is often a sign that the person’s fight or flight response is kicking in, so anything above that can cause what looks like a big overreaction to something that makes them jump.
  • A change in their personality, maybe they’re not as playful or relaxed as usual?
  • Not talking as much or talking much more than usual.
  • Massively over thinking normal situations or having difficulty making decisions.
  • Crying or getting angry/ frustrated quickly.
  • Showing signs of self-doubt, saying sorry a lot and assuming they are in the wrong.
  • If someone is experiencing anxiety you will often notice they are breathing louder or taking large sighs of breath, as it often feels like you can’t get enough breath as your heart beats faster.

Broaching the Topic with Sensitivity

Approaching the subject delicately is key to avoiding making them feel worse. Instead of initiating a formal discussion, opt for a casual and empathetic approach. Consider taking them aside to ensure privacy and reassure them of their safety. Starting with a simple question like “How are you feeling today?” can open the door to conversation.

Another strategy is to introduce a change in routine and assign them a straightforward task that can boost their confidence. Celebrate their success and emphasise the supportive atmosphere of the workplace.

Rather than blunt inquiries like “What’s going on?” or “Can I help in any way?”, express your genuine concern for their well-being. Offer reassurance that their happiness at work matters and invite them to discuss any concerns in a judgement-free and confidential manner. Remind them of the team’s solidarity and your availability for support.

Day-to-Day Strategies for Anxiety Management

If anxiety is a problem within the team, I do think it’s important to understand what is causing it, but also what alleviates it, as the cause is often unknown. As learners, everything is new so being pushed out of their comfort zone (cue instant anxiety) is a regular occurrence. If you have a very anxious learner or staff member, try and create instant wins in the day – something they can get a little dopamine hit from.

Understanding the different values and emotional needs of the individuals makes it easier to build a happy, supportive team, but how do you do that? Each team member will have unique learning styles, values, emotional needs, strengths and weaknesses and things that are important to them. If you know your team well, then you can make sure they can do more of the things they love.

This isn’t about meeting them all, but about creating an environment where everyone appreciates that people need different things and perhaps making a list of rules that everyone agrees on and putting it on the staffroom wall.Keep conversations open, even talking about a time when you have ever felt worried or anxious will help your staff feel supported and heard. It’s hard for people to be vulnerable when their leader isn’t.

Cultivating a Supportive Salon Culture

It’s important to know that it is not your job to fix someone’s problems, but you are there to help provide support, so that your team can grow in an authentic way and feel proud of the journey. It is about creating the right salon culture, being open and honest and developing an environment where we speak openly about how everyone is doing. If they see others feeling the same, it’s much easier for them to know they are in a safe space.

When we first started doing this in our salon, it felt a little awkward but now we have a solid team, where we are aware of what triggers each other so are able to support or avoid those situations.

This sounds like a lot of time for a salon manager or owner, but it really isn’t. A group session once every quarter and a bi-weekly check-in will keep the good vibes going. It can reduce team members taking time off with stress or avoiding work situations and will have a positive impact on your business, including confident team members, staff retention and happier clients.

By following these tips, salon owners and managers can create a workplace where mental well-being is valued, stigma is reduced, and support is readily available. Let’s make Mental Health Awareness Week the start of a more compassionate and understanding approach to mental health in the workplace.

Jo Irving

Jo Irving is a Salon Owner and ICF Qualified Life and Business Coach, specialising in empowering hair stylists and creatives to reach their potential.

All articles by Jo Irving

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